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What Are Glued Sounds and Why Are They Important? Part 1

Glued sounds are also known as welded sounds. Glued sounds are groups of letters whose distinct sounds are difficult to separate when segmenting words. These types of letter groupings are more easily taught as ‘stuck together’. We’ll talk more about that a bit later.

Are all glued sounds the same?

No. Some glued sounds have two sounds: all, am, and an. In these letter groupings, the vowel a does not make it’s expected sound. In the case of all, the a sounds more like a short o. When ‘a’ is followed by an ‘m’ or an ‘n’ as in am and an, the sound of ‘a’ becomes nasalized. This is more prominent with certain dialects like New England.

Other glued sounds have three sounds: ang, ank, ing, ink, ong, onk, ung, unk. In these groupings the vowel sound doesn’t change, but the sound of ‘n’ can fade into the background. We like to explain to our students that the sound of ‘n’ gets swallowed or stuck in our throat. We’ll discuss three-sound glued sounds in an upcoming post.

What is the best way to teach glued sounds?

It’s best to separate the glued sounds into two categories: two vs three sounds. Begin by teaching the two sound pairings first. These are /all/, /am/ and /an/. Explain that the sound of the ‘a’ changes when it is next to certain letters.

Which glued sound should I teach first?

Show the sound card for ‘all’. Tell the students that usually ‘a’ says /a/, but when it is followed by two l’s, ‘a’ doesn’t say its expected sound. Instead it says /o/. all has two sounds /o/ and /l/. When we tap words with all we tap with two fingers because it has two sounds. Demonstrate by tapping your thumb with your middle finger and your ring finger at the same time while saying /all/ . Ask the students to try tapping and saying /all/.

Now say the word tall and demonstrate tapping /t/ (pointer finger to thumb)…/all/ (middle and ring finger to thumb). Ask students to say and tap the word tall. You can segment and tap additional words if time allows: call, fall, hall, mall, wall. Stick with three sound words when introducing /all/. Do not include words with blends such as small and stall.

What should I teach after my students are familiar with the glued sound /all/?

Next introduce the am and an cards. Explain that when ‘a’ is next to these letters, the sound comes through your nose. Demonstrate by saying the sound of short a /aaaaaaaaaa/ while plugging and unplugging your nose. Ask the students to notice if the sound changes at all. Hint: No it doesn’t change. Have the students try the same thing.

Show the /am/ card and say the sound /am/. As before say /aaaaam/ while plugging and unplugging your nose. Ask the students if the sound changes. Yes – the sound becomes blocked because it is trying to come through your nose. Have your students try saying /am/ while plugging and unplugging their noses.

Follow the same procedure for /an/.

Next demonstrate segmenting and tapping words words with /am/. ham../h/ (pointer finger to thumb)…/am/ (middle and ring finger to thumb). Additional three sound words for segmenting and blending include: bam, dam, jam, pam, ram, wham,

Finally demonstrate segmenting and tapping words with /an/. Jan…/j/ (middle and ring finger to thumb)…/an/ (middle and ring finger to thumb). Additional words for segmenting and blending include: ban, can, Dan, fan, man, pan, ran, tan, van.

How can I help my students read glued sounds in connected text?

We find the best way to help students develop their ability to read words containing glued sounds is to use controlled text. Controlled text refers to texts (words, sentences, and stories) in which the majority of the words students are expected to read contain previously taught concepts. Another term for controlled texts is decodable texts. Here are a couple of tips:

  1. Focus on reading and spelling two-sound glued sounds. Wait until mastery before introducing three-sound glued sounds.
  2. Use texts that students are able to write on. Before reading the text, prompt the students to box the the glued sounds. The visual cue of the box reminds students that these sounds are stuck together and should be tapped as a unit when decoding.
a picture of a decodable text with glued sounds boxed
Example of marking a text by boxing the glued sounds.

What is the best way to help my students spell words with glued sounds?

In a previous post we discussed the power of using a phoneme/grapheme grid. Each box on the grid represents one sound. However, because the sounds in a glued sound are stuck together, they will share a box. Our students use the following procedure:

  1. The teacher says the word.
  2. The students repeat the word.
  3. Ask students to ‘tap’ the word and make a small dot in the bottom corner of the grid.
  4. Then students must go back and write the letter in the corresponding box.
  5. Last, have the students write the word on the line next to the boxes.

We mentioned previously that when teaching glued sounds teachers should focus on two-sound pairings first. However, when first introducing spelling you may want to break the teaching into more finite units. On the first day you may choose to focus on /all/ only. The next day focus only on /am/ and the next, /an/. After which, you can do mixed review of all two sound pairings. The following illustration shows both a single focus of spelling and a mixed review.

phoneme mapping sound boxes can be use to spell words with glued sounds.
Glued sounds share a box on the phoneme grapheme mapping grid because the sounds are stuck together.

For added practice, you can dictate a sentence using words from the grid. There is space at the bottom of the grid for sentence writing.

Lastly, when using this grid, you can reinforce reading words with glued sounds by having the students read their list of words aloud.

Where can I find resources to teach the glued sound?

Decodable Readers with glued sounds
This phoneme grapheme template helps students accurately spell words with glued or welded sounds.
Reading and spelling are reciprocal skills. One reinforces the other.

For more resources that are aligned with the science of reading check out our TpT store.

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