Recently, Excellence took a look at Blending. What I noticed is that all students were blending out words in a “Choppy” fashion. For example, the word “Nap” was being blended as /n/…/a/…/p/. While this is technically “correct,” when a child separates the individual sounds, it can create a hurdle that blocks reading development. What can we do to help? We can assist students by redirecting the way they read with the help of smooth blending.
Why is Smooth Blending of Sounds Important?
To read proficiently, students need to learn to blend individual sounds smoothly together into words without choppy pauses between the sounds. The ability to seamlessly combine individual sounds together into the fluid word is not only vital for developing correct phonologic processing, it is also critical for developing eventual fluency. Smooth blending is one of the subskills vital to developing correct phonologic processing, the foundation for proficient reading.
To avoid potential difficulty, it is important to directly teach smooth blending skills from the beginning. The student needs to automatically engrain the skill of smooth blending. Also remember, it is always easier to develop correct techniques in the initial stages then try to ‘undo’ engrained bad habits of ‘choppy’ ‘segmented’ sounding out. Take the time to develop smooth blending from the very beginning.
Smooth blending can be directly taught to with several simple techniques:
1. Always demonstrate correct blending skills!
• Never demonstrate choppy segmenting.
• Always keep sounds “hooked together” smoothly
2. Explain blending to the child in understandable terms.
• Blending can be explained as ‘keeping sounds hooked together’ or not ‘chopping up’ the sounds.
• For students who like trains, you can make an analogy to train cars coupled together. When the train cars come ‘unhooked’ the train falls apart. Words are the same way, when we ‘unhook’ the sounds the word ‘falls apart’.
3. Have the child ‘take a breath’ before starting to sound out a word.
• Intentional inhaling before starting a word helps the child get through the word before they have to pause and take a breath.
• This conscious reminder and effort to ‘take a breath’ before starting to sound out a word is a temporary step to help the child develop blending. After they develop smooth blending skills, this deliberate breath is no longer necessary.
4. Make sure the child pronounces the sounds correctly.
• When ‘slowing’ down and ‘stretching out’ the word when sounding out, be sure the child does not distort any sounds.
• Some sounds can be stretched out (such as m, f, s, a, i, o, e, l, n, r, v).
• Other sounds can not be slowed down (the ‘fast’ sounds b, d, t, k, g, p, ch) and must be hooked quickly to the next sound.
5. If the child is separating sounds instead of smoothly blending sounds together, stop the child immediately.
• Remind them to keep the sounds together and have them take a breath and sound out the word again or sing as he or she sounds out.
• It is essential to develop smooth blending in the beginning. Remember, habits are harder to break; thus, stop and teach!
6. Use oral sound blending activities to practice and develop smooth blending skills.
Parent or Teacher: “Say ‘sssuuunn’ (the word ‘sun’ stretched out slowly)
Child: repeats “sssuuunn”
Parent: “Now say it regular”
(If a student is having trouble blending sounds, have the child SING as they sound out the word. When you sing the sounds (carry a tune) it is impossible to segment sounds).
Since I had a few parents ask me how to properly smooth blend, below is a video on “Drive-Thru” blending which is essentially the same thing.