Learning to Read Phase 3: Learning Blending

Blending is the third part of the Learning to Read process. Get the theory, recommended exercises & an executable plan in the article.

Introduction

Learning to read is important because we interact with the world through the written word. A LOT. Writing emails, Facebook posts, reading instructions, sending text messages, or even just seeing a sign when driving to a new destination. A lot of our daily interactions are based on the written word.

Reading is also a very good predictor for academic success, according to Michigan State University. Yet less and less time is spent reading and teaching our kids to read. We are letting our kids jump straight to YouTube and TikTok videos.

Kobi_Children Reading On Tablet
3 in 4 kids are left with some kind of difficulties when learning to read.

Did you know, only 25% of children learn to read without any difficulties? That means 3 in 4 kids are left with some kind of issues when learning to read. The following guide was written for parents of these 3 in 4 kids.

The article is separated into four parts. The theory, possible issues for struggling readers, the recommended exercises and an executable plan.

The following part is for kids, aged 5 to 7 who are learning blending.

Part 1: Pretend Reading (Kids aged 6 months – 6 years)
Part 2: Phonics (Kids aged 5 – 7)
Part 4: Reading (Kids aged 8+)


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Learning to Read Phase 3: Blending

Once a child has learned the basic sounds and connected them to appropriate letters, they need to start blending those sounds together to create meaningful words. Blending phonemes into words is a crucial phase of the learning to read process. It helps young readers decode unfamiliar words using letter-sound patterns when reading. The key to successful blending is practice.

Kobi_Kid Reading A lot of books
The key to successful blending is practice.

What your child needs to understand

Children learning to read need to understand letter-sound patterns and how to connect them together in order to produce meaningful words. This is not as straight-forward as it sounds. The letter ‘s’ for example, is sounded differently when followed by an ‘a’ as in ‘salt’ than when followed by an ‘h’ as in ‘ship’. The child needs to understand these rules and apply them in real world examples.

Possible issues for struggling readers

Blending is another phase of the learning to read process where children with dyslexia often struggle. We mentioned in the Learning Phonics phase that connecting letters to sounds is problematic for dyslexic children, so blending them together makes it even harder. Especially if a struggling reader didn’t master the connecting of letters to sounds. But blending is a skill. And skills can be taught and learned.

Kobi_Mother-and-Child-Learning_Happy
Blending is a skill and skills can be learned.

How to react to reading issues

Key to successful blending is practice intensity. Start with a list of phonemes (for example /ah/ as in c-a-t) and pronounce it for your kid. Then have them repeat the phoneme. After that, get them a list of easy, 3 to 4 letter words with the phoneme /ah/ in it. Ideally, your kid is already familiar with the words you have chosen. Use your own word list if you have one. Otherwise choose simple words like cat, bat, and pat. Break them down into phonemes and have the child pronounce them repeatedly. This might seem lame, but your kid needs to overlearn the blending part of the learning to read process in order to progress. Ideally, do this with your child for 15 minutes a day, every day. Continue progressing to more difficult words.


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Recommended exercises

Guess the word

Helps with: Blending

The game is very simple, yet quite effective. What you need are some cards with simple objects on them, similar to the ones we already mentioned in the Pretend Reading Phase of learning to read. Put the cards in front of the child and very slowly spell out one of the objects that is on the cards. For example, for the word ‘sun’ spell out ‘sssssaaaaannnn’. The child should repeat the sound he hears and point to the correct word card.

Robot Talk

Helps with: Blending

You are a robot leader. Talk to your kid with a robot voice. Try something like: “I am a robot. Can you help me? What is this in front of me? This is a /c/ /a/ /t/.”

Your child should then repeat the rhyme and blend the final word to answer the robot’s question. Use your word list for words that the robot is looking for. Progressively switch the words with more difficult ones.

Kobi_Mother and Daughter laughing
Make reading fun through games.

Blend as you Read

Helps with: Blending

Another simple exercise with almost no preparation needed. All you need are two pieces of paper. On the first one, write down a word you would like your kid to pronounce. With the second piece of paper just cover the word’s ending. Ask your kid to identify and sound out the sounds of the first part of the word and then show him the ending sound.

For example, for the word ‘cat’ show them the letters ‘c’ and ‘a’. The kid should read out ‘kkkaa’. Then remove the second piece of paper, revealing the letter ‘t’. The kid should now spell out the final ‘t’ and repeat the pronunciation ‘kat’.

The exercise works, because children get very good at guessing the words based on how the words look like. If you remove a part of the word, kids do not have the basis for a guess game and are forced to think about what’s in front of them.

Use Educational Mobile and Web Games

Helps with: Blending

The is lots of useful educational digital resources for blending. Digital applications make sense with blending as mobile phones and browser games can sound out different phonemes for your kid to repeat them. Here is a selection of the best digital solutions for blending:

Community Reading – Blending: Community Reading has tons of information on the process of learning to read. They have also put all that information to good use by providing people with free online tools & games that help struggling children learn to read.

Reading Doctor – Blending Sounds: This is a paid mobile app that was developed for early readers. It includes a large library of words and was created in association with a reading specialist.

SuperHero School: Superhero School boasts to be the Swiss army knife of teaching phonics to your kid. It is targeted at teachers more than parents, so it might be a bit overwhelming at first. You can try it free for 7 days and it is available in the browser as well as on iPad and Android tablets.

Kobi_Child Reading On The Floor_Banner_2
Digital tools can help on the path to reading fluency.

Executable Plan

The key to successful blending is practice. So create your plan and repeat, repeat, repeat. 

Start by selecting 5 words your kid is familiar with. These must be one-syllable, regular words, like cat or fox. Try using words from stories you have been reading to your kid or from a word list you have been building since the beginning. 

Take the first word and write it down in front of your kid. Then break it down and point the finger to each of the sounds in the word, saying: “The first sound in the word cat is ‘k’. The second sound in the word cat is ‘a’. The third sound in the word cat is ‘t’.” Then spell the word out, slowly, so your kid can hear the separate sounds. “Kkkkaaattt”. Let your child repeat the exercise. Once he does, repeat for the next four words. 

The next day, choose 5 new words, plus the 5 words of the previous day. Start by repeating the words from the day before and continue by introducing the new word. Repeat this exercise every day for about 15-20 minutes, depending how quickly your kid can follow. If your child can get this done in 10 minutes, raise the number of words you are teaching. 

Don’t forget to still read with your kid on occasion or play fun games with letters and sounds.


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Executable Timetable

10.30 – 11.00 am6.30 – 7.00 pm7.15 – 7.45 pm
MondayBlending Practice
TuesdayBlending PracticeReading with your kid + Rhymes or Segmentation Games
WednesdayBlending Practice
ThursdayBlending PracticeReading with your kid + Rhymes or Segmentation Games
FridayBlending Practice
SaturdayWorksheetsCommunity Reading – BlendingReading with your kid
SundayWorksheetsCommunity Reading – BlendingReading with your kid
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