At Starfish Education Centre, we often say that teaching PHONICS (the ‘code’) and BLENDING are our bread & butter (in terms of our reading program).
PHONICS is the fundamental building block of reading (and spelling for that matter).
If the PHONICS is the WHAT of reading, then BLENDING is the HOW.
Phonics is the bread, and Blending is the butter.
This article is all about BLENDING:
Before we talk about the butter (blending) I’ll just better briefly review the bread (phonics, or the ‘code’) – as our whole point is you need both!
Briefly, the ‘code’ refers to the visual representation of a sound (Phoneme) in print.
In other words, what the sound “looks like” in writing.
The fancy name for this is “GRAPHEME”
The GRAPHEME is the “code” for a particular sound.
All the research says that we need to explicitly teach phonics (the code), which means we need to teach graphemes.
To learn more about PHONICS go to our blog post on What is Phonics? here
What is Blending?
Blending is the joining of 1 sound to another to make a new sound chunk.
t + r = tr
tr + u = tru
tru + n = trun
trun + k = trunk
Why is Blending important?
It is all very well to know the ‘code’ (or phonics) but we need to also know how to join them together.
Being able to use the skill of BLENDING is vital – especially for kids experiencing difficulties learning to read.
We find that teaching the blending strategy, and insisting on its use with LOADS of practice (until it becomes an automatic process) helps kids:
– who have working memory issues (and find it cognitively difficult to ‘hold’ & manipulate multiple items at one time
– who look at a word they do not know (not part of their sight word vocabulary) and have NO IDEA how to ‘attack’ (decode/figure out) that word
– whose eyes seem to dart all over the place while reading, as blending is not just a joining strategy it is a left to right strategy
– who tend to jumble the letters/sounds of a word up, as blending is not just a joining and left to right strategy it is a sequential strategy
– who ‘read’ the first few letters of words and guess the rest, as we insist on joining one sound to the previous chunk all the way up until the end of the word.
How do we teach blending?
It is honestly not rocket science.
I saw this strategy years ago, when I observed a literacy session at Dalwood, and I’ve used it ever since.
I used to use little laminated letter strips, like the ones I saw used at Dalwood. I made these myself. If you’re thinking of making them yourself, try about 4cm x 1.5cm strips. You’ll need doubles or triples of some letters.
If you would like a FREE copy of the blending letter strip template (below), then flick an email to us at firstname.lastname@example.org The one I have made has the vowels in a different colour (red) to the consonants, and includes common digraphs & trigraphs as well as word endings. Just print, laminate & cut!
Here is some footage of me explaining the blending strategy using these letter strips.
These days I prefer to use a range of educational bricks.
– are easier and quicker to handle and display, and
– clearly show (visually) how sometimes 2 or even 3 letters combine to make 1 sound like in the graphemes above “ai” “ay” and “igh”
There are quite a few different packs. We have them all in store, however you can also find them in our online shop by clicking here.
To see how we set the Educational Bricks up for ease of use go to our blog post here.
If the resources stretch I’d get 2 x lower case, 1 x the rest, 3 x large base plates and 1 x small base plate.
If the budget is tight, start with a smaller range and build on it slowly…..the minimum I’d suggest getting would be 2 x lower case set (even though there are multiples of some letters, I still find I often need more), 1 x digraphs, 1 x vowel sounds, 1 x large base plate and 1 x small base plate.
You can get an idea of how we use them to teach the blending strategy in the following youtube clips.
The first youtube footage shows the gorgeous Oscar using the blending strategy starting with a simple CVC word and working up to CCVCC (double consonant vowel double consonant).
Ignore my crazy teaching style and Oscar’s dazed look (I think he was a bit camera shy).
The second youtube footage shows little Koffi using the blending strategy with a digraph (“ou” like in the word ground).
Leave a comment if you use the educational bricks, I’d love to hear from others who use them as we’re always looking for more ideas.
Once kids get really good at blending, we actually want them to start looking for chunks in words (like prefixes, suffixes, words inside words etc) so their decoding becomes faster and reading is more fluent.
I cant rave about these enough! They really are our bread and butter and one of the most used resources we have.