Blending is one of the skills children need to develop when learning to read with phonics. They need to be able to look at the letters in a word, say the sounds (all through the word) and hear the word.
Blending needs practice – some children grasp the skill straight away and others can take much longer. The two main reasons why children struggle to hear the word when they have said the sounds are that they don’t know the letter sounds well enough (so they pause to think between letters) or the letter sounds are not being pronounced correctly.
If you are not sure how to pronounce the letter sounds correctly, take a look at our Hear the Sounds page on the website.
Children can start blending sounds into words as soon as they know a small group of letters well. The words chosen to start with will therefore depend on the letter-sounds already known. Jolly Phonics starts with the group of letters 's', 'a', 't', 'p', 'i', 'n' because they make more simple 3-letter words than any other group of six letters. Read Write Inc. starts with the group 'm', 'a', 's', 'd', 't'.
If your child knows the letter-sounds well but is finding it difficult to blend them to read words, there are a number of tactics you can try to help them:
*Using pictures or objects, ask your child to find the ‘c-a-t’ or ‘p-i-g’ for example – if they can put the spoken sounds together, they will eventually learn to do the same with written sounds.
*Start with 2-sound words like ‘is’, ‘in’, ‘it’ to gain confidence, then move on to simple 3-sound words (CVC words or consonant-vowel-consonant) such as ‘sit’, ‘pin’.
*If your child is adding ‘uh’ onto the consonant sounds, try getting them to whisper the sound as this tends to keep it ‘pure’ this will make it easier to hear the target word.
*Get your child to slide sounds together more quickly until they are literally saying the word.
* Use very simple decodable sentences or books – it may be that your child doesn’t understand why they are sounding out and blending - Decodable Reading Books
* Use finger tracking under the letters to read the word.
*Having a picture on the back of the word card is good so that the child can turn it over and see if they have read the word correctly.
*Make sure your child is reading the letter-sounds – not saying them and looking away trying to remember them. Also, make sure they are reading all through the word – not reading the first sound then guessing the rest.
A useful video showing how to blend sounds into words can be found on a great website Mr Thorne Does Phonics here
If you own an iPhone or iPod, then you might want to look at this great app called PocketPhonics. This makes the most of 21st century technology to provide an engaging and interactive way to help your child learn their letter sounds and how to blend them into words.
The thing to remember is that learning to blend will click eventually - if you have any other good suggestions for how you have helped your child learn to blend, do let us know!