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Blending as Next Step in Phonics

If a child already knows the letters and the sounds that they make, what is the next logical step for them? I have read so many different theories (i.e., word families, dolch words, etc.). I could really use the guidance.

There are many different theories out there and many testimonials as to what works and what doesn’t. Let me add mine to the mix, and then you can choose which reading approach you want to start with. I’m a preschool teacher and have taught reading for 9 years. Every year I have 99 percent of my kids reading on or around a first grade level when they leave and start Kindergarten, so I at least know that this approach works. Others can work as well, this is just the best way that I’ve found.

So for what it’s worth: I think blending is the next logical step. By blending I mean, learning a series of letters and sounds, and then blending those into simple phonetic words. I start with the letters m, a, p, s, and t. I can then blend those letters into words like: map, sap, sat, mat, pat, at, Pam, Sam, etc. I then continue to learn new letters and then apply them immediately to my blending game, learning new words as I go. Many teachers teach the alphabet letters and sounds and say, “OK, now read.” But if they don’t know how to blend those sounds into words, learning the alphabet is just a fun song to sing. And you don’t have to learn all 26 letters of the alphabet in order to start blending and reading. Learn a letter and sound and then learn how to apply it in a word. Learning 26 letters and sounds in a row can be very boring after about the fifth letter or so, but if they know they are learning a letter that they can then use to help them read, it’s a lot more fun and productive.

Here are few other ideas that might help. I like to think of as many blending games as I can use a set of cards that have the letters that they know on them. I hold them in my hand and let them pick three cards and lay them out. Then we sound out what they picked. Sometimes they’re nonsense words, but they get the idea that I want them to read what they picked. Then I reverse it and I pick three cards. We play this game back and forth several times and they hear and see me read what I picked. Seeing me do it often helps them understand what I’m trying to get them to do.

Another blending trick I use that often helps them hear the difference between sounding out each letter and blending them into words is to read a very familiar book to them (or at least a page of it) sounding out each letter as I go. This has to be a very familiar book that they know and can instantly recognize that this is not how the book should be read. They can hear the difference between sounding out each letter and blending those letters into words.

Repetition is the key here. Playing and inventing lots of blending games will help your child develop confidence in his/her reading skills. Keeping it fun will make them want to “play” again. Good luck and enjoy the process of working with your child.

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