Consonant Blends are two or more consonants that are next to each other. Consonant blends are not separated by a vowel. There are a few facts that you should know before teaching blends to your readers:
- Consonant blends can be found at the beginning or end of a syllable.
- Many (not all) beginning blends are often separated into l blends, r blends and s blends.
- Some ending blends include nasal blends (blends with n or m). Blends containing these letters are often the most difficult for beginning readers to read and spell with accuracy.
- Most blends contain two consonants, but there are some blends like str, scr and spr that contain three letters.
- Digraph blends are blends that contain a digraph and another consonant (i.e. nch in lunch and thr in thrill).
- Students who have weak phonemic memory often have difficulty reading and spelling words with blends.
Read on to find some helpful tips about teaching this phonetic concept.
What is the best way to teach students how to read and spell words with consonant blends?
There’s no way around it. Following a structured literacy format is the most effective and efficient pathway to reading and spelling words with blends!
Structured literacy provides explicit instruction in both reading and spelling.
How do I teach my students to read words containing consonant blends?
- First, we begin by introducing two letter blends.
- Using letter cards, we display a sample word ‘frog’.
- Then we point out the blend at the beginning of the word and explain that when two or more consonants are next to each other and they each say a sound, this is called a blend.
- We contrast this with a digraph that, if following a structured literacy format, students have become familiar with. If not, we have a helpful post about digraphs. We remind students that digraphs work together to make one sound. Blends each keep their own sound and each sound is pronounced.
- Next we demonstrate how to tap out the word by saying each sound and blending them together, /f/…/r/…/o/…/g/, frog.
- Students then repeat the process with the same word.
- Finally, students practice reading several words with consonant blends. We make sure to include words with both beginning and ending blends.
What should I do if students have trouble holding onto the sequence of sounds?
Students who have weak phonological memory often demonstrate difficulty reading words with more than three sounds. You might notice students who read fast as fats, or clap as plac. In this case, it is important to include a phonemic awareness portion as a warm-up to reading words in print. Phonemic awareness is an oral, rather than written, skill. Segmenting and blending orally helps build a student’s ability to sequence the sounds in words.
If students demonstrate significant difficulty during the phonemic awareness portion of the lesson, it can be helpful to include picture clues.
I’ve included phonemic awareness in my lesson, but when we move to print my student still has trouble sequencing sounds. Now what?
This is where successive blending comes in. Successive blending, also known as continuous blending, is a strategy that requires a student to keep only two sounds in their auditory memory at one time. So segmenting and blending the word frog looks like this.
Check out our YouTube demonstration on the successive blending technique.
What about students who need more practice?
It is helpful to provide a decodable text that they can mark. Students can go page-by-page to locate and underline the consonant blends. Once they have finished their hunt, students can reread the text segmenting and blending words as necessary. The underlines are a visual reminder that they have encountered a blend.
Are there any tricks for helping students to correctly spell words with blends?
Spelling words with blends can be tricky for those students with weak phonological memory. Therefore, it is important to provide plenty of opportunity for practice. The sound to letter grid is a particularly helpful tool. When mapping graphemes (letters) to phonemes (sounds) on the grid, students should tap the sounds first. As they tap, encourage them to draw a small dot in the lower corner of the sound box. This will help them remember how many sounds are in the word. Each box that has a dot should contain a matching letter (or letters).
Are you looking for some reading and spelling resources to help your students?
Check out our TpT store for kid-tested, teacher-approved books and activities. All our decodable books align with the Science of Reading and follow a structured literacy format. The detailed lesson plans are designed to help the busy teacher save hours of time.