Ask Dr. Marion: What are “Blends?”

Reading Kingdom

Literacy and reading expert, Dr. Marion Blank


Dr. Marion Blank, creator and founder of The Reading Kingdom program is answering your questions about reading and learning. To leave a question for Dr. Marion, visit the Reading Kingdom Facebook Page and let us know how we can help.




Angie asks:
My boys are having problems with “blends.” How can I help them get over this plateau?

That is a great question, Angie.

Blends is a term used in phonics instruction to describe when two letters (consonants) are placed together to make one sound. For example, “br,” “fl,” and “str” are considered consonant blends.

Blends can be difficult for many children for several reasons. For a start, many consonant sounds when pronounced in isolation appear with a vowel at the end (so “c” comes out as “cuh”). As a result, the sounding out of a word like “cat” comes out as “cuh” “aah” tuh.” When these are blended together, the product is far different from the word that the child is supposed to say. So he or she has to take the “cuh-aah-tuh” and simplify it down to “cat.” This is a complex process that many children find to be overwhelming.

One of the best ways to help a child over the difficulty is for you to model the blend including the vowel sound that follows the blend and then have your child add a sound to complete the word. For example, with a word like break, you can slowly say “bray” and then ask your child to complete the word (so he ends up saying “brayk’).

How the Reading Kingdom program can help
If you look at the formats in the Reading Kingdom, you can see this technique used as the first format for content words with nouns like “frog” and verbs such as “swim.”

Once you have identified a difficulty, the key to learning is to simplify the task and prevent failure. This combination of you “modeling’ and your child “completing” usually achieves this goal.

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