Phonics is the prime approach used to teach children to read and write in primary schools and one of the key skills is blending. Blending is when we say each individual sound and then run them together to read the word. Before we teach children to blend the letters they can see, we need to teach them to blend the sounds they can hear. This is called oral blending.
Game 1 - Guess the Picture
This game is a great way to identify whether your child is able to blend sounds together.
Hide one of the picture cards from the Phase 2 Words and Caption set and sound out the word e.g. p-o-t. Ask your child to say what they think the picture is of. If they guess correctly they win the card. Repeat with different cards.
Try putting 3 picture cards on the table and see if they can work out which one you are sounding out.
Extend - If your child can orally blend and recognise letters, you could play again but flip the cards over. Can they sound out the letters and then blend the sounds to read the word? You could cover the picture and see if they can read the word to work out which picture is hiding underneath. This will tell you whether your child is able to blend to read words.
It is not uncommon for children to find blending tricky at the start of Reception, and for most children, it will click at some point during the year. So don't worry if they are finding it tricky at the moment! There are lots of things we can do to support them. Here are some of the common mistakes that children make when blending.
Saying a different word e.g. p-o-t, plant.
Missing sounds when they blend e.g. p-o-t, ot.
Reversing the sounds e.g. p-o-t, top.
Sounding out words in a sentence but forgetting to blend before sounding out the next word.
How can I support my child?
Play games to improve auditory memory so they can hold the sounds in their head e.g. the shopping list game. The first person says "I went to the shop and bought a cake." The second person repeats the sentence and adds an item. Take it in turns, repeating the list and adding an extra item.
Try blending VC words instead of CVC words so they only have two sounds to blend. VC words are made using a vowel and a consonant e.g. in, on, at whereas CVC words contain a vowel sound, consonant sound and vowel sound.
Do lots of oral blending. Sound talk words and model how to blend the sounds immediately afterwards e.g. Let's brush our t-ee-th, teeth. Play I spy but give clues e.g. I spy a c-u-p and see if your child can blend the sounds to find the answer. You could play Simon Said but sound out the body part e.g. Simon said touch your t-oe-s.
Add sound lines and sound buttons to words. Press the sound buttons as you say the sounds then blend the sounds together.
What can I do if that still isn't helping?
As a Reception teacher, I have taught children who can recognise all of the letters but find reading tricky because they have gaps in their phonological and phonemic awareness which makes blending difficult. Many children pick up these skills naturally, but some children need a little support. We can take a step back and work on blending things like syllables e.g. foot-ball, football rather than CVC words.
I have set up the Pre-Readers Club which contains simple activities that you can do with your child to develop these skills so they are ready to learn to read. The activities range from quick activities that can be done on the school run to active games to play in the garden after school.