The first phonemic skill children need to master in order to read well is blending. Essentially this is the ability to combine phonemes (sounds) in order to create a word. The next step is to hold that word in your brain while you think about what it means and whether it makes sense. Of course reading is about making meaning, but blending sounds together to make words (decoding) is the first step on this road.
This usually occurs orally first. Regular exercises in phonological and phonemic skills will involve the teacher or adult saying a series of sounds which children are then required to join up orally to say a word. It is important to have the child/children say the sounds before saying the word to mirror the process that occurs when children read with graphemes. (click below for an example)
These activities can be done whole class in short bursts daily and will really support your students to build skills in this area.
The Role of Graphemes
Exposing children to phonological and phonemic awareness activities before they have learned graphemes is a valuable use of time and will set them up for success, however it is much easier for children to develop sound PA skills once they are aware of how graphemes work.
Let me demonstrate.
What were you imaging while you worked that out? There’s a good chance that you were thinking about the letters.
When you are introducing blending to your students there are some key points to remember:
- Start with 3 phonemes and then increase as children develop the ability to blend sounds.
- It can take quite a while for some children to developing the ability to orally blend, but if this has not developed by the end of the foundation year, this can be a red flag for a potential learning difficulty.
- In order for children to be able to blend words themselves using graphemes, they need to have developed automatic phoneme/grapheme correspondence.
- The ability to blend orally can be impacted by a poor working memory, an articulation difficulty and hearing loss.
- Start with oral blending. Once the child can blend orally you can move them on to blending with graphemes. It can take months for a child to learn to blend CVCs with confidence. Once they have developed this skill you can move them on to 4 or more phonemes (including consonant clusters).
- If a child is having difficulty orally blending you can use magnetic letters and slide them to demonstrate how the sounds connect.
- Be careful that when you encourage smooth blending you don’t accidentally elongate vowels because this can change their sound.
- Remember not to add a schwa when you say sounds. (you can learn more about this from the recording one of my Facebook live sessions below)
Spending lots of time on blending and enabling your children to work on skills until they have mastered them will really set them up for future literacy success.
Next week I will talk about segmenting. To find out when this next post is published, subscribe to The No-Nonsense Educator blog by using sign up box below!