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
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
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…
sm a sh i ng
In this word, alone, 6 out of 8 letters involve
consonant blends. It makes you realise just 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
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.
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. Point out that the l is sounded by putting the tongue up and resting it behind the front teeth. They love it if you tell them it is like using their tongue as a ladder and resting 'the ladder' up behind the top teeth. This stops them from saying 'luh' for l.
- Ask your child to read and say it just as you have. If they are unable to do it correctly, say gently "Let's try that again. This time let's carefully make the sounds of the letters and blend them together I'll say it first."
- 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 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
The bottom row, beginning with ch, can’t
be read by adding the first two letters, c +h, as we have
Each of these blends makes a brand new sound. Your
child needs to be taught these one by one. Below I will give you some tricks for teaching the trickier consonant blends.
You have no idea how desperately I have searched for resources to help my daughter and finding yours has made a HUGE difference in my work with my daughter. We daily work on the blends that you have on your website and it has made a huge difference! Thank you again for all that you do. Please know your work is so valued!!
Holly Blackman (Xian)
My Top Tips For Teaching Consonant Blends
- Write the blends (in the bottom row of boxes) on a series of small
cards..one on each card.
- 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
- When I teach the sh sound, I put my first finger to my lips
to indicate ‘sh be quiet.’
- 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
- 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.
- Once they can tell you what the different consonant blends say,
play pairs or memory with your child.
- When they turn over a card and read the consonant blend, ask them
if they can think of a word containing that blend.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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