How to teach consonsant blends

Consonant blends are an essential aspect of the English language, for they function to produce numerous sounds that are heard in many of the words and sentences used in the spoken language. If you want to develop a better understanding of consonant blends, it may help to understand the general grammar rules that apply to such blends.

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1 Consonant Blends

Consonant blends are groups of two or three consonants that are placed beside each other within a word. The consonants that make up a consonant blend cannot be separated by any vowels, and the effect is that the sound of each given consonant in the blend is produced but so quickly that the sounds combine and blend together in a smooth manner. Examples of consonant blends include the “bl” in blossom; the “tr” in track; the “pl” in reply; the “ft” in after; the “nd” in send and the “mp” in stamp.

Vocabulary Builder

2 Three-Syllable Blends

Although the above examples represent two-syllable blends, consonant blends can also be constructed from three syllables placed together, with the effect being the same as two-syllable blends. Most three-syllable consonant blends begin with the letter “s,” with some examples of three-syllable consonant blends including the “str” in straw; the “scr” in scruffy, the “spl” in split; the “str” in strike and the “spr” in spring.

3 Difference Between Consonant Blends and Digraphs

The difference between consonant blends and consonant digraphs is that in consonant blends the original sounds of the consonant letters are still heard, even though they are blended together. On the other hand, in consonant digraphs the two consonants are placed together to effectively produce an entirely new sound while the original sounds of the letters generally disappear or are dramatically altered. Examples of consonant digraphs include the “sh” in shutter; the “ch” in chapter; the “th” in theater; the “wh” in who and the “ph” in photograph.

4 Location of Consonant Blends

Combinations of consonants that produce consonant blends must reside in the same syllable. Furthermore, the blends can be placed in any syllable within the word, although blends are generally located in the first syllable of the word, known as initial consonant word blends, or in the last syllable in the word, known as final consonant word blends. Examples of initial blends include the “br” in break and the “fl” in flag. Examples of final blends include the “lb” in bulb and the “nt” in pavement.

Digraphs and blends tend to trip up new readers. Just when kids finally have their letter sounds down, out pop tricky letter combinations that change those sounds. Oy!

This digraph and blend chart is a helpful way for students to keep letter clusters straight once and for all. Grab your copy below and then hop over and snag our Editable Sight Word Games, too!

How to teach consonsant blends

Digraphs vs. Blends

What’s the difference between digraphs and blends?

Digraphs are two letters that make just one sound. In fact, “di” literally means “two” and “graphs” means letters so when you put the two parts together you get a big hint at what the word means: TWO LETTERS that make one sound.

CH in the word “chair” and PH in the word “phone” are both examples of digraphs.

Blends, on the other hand, are two or more consonants that BLEND together but each sound can still be heard. For instance, the words “skirt” and “clock” start with the blends SK and CL.

Digraphs and Blends Chart

Since digraphs and blends can be tricky for kids to sound out on their own, it’s helpful for them to have a visual reminder handy to refer to while they’re reading and writing.

This digraphs and blends chart is a great resource for students to tuck into their writing folder or keep in their book box.

I included two versions: one in color…

How to teach consonsant blends
And one in ink saving black and white.

How to teach consonsant blends

Grab Your Download

Ready to start tackling blends and digraphs too?! Click the download button below to grab your free chart and then hop over and check out our best-selling Editable Sight Word Games!

How to teach consonsant blends

Kennedy had to memorize consonant blends for school. The reading curriculum at school suggested that teaching consonant blends was synonymous with memorizing them. As a result, Kennedy memorized the long list of consonant blends that were sent home:

cr, cl, dr, fl, fr, br, bl, gr, gl, nd, ng, nt, pr, pl, sc, sk, sl, scr, spl, sw, tw, tr, st, spr, ask, ank, wr, sn, sm, thr, shr, mp

Kennedy’s mom Lisa was overwhelmed when she received the extensive list of blends. It took Kennedy a long time to master the 5 short vowels. “How is Kennedy going to memorize over 30 blends?” Lisa wondered. Yet, as every persistent mom would, Lisa helped Kennedy memorize the blends every day after school.

Teaching consonant blends as units to be memorized can slow reading progress

Though Kennedy had memorized many of the blends, Kennedy’s mom wasn’t seeing any reading progress. When the blends were in a word, Kennedy could not identify the blend. For “splat” Kennedy said, “sat.” For “thrash” Kennedy said “that.” “What is going on?” Lisa thought. Why didn’t all that teaching consonant blends work translate into reading progress?

Contrary to what school curriculum’s suggest, teaching consonant blends as one unit can stall reading progress for struggling readers. Why?

Teaching blends as units is not phonics

Whole language, as I’ve said before, wins first prize in causing the most epic reading failure in the US. Whole language is a method of teaching reading that suggests books should be guessable with pictures that basically tell the student what to say. This method also encourages kids to memorize whole words rather than units of sound. Since their failure was so jaw dropping, they’ve had to claim at least some phonics in their curriculum’s. They recommend teaching consonant blends as whole units to appease parents and phonics advocates.

Yet, teaching consonant blends as whole units is the classic bait and switch. You think you’re getting phonics. Well, you’re actually getting a descendant of whole language, a repackaged descendant, but a child of whole language nonetheless.

Consonant blends do not make one sound, they make 2-3 sounds

Consonant blends should not be put on flashcards, posters…etc. There is no need to memorize consonant blends. Why? Consonant blends make 2-3 sounds. For example, the consonant blend “cr” makes two sounds: the letter sound /c/ and the letter sound /r/. If your student already knows letter sounds (which they should if you’re starting on blends), then they already have the tools to read consonant blends. They just say consonant blends sound-by-sound. For example, if a student reads “crash,” they say “crrrraaaash.” They should not say “cr-a-sh.” Teach your student to view blends as a series of letter sounds.

If a student reads “stomp,” they say: sss t ooo mmm p

Teaching consonant blends requires lessons that encourage sound-by-sound reading

If you’re teaching consonant blends, throw away the consonant blend flashcards. Encourage your student to read blends sound-by-sound. They know letter sounds. Therefore, they can read blends. Memorizing blends as units places a huge burden on a student’s visual memory. If a student is a struggling reader, their visual memory might already be overloaded. Why force them to memorize over thirty more units? In the learning how to read process, teachers need to be very careful about what they’re asking kids to memorize. There are 44 English phonemes. And tons of exceptions. That’s hard enough to memorize. Why make up thirty more things to memorize?

The only consonant blends worth teaching

Teach “dr” and “tr.” You can put these two on flashcards. They break the phonetic code. “dr” has a /j/ sound. “Tr” has a /ch/ sound. Place ONLY these two units on flashcards.

Consonant blends words

If you want to create a consonant blends lesson, focus on words with short vowels. When teaching consonant blends, students have mastered short vowel words and consonant digraph words. Here are some sample words to use:

splash, thrash, spot, slid, slip, flop, prop, trunk, sand, bend, land, gasp, last, fact, brim, frost, stop, fond, desk, crust, plum, slump, track, champ, chimp, staff, snap, melt, grip

Consonant blends books

Currently, Reading Elephant offers short vowel books. Consonant digraph will be out soon. Here’s the order in which we will teach the sounds:

1) short vowels

2) consonant digraphs (sh, th, ch, _tch, _ng…etc.)

3) blends (do not need to be memorized; the student just needs practice)

4) long vowel digraphs

If you’d like more information on teaching consonant blends, check out: Consonant Blends Words.

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Phonics, Phonemic Awareness, Letters and Sounds, Early Reading, ELA K-2

What are consonant blends?

Consonant blends are clusters of two or three consonants which appear together in a word. Each letter in a blend makes a sound and these sounds are then blended together. For example, in the word play, the p and the l must be blended together to read the full word. In the word scrape, three consonants make up the blend: s, c, and r. Consonant blends can often be found at the beginning or end of words. Children must learn how to pronounce them orally but also how to spell them in written speech.

There is a crucial difference between blends and digraphs. While digraphs are also combinations of letters, they form a single sound, whereas in consonant blends all the letters included still make their own sound — the individual sounds are just quickly pronounced together. For example, the s-p-l in splash is a consonant blend, but the sh is a digraph.

Why are consonant blends important?

Consonant blends are extremely common — there are several in this sentence alone — so it’s helpful for children to be familiar with them. Learning blends is helpful especially when tackling unfamiliar words because it will enable children to identify blends as familiar units within unknown words; this then will make decoding unfamiliar words easier.

Tips for teaching consonant blends:

– Teaching blends requires practice and should begin at a young age with oral blending. Oral blending helps teach children how to put sounds together to make words.
– Help children notice common blends in words we use every day. For example, bl-, fl-, pl-, sl-, and dr- are all common consonant blends. A good approach is to ask children to pronounce and write words with consonant blends after you use them in a sentence. This will encourage them to understand how sounds combine, but also to associate each word to its meaning.
– Start with short words, then slowly build toward longer, more complex words — this will help children understand blends and will help them feel more confident about reading, even when attempting words they don’t know yet, or words with blends they haven’t seen before.
– Try our fun Race-Track Blends activity below!

Teaching Consonant Blends, Digraphs, and Trigraphs

How to teach consonsant blends
Professor John Caine
SUNY, Suffolk Community College

More than any other request, my students ask me to help them with pronunciation and vocabulary. After my first few semesters, I realized that a key factor in helping them was to start with consonant blends.

A consonant blend (also called a consonant cluster) is a group of two or three consonants in words that makes a distinct consonant sound, such as bl, br, cl, cr, dr, fl, fr, gl, gr, pl, pr, qu, sc, sk, sl, sm, sn, sp, st, sw, tr, and tw, We can group these into “l” and “r” blends, which are the most frequent and convenient to categorize.

A digraph is a single sound, or phoneme, that is represented by two letters. A trigraph is a phoneme that consists of three letters.

Consonant digraphs include ch, ck, gh, kn, mb, ng, ph, sh, th, wh, and wr. Some of these create a new sound, as in ch, sh, and th. Some, however, are just different spellings for already familiar sounds. Some consonants have “silent partners”: for example gh is a different spelling for “f” and mb is “m” while wr is still the “r” sound.

Sometimes reframing the concept in familiar terms lowers the affective filter encouraging self-scaffolding. Our goal is to encourage students to use the language they’re learning, and making the language fun to use is a great way to do that. Blends are fairly straightforward because they keep their phonemic structure. But sometimes helping students to vocalize these blends can be daunting. Teaching decoding helps them recognize and form new words.

But, there are so many blends and digraphs in English. Where to begin? Ah, the one reliable go-to connection for teaching—food. This is something familiar, something students can relate to, and something they can practice using since they come in contact with these items every day. Continue reading →

We have hundreds of phonics worksheets for teaching consonant blends. Choose a blend or blend family from the list below to pull up all related worksheets and activities.

How to teach consonsant blends

Consonant Blend Families

This page has a large selection of cut-and-glue activities, card games, mini-books, and worksheets to teach students about phonics L-Family blends. Sounds in this family include: bl- (like blue and block), cl- (like clip and clam), fl- (like and drive), fr- (like flag and flute), gl- (like glue and glass), pl- (like plane and plate), and sl- (like sleep and sled).

On this page you’ll be able to print a variety of r-family consonant blend worksheets. Includes several cut-and-glue activities, writing practice worksheets, card sort games, and much more. Sounds in this family include: br- (like brain and brush and broom), cr- (like crab and crib), dr- (like drop and drive), fr- (like fruit and frog), gr- (like grapes and gray), and tr- (like tree and truck).

Individual Two-Letter Blends

This page has over 20 worksheets for teaching the consonant bl- blend. Includes mini-books, pennant activities, worksheets, matching and sorting games, and puzzles. Words include: black, blow, blue, bloom, blast, and blinds.

If you’re teaching the /br/ sound, you’ll want to browse through these phonics files. Includes build-a-word activities, writing practice, a word wheel, and several cut-and-glue worksheets. Words include: broom, brush, brick, branch, bread, and brain.

Try these worksheets and printable games when you’re teaching early readers about the /cl/ sound. There are many cut-and-glue worksheets, flashcards, a word slider, a word web, and a sorting game. Words in this set include: clap, clown, clover, clam, clip, clothes, and climb.

Practice the cr- consonant blend with this collection of printables. You’ll find a variety of writing worksheets, cut-and-paste lessons, printable card sorting games, and and build-a-word activities. Over sixteen PDF files are available on this page. Words include: cry, crib, crack, crab, creek, and crown.

Here are the worksheets that focus on words that begin with dr-. Practice reading and writing dr- words; Make a lovely phonics pennant display; and assemble a dr- miniature book. Words in this set include drive, dress, drop, driveway, drum, and dragon.

These games, printable worksheets, and reading practice sheets cover the fl- phonics blend. Words include: fly, flag, flame, floss, and flute.

Use these printables to help kids learn to read and write words like frog, fries, friend, fruit, and frisbee.

These printable phonics resources can help students learn to decode gl- words, such as glass, glue, glad, globe, and glove.

In this section of the site, we focus on the gr- phonics blend. Practice words like grass, grapes, grill, and grow.

STW has a nice selection of phonics blend pl- worksheets. There are mini-books, cut-and paste activities, a word wheel, flashcards, and more.

We have a phonics unit on pr- blends. Focus on teaching students to write and read words like princess, price, and pretzel.

Have your students practice reading, writing, and identifying words beginning with the SC consonant blend with this phonics unit. There are several cut-and-glue worksheets, flash cards, a word slider, and more! Words included in this unit are: scooter, scare, scoop, scarecrow, scarf, scope, and scout.

This unit is filled with a large variety of worksheets highlighting words that have the SK consonant blend. Words in this set include: skip, ski, skate, skunk, sky, and skill.

The words on these worksheets all have the /sl/ sound. Your students will love coloring the pictures in the mini-book. Challenge your class with the word sort games. Sharpen your safety scissors for the terrific cut-n-glue activities. Words in this set include: sled, sleep, slide, slice, sloth, and slug.

Fill up your printer with ink because this page has so many great phonics worksheets for teaching the /sn/ sound. Words in this series include: snake, snip, snow, snail, snack, and sniff.

Print out any of these printable worksheets featuring SP words. We have a word wheel, a word slider, game cards, flash cards, cut-and-glue activities, and writing activities.

In this section of our site, you’ll find the most marvelous collection of consonant blends st- worksheets on the whole Internet. Mini-books, writing practice, word wheels, sliders, matching worksheets, and phonics sorts. Words in this group include: stop, stool, stay, star, stump, and story.

This unit features words that begin with SW, such as: sweater, swan, sweep, swing, and swim.

The focus for these worksheets is the /tr/ sound. Kids will enjoy the cut-and-glue build-a-word activities, as well as the letter stampers learning center. Or you can try the word-picture matching game. Words in this set include: train, tree, tray, truck, trash, triangle, and tractor.

Three-Letter Blends

If you’re learning about the three-letter str- blend, take a look at these activities. There’s a word search puzzle, a CLOZE sentence activity, and a trace-and-write worksheet. Words in this set include: stripe, string, strap, straw, and streak.

We have thousands of phonics worksheets, covering consonant sounds, long and short vowel sounds, digraphs, blends, diphthongs, word patterns (cvc, cvvc, cvce), and more.

Our early literacy page has sight word units, word family activities, basic sentence building, and much more.

We have a large collection of phonics mini-books for early readers. We have a book for each vowel and consonant sound, as well as blends and digraphs.

How to teach consonsant blends

Help your students practice and master initial and final consonant blends with these Consonant Blends Mini Books. These mini-books are a fun and effective way to help your students with all types of consonant blends. Through these mini books students will work on consonant blends in a variety of formats: VCC CVCC CCVC CCVCC CCCVC and CVCCC. With 15 Consonant Blends Mini Books included in this set, students will be engaged in phonics practice as they learn to blend sounds and read with more fluency.

There are a total of 3 sets of mini-books each with 5 books that focus on the same type of consonant blends. Use one mini-book a day for 3 weeks or easily spread them out to cover two or more weeks. Phonics practice is scaffolded with these initial and final consonant blends activities. Students will build on their knowledge of sounds in each set. With interwoven high frequency and sight words, students get added practice of those important words too!

Additionally, each book in a set gradually increases in difficulty. These Consonant Blends activities are perfect phonics practice for your classroom. Use them for independent practice in class, small group instruction, review, intervention, reading centers homework, or as early finisher work. Your students will love creating their own books and reading them again and again.

The initial and final consonant blends mini-books include

  • 15 Consonant Blends Mini Books
  • Books divided into 3 sets of 5 books each
  • Each set focuses on consonant blend word patterns
  • Word overview sheet
  • Books also incorporate high-frequency words

The consonant blends mini-books focus on the following blend word patterns

  • Set 1: VCC and CVCC words
  • Set 2: CCVC words
  • Set 3: CCVCC, CCCVC, and CVCCC words

The Consonant Blends Mini Books are also great to send home for homework or extra phonics practice during breaks from school.

Download your copy now, click the button below to Buy Now!

A sneak peek inside the initial consonant blends pack

How to teach consonsant blends

How to teach consonsant blends

How to teach consonsant blends

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How to teach consonsant blends

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How to teach consonsant blends

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How to teach consonsant blends

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How to teach consonsant blends
Professor John Caine
SUNY, Suffolk Community College

More than any other request, my students ask me to help them with pronunciation and vocabulary. After my first few semesters, I realized that a key factor in helping them was to start with consonant blends.

A consonant blend (also called a consonant cluster) is a group of two or three consonants in words that makes a distinct consonant sound, such as bl, br, cl, cr, dr, fl, fr, gl, gr, pl, pr, qu, sc, sk, sl, sm, sn, sp, st, sw, tr, and tw, We can group these into “l” and “r” blends, which are the most frequent and convenient to categorize.

A digraph is a single sound, or phoneme, that is represented by two letters. A trigraph is a phoneme that consists of three letters.

Consonant digraphs include ch, ck, gh, kn, mb, ng, ph, sh, th, wh, and wr. Some of these create a new sound, as in ch, sh, and th. Some, however, are just different spellings for already familiar sounds. Some consonants have “silent partners”: for example gh is a different spelling for “f” and mb is “m” while wr is still the “r” sound.

Sometimes reframing the concept in familiar terms lowers the affective filter encouraging self-scaffolding. Our goal is to encourage students to use the language they’re learning, and making the language fun to use is a great way to do that. Blends are fairly straightforward because they keep their phonemic structure. But sometimes helping students to vocalize these blends can be daunting. Teaching decoding helps them recognize and form new words.

But, there are so many blends and digraphs in English. Where to begin? Ah, the one reliable go-to connection for teaching—food. This is something familiar, something students can relate to, and something they can practice using since they come in contact with these items every day.

Start with a list of foods that students like—chicken, pizza, cookies, ice cream—any food item will do just fine. After we have several selections, I break the class up into groups. Each group will handle one food item. I ask each group to write down: 1) how to make their food item and the ingredients needed; 2) a list of utensils needed to make their item. This part is done phonetically first; however students originally spell the words is fine, as we will rewrite this same lesson with the correct spelling. I often ask the groups to share reading the final copy out loud.

Let’s use chicken as an example. We will need: ch i ck en, water to wa sh the chicken, a kn ife, a pot or pan, butter or olive oil, sa lt , pepper, a st ove or gr ill and a tr ay for pr esenting.

In this first example, we see ch, ck, gr, kn, lt, pr, sh, st, and tr. It helps that students see and recognize that most blends and digraphs can come at the beginning or the end of a word but still keep the same sound.

Another example is ice cream. We will need: cream, sugar, flavoring and fresh fruit. We will need to whip or stir the cream, sometimes by hand and sometimes with an electric mixer. Our favorite part is tasting the ice cream.

In this case, we have cr, fl, fr, wh, st, tr, and ctr. Once students get going, it’s easy for them to start rhyming and inventing new ways to use consonant combinations, not unlike the rhyme exercises in elementary school.

I usually model the exercise on the board first to let students see what they are to do. Though this may seem like an elementary exercise, it is something my adult students enjoy and learn a great deal from for several reasons: there is the pronunciation, the spelling, new vocabulary, the confidence of speaking, and the ability to become more independent and creative with a new language.

As we do this activity, each student is making a chart. The blend or digraph goes at the top, and the word using that combination goes below it. After writing numerous examples and repetition, the students generally can pronounce the word and know the meaning. Some of your students will master these skills faster than others. I find it prudent to have those students who can master the blended sounds help others, especially if they share the same native language.

But how can we teach students to begin mastering the art of pronunciation autonomously? There is a very helpful tool that can be utilized in classrooms, one that we may not be familiar with or may not have thought of using: the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA).

John Caine lives in New York with his wife and children. While he holds a Master of Education and post graduate certifications, his first love has always been writing and inventing stories. He is an award winning poet, has written for several magazines, is the author of Waldo and the Wackos, The Story of Pig and Giraffe, La Historia de Cerdo y Jirafa, In the Time of Big Trains and My Name Sir? As well as being a published author, he also teaches and and does public speaking.