Blending, paired with segmenting, is an important reading skill. When learning to read, students need to be able to separate out sounds and then push them together to build words. Pushing sounds together as in /m/ /a/ /t/ = mat is called blending.
So how do you teach this essential reading skill?
Teach the reading skill of blending
Students need to be able to pick out the sounds in a word to blend them together. So begin by helping students focus in on different sounds. I’ll show you how to get started, how to play with listening for sounds and some games you can play to keep practice fun.
Start by listening for sounds
You can practice listening for sounds using things you see around you. For example, if you see a mug in the kitchen, say, “I see a mug. What’s the first sound you you hear in the word mug?”
Other items you might see that would work well are sun, mat, lap and mom. When you first try this activity, choose words that have a sound that can be held, such as the /s/ in sun, because holding the first sound emphasizes it.
Once children gain confidence in identifying the initial sound, try listening for the end and middle sounds. Again, sounds that you can hold and emphasize are helpful, but as your kiddos get more used to picking out sounds, you can use sounds that aren’t as easily held.
Choose short 3 sound words that have a consonant, vowel and consonant (CVC). You could try: sat, sit, mat, cat, man, map, nap, hat, dog, cat.
Play with listening for sounds
Once you’ve explored the idea of listening for sounds, you can extend it a few ways to get students to practice blending.
Work with pairs of students, and have a list of words that you want your students to practice. These could be VC words or CVC words.
Say the sounds for one of the words. For example, s-a-t. Then have one student tell their partner what the word is. Select another word from your list, again say the sounds for the word but this time the other student tells their partner the word.
Another way to practice listening for sounds is to provide some of your instructions to students in sounds (rather than the words). For example, “Come and sit on the m-a-t” or “Please hand me the p-e-n”. Another way to do this is to say student’s names in sounds. For example, “K-i-m go and get your coat.”
Students need to push the sounds together to know what you want them to do. When you first start out with oral blending activities some of your students may find it hard to hear the word. In that case hold each of the sounds a little bit longer and don’t have a pause between each sound.
And remember, that while all of this is happening verbally, you are practicing an important reading skill.
Play games to practice the reading skill of blending
The practice in listening for sounds and speaking in sounds can be used in games as well.
Pick an item in the classroom, such as the mat. Then say: “I spy with my little eye a m-a-t.” Your students need to then blend the sounds together to tell you the item.
If necessary, hold each of the sounds a little bitter longer and don’t have a pause between each sound.
The rules of Blending Simon Says are the same as regular Simon Says, but you say the instructions in sounds, and students have to blend the sounds together. For example, “Simon says “S-i-t” down. You can also get a little more complicated by giving the sounds for more than one word as in “P-a-t your b-a-ck” or “T-a-p your l-e-g.”
As in regular Simon Says, any students who do the instruction when you didn’t say ‘Simon says’ are out of the game. Do make sure those students understand that they are blending the sounds together correctly.
You can practice the reading skill of blending with a matching game. You’ll need a list of word cards and matching pictures. Select one word card, point to each sound (saying the sounds as you point) on the word card. Have students blend the sounds to tell you the word.
Then have a student come to the board and pick the picture that matches the word.
Alternately, have students come to the board, point to the sounds as they say it, blend the word to read it and then find the matching picture.
Developing the reading skill of blending is so important. I hope these ideas show you how to make practice part of your everyday teaching. Blending and segmenting work hand-in-hand, and next week, I’ll share more ideas to practice the reading skill of segmenting.
For cut and match games to practice blending plus a whole lot of other activities to practice blending and other essential reading skills, check this out:
Over 1100 pages of games and activities ready to download, print and use.
The kit covers CVC words, digraphs and one sound many spelling words and is designed to bring inspiration and innovation to your teaching again and again.