Consonant Blends
Speed Up Reading and Writing


I teach consonant blends to children in the early stages of learning to read and write. Yet, I have had 50 year old adults come to me to learn to read because they hadn’t moved past this stage. They were unable to read basic words because they couldn’t blend consonants.

Follow my guidelines and your child will find they can read hundreds more words than before.

The secret is to teach consonant blends in the sequence I outline below, step-by-step. Your child, if taught in this structured way, will find them relatively easy.

You'll be delighted at how quickly their reading and spelling will progress. It also gives them an enormous boost to their self-esteem.

You probably won’t remember learning them yourself at school. That’s because they’re normally taught in the first or second year.

It's crucial that when they are taught, they are taught well, as they occur frequently in words. Sometimes they're at the beginning, middle or end…or in some cases at the beginning, middle and end.



Before I move on, let me take you back a step, just for a moment.

Consonants are all the letters in the alphabet that aren’t vowels. There are 21 of them…

b c d f g h j k l m n p q r s t v w x y z

When we make these sounds we use our teeth or mouth to partially stop the sound coming out. Consonants make up most of the sounds in words. Consonants are blended or smoothly joined together in clusters of 2 or 3 letters at a time.

The vowels… a e i o u make up the remaining sounds. Both consonants and vowels work together to make up the English language.

Just to show you how important consonant blends are, look at the word below. There are three different consonant blends in this one word. Each is highlighted…

smashing

In this word, alone, 6 out of 8 letters involve consonant blends. It makes you realise how many words you wouldn't be able to read or write if you hadn't learned them.


Before your child learns to blend consonants, they need to be able to sound out all the individual phonic letter sounds of the alphabet. (This stage is covered in detail elsewhere on this site.)



Step # 1

This is the way I teach consonant blends. The easiest and first ones to learn are the two letter blends which begin words.

In the table below are the different combinations of blends you will find at the beginning of words. Beside each blend, in brackets, is an example of a word starting with that blend.

Of course there are hundreds more words that start like these. But by thoroughly learning each individual blend, your child will be able to unlock previously unknown words to read and spell them.


All of these blends can be pronounced the way they are spelled. But to make it easier, let me show you a fun and simple way to teach this to your child.


Blending Maths


I introduce consonant blends to children this way. I tell them that they are going to do a kind of maths…blending maths. They love this as they often know of an older child, maybe a brother or sister, who does maths at school. If you are teaching an adult you can do the same thing. Of course you need to be 'adult' in the way you introduce it to them...

  • On a piece of paper write out the ‘maths’ blends above in equation-form like this...

b + l = bl

c + l = cl

f + l = fl

  • Model this to your child by reading aloud the first equation, then running the b and the l together smoothly and slowly at the end. Be careful to say the sounds of the letters, not their names.
  • Ask your child to read and say it just as you have.
  • Do not move on to the second ‘equation’ until your child can correctly pronounce the first one.
  • Go at your student's speed. It is more important that they understand how to do it than be rushed.
  • What I have noticed over the years is that children and adults who have not mastered this part of reading, tend to panic when they come to a blend. They often miss out the second sound in the blend. They will read the word black as back. Or they will jumble all the letters in their rush to read the word.
  • By blending consonants in this exercise your student will become aware of the individual letters in each blend. This is important as it will help them later with spelling. They will be aware that the blend is make up of two or three letters and will be able to break them up and put them back together again.



Step # 2

Below, are three-letter consonant blends. Follow the same procedure as above. The only difference is that there are three letters to sound out, not two. Here is a reminder..

s + t + r = str

s + c + r = scr





Step # 3

The words in the next table of consonant blends are slightly more complex. Some of them occur at the ends of words. I find children need more help to learn these than the previous blends. For that reason I don’t teach them at the same time as those above.

The top row below can be taught using maths blending as the blends in it sound just the way they look. It is important to explain to your child that these ones occur mostly at the ends of words.



The bottom row, beginning with ch, can’t be read by adding the first two letters, c +h, as we have done previously.

Each of these blends makes a brand new sound. Your child needs to be taught these one by one.



My Top Tips For Teaching Consonant Blends

  1. Write the blends (in the bottom row of boxes) on a series of small cards..one on each card.
  2. Teach the sounds they make, one at a time, by having fun. I teach the ch sound by pretending to sneeze. I exaggerate the ch in achoo.
  3. When I teach the sh sound, I put my first finger to my lips to indicate ‘sh be quiet.’
  4. The blend ng is a nasal sound. If you find it difficult to pronounce, say the word ring to yourself. Exaggerate the sound you make when you get to the end blend ng. Feel what it's like in your throat and nose. Explain to your child that it is a funny sound you make somewhere in your nose. Twitch or touch your nose and smile as you pronounce it. They will find it amusing and remember it by making the nose association.
  5. When teaching wh, ask your child to hold the palm of their hand close to their mouth.They will feel the air coming out of their mouth when they are saying it correctly. If they find it difficult, buy a cheap hand-held children's windmill from a toy shop. I often use one of these and children love it. They can see the effect of the sounds they make...which ones produce air and which don't.
  6. Once they can tell you what the different consonant blends say, play pairs or memory with your child.
  7. When they turn over a card and read the consonant blend, ask them if they can think of a word containing that blend.
  8. If they are capable of writing, see if they can write it. Read a blend to them and ask if they can tell you the letters they hear in that blend. If they can't write, you write the individual letters of the blend on separate cards and ask your child to combine them as you read the blend out to them.
  9. Ask where in the word they hear the blend…the beginning, middle or end. This is important as it lets you know that they are hearing the blends in the words as they occur.
  10. Reading and spelling are virtual opposites. When you read you break words up into sounds to work them out. When you spell you put parts together to build words. Spend time breaking up the blends and putting them back together.


Allow your child to learn these consonant blends thoroughly and at their own pace. You will be delighted at the progress they make. They will then be able to read hundreds of new words calmly and accurately.


Go From Consonant Blends to Phonics Rules

Go From Consonant Blends to Phonics Literacy Homepage