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6 Helpful Tips To Use When Teaching Blends + FREEBIE

When it comes to small group guided reading instruction, we have the perfect opportunity to target our instruction to the specific needs of our students. Some students catch on quickly to blending consonant sounds. For those students, continue to practice blends in text, but move on to their next reading goal. Other students, especially those with speech disabilities, struggle with blending consonants. That’s where these 6 tips for teaching blends can help students that need more repetitions as well as different instructional presentations in order to be successful, confident readers.

Pull out your toolbox of interventions and find some helpful tips for teaching blends for your students who need more!

When it comes to blending consonant sounds, it’s best to have several instructional strategies to pull out. There are many out there, but these are the strategies I have found to work the best for my students and are the easiest to implement. I LOVE easy!

Sound Boxes Taped to the Table

The first tip for teaching blends is taped sound boxes. This activity is short and sweet but can be very powerful for those students who need more practice with hearing/saying the phonemes in a word.

Get out 4 sticky notes to start and add more as your students progress with blends. Once the sticky notes are taped down, all you need is your finger and the students’ attention. Make sure they are looking at the boxes, not you.

Teacher: Say crab. (teacher sweeps across or under boxes)

Students: Crab (teacher sweeps finger across or under boxes)

Teacher: Sound 

Students: c-r-a-b (teacher points to each box for each sound)

At this point, some students will combine cr for the first sound. It is important that they distinguish the sounds as separate, but be able to blend them together. If this happens, model with the following:

Teacher: My turn. c-r-a-b (teacher models pointing to each box for each sound) Your turn. Say crab. (repeat above until students can say each sound for each box.)

After a few days of this activity with various words, when students are proficient with sound-by-sound blending orally, they move on to identifying individual sounds in the word.

After saying the sounds in the word (above), teacher then points to the first box and says:

Teacher: First sound?

Students: /c/

Teacher: Last sound? (pointing to last box)

Students: /b/

After a few days of practicing initial and ending sounds, move on to second and middle sounds.

Scaffold this activity so you are working at their level for several days for only 1-2 minutes tops each day and build upon the activity until they are able to easily identify individual sounds. Then add boxes as needed to work on longer words with blends.

Use Speed Drills Daily

Depending on the skill the group is working on, I use speed drills daily for only 1-3 minutes.

Students whisper read each line of sounds or words as I quickly listen to each individual, giving feedback as necessary. Since this is a daily routine, students quickly start reading, I listen, and then we move on to the next activity. Every week I pull out new drills that specifically target each group’s goals. In order to save precious instruction time, have them ready to go in that group’s bin.

Grab these Speed Drills for Blends and Digraphs to help with blends and find all of my drills for various skills including sight words HERE.

Grab a FREE set of long/short vowel drills at the end of the post!

Using Magnetic Letters to Build Words

I like to use magnetic letters because they are fun, as well as quick and easy for students to put back into place. And BONUS… they are very effective for teaching blends. I first saw this strategy used years ago in a Jan Richardson demonstration and modified it to fit my instructional needs.

Tip: I display a giving tree at open house and magnetic letters are one of my requests. 

First I purchased 6 small cookie sheets at Walmart for 88 cents each. Seriously. 88 cents. They are small enough to place in front of each student in a small group or at a center. Next, I used a sharpie to mark where each letter goes so students can quickly put the letters back.

I place them in a basket with other guided reading tools I use for the week (Expo markers, old socks for erasing, sight word cards, etc.)

I say a word, they quickly build it. I tell them to mix it up and build it again. Watch this video to see how we do it!

We repeat this process 2-3 times with different words and it takes 2-3 minutes from start to finish. It works because it is a daily routine that students learn to anticipate and know quickly what to do, taking very little time. Words can be built right on the table. The metal pan is only used for keeping the letters in ABC order for storage.

Roll and Read Blends Center

Once I feel my students can attack those blends more independently or with a partner, I include Roll and Read Beginning Blends Activities in their centers. I don’t use these during instruction since this is a game for fluency practice. I reserve my guided reading time for activities that require guidance from me. These stay as a May Do activity for a week and then I change them out each week. (See my Must Do, May Do blog HERE.)

See other Roll and Read Activities HERE.

Word Family Flip Books Center

This center is one my favorite ways for teaching blends! My students love making these Word Family Flip Books and they can read the words over and over. There is practice with short and long vowels and various blends. 

First, they cut up each part and then staple them into small books with one staple. Then they read each word and determine whether it is a real word or not a real word. This forces them to carefully read each word. Easy Peasy!

  • Long o Word Family Phonics Flip Books(pictured) HERE
  • Short o Word Family Phonics Flip Books(pictured) HERE
  • ALL Short and Long Vowel Word Family Flip Books HERE

Consonant Cluster Pocket Chart Center

The last tip for teaching blends is these pocket chart centers. These centers are one of my students’ favorite centers. I change it out weekly depending on their skill level. With this center, students simply organize the words under the correct blend. Super easy and they work so well with a partner to complete this center activity. Then they must read each word in each column. I really LOVE this activity for teaching blends!

See this Consonant Cluster Pocket Chart Center HERE.

See all my Pocket Chart Centers HERE.

Thanks for stopping by!

1st Grade Pandamania

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1 Comment

  • Unknown January 10, 2022 at 5:59 pm

    I really like your idea of writing with a sharpie where the letters go with the cookie sheets and magnetic letters. That's an awesome idea I'd be using if I still taught reading or first grade. It's digital literacy this year. Thank you for all of the useful strategies! Jan Richardson has awesome ideas. Especially her book – The Next Steps in Guided Reading.

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    I am a newly retired first-grade teacher in the beautiful state of Colorado. I taught for 32 years (17 of those in 1st grade.) Watching my students learn and grow was such a blessing for me, and I'm excited to share what I've learned over the years with you. Read More

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