Welcome to your free phonics lesson. In this article I will explain how to teach your child to blend sounds. This is a crucial stage in learning to read.
Before I start the free phonics lesson, it is important that I tell you why this stage is so important.
It is because people who haven’t been taught to blend sounds correctly, sound jerky when they read. They stop between each sound when reading. This means that the word is broken up into individual letters rather than flowing smoothly into a word that makes sense to them.
You may find it difficult to imagine why new
readers struggle with this. To you, blending probably seems perfectly obvious. You just run the sounds together. No problem!
But not for new readers.
Remember, you have been doing it hundreds of times a day for decades. You can blend the sounds so quickly that you aren’t even aware that you're doing it.
Children and adults who are just learning to read, on the other hand, are experiencing it for the first time. To them, a word can look like a mixture of strange and puzzling shapes that mean nothing. Students need guidance and time for their brains to process the individual letters.
When early readers sound out words in a jerky fashion this is called segmenting. Children and adults who come to me for help often struggle with this problem. You might hear your child’s teacher refer to it.
When students hear themselves read each sound in a word (rather than blended) they don’t hear words as whole units. This prevents them from understanding what they have just read.
Let me give you an example.
A sentence like …
My name is Marcia
sounds when read, like …
M y n
a m e i s
m a r c i a
This makes no sense to a beginning reader.
Many children are capable of mastering simple blends between the ages of 4 and 5 years. Children are ready to learn this as soon as they have learned a few of the alphabet sounds.
After they know that the letter a says a as in the word apple and m says mmmm as in the word mountain they can begin.
Now, try this free phonics lesson below with your student. It will explain step-by-step what to do and say. It starts with the first words I ever teach. Once they have learned this principle it can be repeated with many other words.
1. Buy a tiny toy train or hunt through your child's toys for something your child will enjoy. I found one that is just the right size in my child’s toy box. It is brightly coloured and children love it.
2. Make two large lower case letters, a and m on a piece of cardboard.
3. Draw two parallel lines (to represent a train track) on a separate piece of cardboard and cut it out. This should be big enough for your train to sit on and for you to place underneath the letters you've made.
4. Sit with your child and place the letters, with a large gap between them, on the table in front of you.
5. Point to the letter a and say: "What sound does this letter make?" The answer should be: a (as in the word apple.) They don't need to say "as in the word apple". I have included that as a guide so that you check that the pronunciation is correct. If they say a as in the sound ay reply: "That is the letter's name. Can you tell me what sound it makes?"
6. If your child is confused with the sound the letter makes, then return to teaching them letter sounds. Do not begin to teach phonics blends at this point until they understand the letter sounds.
7. Providing your child makes the correct sound for a, point to the m and ask your child what sound it makes. Check that they say m using the correct pronunciation discussed above.
8. Now put the two letters a and m side-by-side so that they spell am.
9.Next, put the railway track you have made under the word am and place the train on the track under the first letter a.
10. Think about what your child loves … fairies/ dragons/super heroes? Choose something that you think will appeal to them. Finding something they like is very important here to engage them.
11. If, for example, they say they like dragons, say to them: "This train is full of dragons. They are going to a party. It has to go right along this railway track to the end. As the dragons are going along they are looking out the window and they see these sounds."
12. Point to the letter a and ask them: "What sound does this letter say again?"
13. Then point to the "m" sound and say: "What does this sound say again?" Remember if the child is confused about anything, always go back a step. If they are tired, STOP and do the activity at another time.
14. The next stage in this free phonics lesson may look simple but it is a crucial stage in the process. This is the "blending" part. Say to your child: "When we take our train along the track we need to say these sounds smoothly. If we jerk... our dragon train will tip over and none of the dragons will make it to the party on time! Pretend to read the sounds in a jerky way (by not blending them together) then jokingly tip the train over and laugh. Your child will laugh. They'll love it if you make it fun.
15. Say: "Those poor dragons...let's see if you can make their train trip really smooth. Can you say those letters smoothly as we pass each one?"
16. If your child sounds jerky when they read the word "am", tip the train over playfully and say "Oh dear, look what happened. Let’s try to say those letters more smoothly so that the train can stay on the track. Why don't you try again and see if you can get those dragons to the party."
Make sure you move the train past the letters slowly so that the child stretches them out (like chewing gum) while saying them. It should sound like this ...aaaaammmmmm.
17. If they find it difficult and end up segmenting the letters, tell them that they must try to make a sound the entire time they are reading the word. Once they have said aaaaa they hold on to that sound until they work out the next one. Only then do they move on to the next sound. There is no break between the sounds.
Remember this is one of the most important free phonics lessons I can offer so that you can help your child.
They are learning the process of blending a word, using the easiest letter combination possible.
The word am might not mean anything to them at this stage but don’t worry. They will soon be reading it in sentences and it will make sense.
Move on to teaching them the words as and then at using the same step-by-step process above.
If you follow my free phonics lesson just as I have explained above, this is what you will find
Eventually your child will be able to read these tiny words quickly, just as you can.
Once they have been mastered you can move on to blending CVCs or word families ... words like ...
cat peg tip dot hug
These should be learned in a particular sequence. I'll explain it in detail in another article. Learn the sequence by clicking here.
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