How To Explain
Blending Letter Sounds

Blending letter

sounds: what not to say.

Picture drawing lots of words with side walk chalk.  Then you:

  • carefully point out the letters of one word.  
  • review the sounds with your brilliant, baby-faced scholar and
  • say expectantly "Blend the letters".  

SMUDGE !!! and no closer to reading :)

Ideas For Explaining How To Blend Letter Sounds That you will want to use.

Instead of instructing a child to "sound it out" or "blend the letters"  say "Good, you have the sounds, now say the word smoothly" or "say the sounds fast"

When Your Student Is Stuck On Blending Letter Sounds

Say the word in question is "read" and your young beginner has worked out the sounds / r EE d / but can't get the word you can chime in. "rrrr eeee d, rrrr eeeee d, rrrrrr eeee d. rrrrreeed. Finally, you are repeating "read" faster and faster. Still, the goal is to not tell your child the word but let him "hear" it. 


If students get most of the words,  just blend a troubling word for them. If you think they are just parroting you (which they could do without phonics lessons) then  make sure they "hear" the word themselves. 

Eventually your student will say the word in a conversational pronunciation. You can applaud them and catch your breath.

Word Stress And Blending Letter Sounds

Reading and stress. This is "stress" as in emphasis. We are trying to avoid the other kind. Part of a word is stressed when we say it with more clarity, or breath. Funny, but the stressed part of a word is spoken more slowly. The unstressed part is rushed and harder to hear. This takes explaining.

To explain I say "We usually say this word fast". For instance, if the word is afraid and the child is emphasizing the /a /so that it sounds just like the first sound in apple I demonstrate: When we say that word fast the word is "(uh) fraid".


Adding Or Dropping Sounds When Blending


It is not unusual for new sounds to crop up when blending. Often a new reader identifies all the sounds correctly and then adds or drops one when they try to blend. If you play a game this tendency can increase.

 Repeat what they said and ask them to point to the letter that makes the additional sound in the word. If the word was "clap" and they added an 'm' to make "clamp"  say "Can you point to the letter that makes the /m/ sound for me?". In the case of a left out sound, you can point to the letter and ask "What happened to this sound?".

In early reading the additions may happen more often. You may need to add some humor to keep everyone interested and learning. 

Occasionally, the order of letters gets so mixed up with additions and drops that you need to go back to the letter sounds and start again. If this happens  fill in any letter sounds that the reader hesitates to recall. Get the letter sounds and start again.


Building Blending Letter Skills

You can draw arrows under words. Point and slide your finger as you say the sounds.  You can draw the arrow "life size" and have your child jump from letter to letter blending the sounds. 


Taking A Break From Blending Letter Sounds

However, if your child is not ready for blending they won't get it. If they are less than nine years old, take a break and try again. In reading, "take a break and wait for readiness" begins to sound like "restart" for computer issues. It both cases the often repeated fix really works.

More Questions?

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