Knowing beginning blends or consonant clusters is a key skill for children’s reading and phonics development, struggling readers need careful explicit instruction! Helping young minds master consonant blends and consonant digraphs will equip them with all they need to become confident readers & writers. Keep Reading to the end of the blog post for Blend Freebies for your classroom!
Beginning blends are an essential part of phonics instruction. Typically, they involve two or three consonants combined to form a consonant blend. While there is some variation based on dialects, the most common beginning consonant blends include the examples bl-, br-, cl-, cr- dr- fr-, tr- fl- ,gl- gr–pl- pr –sl sm sp st-.
- Final consonant blends come at the end of words such as ‘mp’, ‘nd’, ‘sk’, ‘lf’,’nt’, ‘st’ – in words like “past” and “send” are essential for students to learn at the end of words.
Three Letter Blends
Consonants can also occur with three consonants blended together. Some of the most frequent consonant blends include str, spl and spr.
What is the difference between a consonant blend and a consonant digraph?
Consonant Blends and consonant digraphs may seem similar, but they are distinctly different in reading. Explain consonant blends to your students by using the example of a familiar drink. It is like making a strawberry banana smoothie. They are blended but you can still taste each fruit.
With a consonant blend, the two sounds are blended together but you can still hear each separate consonant sound. In contrast, with consonant digraphs, the two letters represent one new sound and you can’t hear the consonant sounds of each letter.
It is important students learn these details to strengthen their phonics skills. Common consonant digraphs are two consonants such as :th, ch, sh, ck and wh.* Please note the digraph wh is fairly uncommon and the letter <h> is not currently pronounced in most dialects of English in the United States.
Tips for teaching blends
Get kids Moving
Help your students understand the concept of beginning blends and ending blends with a fun kinesthetic experience! Ask them to put their hands up, showing two separate letters on colored sticky notes. Then show how they blend the two consonants – it’s an easy way for kids to remember what they’ve learned while having some physical activity in class as well Then have another student hold up a hand with the word family. For example: Have 2 students make beginning blends with the <cl> blend with the word cl-ap or make a <bl> beginning blend with bl-ack.
Expand phonemic awareness
Not only can you have them practice segmenting words with blends into individual sounds, but they can also learn to manipulate the phonemes within those blends at higher levels! Children who struggle with CVC words should not be given longer words such as beginning blends until working on phonemic awareness skills.
The first step for children who seem unable to blend is to create oral activities that require them to manipulate phonemes. If students are struggling with blending two or more consonants then focus on the sounds.
Examples would be “Say the word ‘brush’ say it again but don’t say /b/ ‘rush'”
Then the next level up would be: “Say the word ‘clap’ say it again but instead of /c/ say /s/–>’slap’.”
Get the Fingerprint Segmenting Blend Resource Free Download Below
Make it Multi sensory
Incorporate multi sensory techniques into the lesson! Using tactile surfaces to write beginning blends is a great way for students to say, hear and feel the blends. Also useful are manipulatives like snap cubes, orthographic mapping templates, and plastic markers give children tactile ways to represent blends and help to keep their focus.
Differentiate the Instruction
As you plan lessons for your students, consider the best order to introduce blends. Depending on their proficiency level, more advanced readers may be able to benefit from learning these initial consonant blends of two letters at one time. However, struggling students do better by focusing just on l blends, r blends, or s blends individually.
Rather than expecting kids to memorize every blend individually (like fl and br), it’s beneficial if they understand how each one is formed so they don’t confuse a consonant blend with a consonant digraph.
Speech and Language Issues
Look into individual speech patterns and difficulties. If children struggle with saying /l/, /r/ , or /s/ they may also struggle with reading beginning blends and ending blends. A mirror can assist in showing the correct formation of sounds while feeling it too will give an extra sense of guidance. If your student is having trouble with certain words make sure to give students clear models and work with a Speech Language Pathologist if necessary. If a child cant say certain sounds clearly, they can still learn to read them but it is good to be aware that they may need extra support!
Tap and Blend
Get your children ready to break apart blends like never before! Tap, segment, and blend sound with confidence – one sound box or object per letter sound. Dig deeper by breaking words down into their individual phonemes; this versatile approach can help boost reading fluency while improving advanced phonemic awareness skills.
To help students get their blending skills down pat, playing lots of fun games is a great idea! Easy-to-prepare classics like Concentration and Go Fish can be modified to focus on decoding tasks. Or why not play 4 in row with your students? Find wordlists cards for games in the freebie library!
Fun with Decodable Passages
Your kids will love to demonstrate what they have learned about beginning blends and ending blends with decodable texts. When students are reading words in sentences they feel more confident with words.
Have kids search for consonant blends and consonant digraphs in the stories before reading them. I have decodable stories that give lots of practice with r blends, l blends, and s blends separately or mixed to meet the needs of different ability levels.
Reading consonant blends is a challenging phonics skill. Many children with dyslexia struggle with the prerequisite skills such as auditory memory and segmenting. However, with an understanding of these elements comes amazing reading growth!
Science of Reading Activities
Download the Free Multi sensory Blend Resource Below for Fingerprint Segmenting
Q: What is the difference between a consonant blend and a consonant digraph?
A: A consonant blend is when two or more consonants are blended together without any vowels in between them.( The <fl> in flag) A consonant digraph is a combination of two consonants that represent one sound. (The <sh> in ship)