Blending is a method used to help children learn to read by combining different sounds, also known as phonemes, to form words. Blending sounds teaches learners how words are sounded out, which will help them to decode long and unfamiliar words when they’re reading.

What is blending in phonics?

Blending is an effective method to help children learn to read. Through blending, pupils will join individual sound spellings (called letter-sound correspondences) to form a complete word. This skill allows pupils to decode words that they are unfamiliar with.

Blending words in phonics is taught alongside segmenting, where a word is broken down into its sounds (called phonemes). By separating a word, kids can see all the different sounds it’s made up of before blending them back together again. So you could say that blending and segmenting are complementary to one another.

What are some examples of blending words in phonics?

But how does it work? Well, let’s take a look at some examples to see what blending words in phonics looks like in practice, starting with the word ‘dog’:

When the word ‘dog’ is segmented like this, we can see that it’s made up of three different phonemes (sounds): /d/, /o/, and /g/. So if you’re teaching a pupil how to blend this word, you could start them off by encouraging them to pronounce these phonemes individually.

Once they’ve nailed each of the individual sounds, they’ll be able to combine them and form the word ‘dog’!

But as kids move through their phonics education, they’ll also learn to blend some trickier words, which may have new sounds, spellings, or letter combinations. So to illustrate this, let’s have a look at a slightly more complex example, this time using the word ‘black’:

bl – a – ck

Blending the sounds in this word might be trickier for pupils because it contains an adjacent consonant at the beginning (b-l) and a consonant digraph (ck) at the end.

The critical difference is that all of the sounds in an adjacent consonant can be heard individually, whereas a digraph is where multiple letters represent a single sound. So, as kids learn to blend this word, make sure that they sound out both the ‘b’ and the ‘l’ while sounding out the ‘ck’ digraph as the /k/ sound.

Why is blending words in phonics important?

Blending is a crucial skill that kids need to learn to become fluent in reading and writing. Rather than just learning and memorizing the different sounds and their graphemes, phonics also allows children to manipulate them and see how they form words. Blending words in pronunciation is a crucial part of this.

By practicing blending, children will gradually improve their skills at identifying which sounds are represented by graphemes and combining them to decode unfamiliar words. This process is key to reading because children need to be skilled at blending phonics words to make sense of words, passages, and full texts. When they’re fluent readers, this process will feel like second nature to them!

The national curriculum for England reflects the importance of blending phonics words. At the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), kids should be able to read terms consistent with their phonics knowledge by blending sounds.

Once they advance into year 1, pupils should be able to use blending to read unfamiliar words that contain GPCs (grapheme-phoneme correspondences) that they’ve seen before. Blending is a skill kid will need to keep developing and improving, making practice very important.

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