Are you curious about blending words with your children so they can get on with their reading journey? Have you been pulling out your hair, stressing both you and your child out with the desire for them to learn how to read? Well, I’d like to share something with you that will clarify how you can effortlessly navigate this process. While a kindergarten teacher, my job was to make sure my little ones had the skills needed to make first grade achievable for them. So I kept certain things in mind and I’ll share those with your below.
What is Blending Words?
In order to form a singular word, blending is used to “push together” letter sounds. Though it sounds quite simple it is slightly more complex than that, as you may know.
Why is Blending Words Important?
In short, blending allows children to read new words. Therefore, it’s a skill that allows children to expand their reading vocabulary from merely memorizing words to being able to tackle unfamiliar words.
So if this is so important, how do I teach my child how to blend letters?
In a word? Practice. Yup. Consequently, like most things in early childhood, repetition is the name of the game. In fact, children need multiple tries at skills to be able to master them. Before you go all drill and kill, let’s take a deeper look at how to go about giving your child this needed practice.
1) Start with Phonemic awareness
For one thing, having a firm handle on phonemic awareness skills allows children to be able to easily connect sounds to letters. Once children are able to manipulate and play with sounds, adding letters that represent these sounds is the next logical step. However, if your child does not have sound phonemic awareness skills trying to teach reading is setting both of you up for an uphill battle. So make sure they have had ample opportunities to play with sounds by listening to, identifying, and sorting sounds they hear in their environment. Also, they can practice by learning poems and songs and being able to isolate, blend, and segment sounds without letters.
2) Use an Effective Letter Order
Another way to help children with blending words is to introduce letter sounds in an order that increases the practice time children have as they work through the alphabet. For example, SATPIN gives children access to many words by learning only these first six-letter sounds.
3) Use Visual Prompts For Blending Words
On one hand, Elkonin boxes are a great tool for children to use. These boxes make the individual sounds children say visible. They can be paired with letters. As a child says the letter sound, move the letter into the box. It’s a simple strategy that can be used for beginning readers as well as struggling readers.
On the other hand, dots and arrows allow children to isolate the sounds for each letter then follow the arrow to quickly blend together the letter sounds to read the word.
4) Use Movement
As I have said before, music and movement are great tools for teaching. Try pairing each letter sound with a specific movement or body part. Then each time the letter is seen, encourage your child to make the matching movement and say the sound. In essence, things like this help sounds stick for some children plus learning to read then becomes more physical as well.
5) Start With Two Sounds Before Adding More
Because it seems pretty simple, many people will move straight to CVC words and skip VC words like at, an, in, etc. However, that’s a pretty big mistake. If little ones can read those VC words then adding an extra sound at the beginning or end is much easier.
6) Practice Blending Words With Magnetic Letters
Grab some magnetic letters and have your child move each letter as they say the sound.
7) Blend and Check
Another idea is to give your child one CVC word at a time. Then, encourage them to blend then look at a choice of two pictures to determine which picture matches what they have just said. They are able to blend then check because the answer is one of two options.
Finally, games like Guess the Word found on Reading Rockets have children use their listening ears to figure out what word is being read. Taking turns with games like this encourages children to make connections between the letters seen and the words they hear.
Now with all this information, you may be ready to give your child all their blending practice, but please stop. There’s one last thing I’d like to share with you. It is the most important of all strategies and one I want you to please keep in mind. No matter the skill, concept, or idea you’re wanting your child to learn and master.
Children develop at their own pace and in their own way.
If your child shows interest in words by asking to be read stories, trying to read along, pretending to read the text in books or where they see it, asking you what something says, etc, they are showing signs that they are ready for reading instruction. If they are not, please do not push them. This can backfire. And though they may end up mastering the skill, it will be far more stressful for you and them than it needs to be. It also may cause the love of learning that we’re all born with to begin to be smothered.
Don’t worry! Your child will learn how to read. You should only worry if they are missing key developmental milestones. Until then, stimulate their love of learning with fun, hands-on learning activities that will get them to wonder what letters are and how they can learn to read for themselves.