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Effective Strategies for Teaching Beginning Blends: A Comprehensive Guide for Early Literacy

Updated: Jul 7, 2023

Effective Strategies for Teaching Beginning Blends: A Comprehensive Guide for Early Literacy

Letter blends are a core part of any comprehensive early spelling or word study program. They pop up everywhere, across most year levels and it is difficult at times to find resources which support each of the blends. Here is a comprehensive guide to teaching beginning blends and some helpful resources!

A sample of the Beginning Blend passages, from Sherbert Learning.

Understanding Blends

When two or more consonant letters come together to create a specific sound, they form what is known as a letter blend. These blends can appear at the start (beginning blends) or end (ending blends) of words. Notably, in blends, each letter's sound can be heard distinctly. If the letters collectively create a single sound, they are termed 'digraphs.'

A beginning blend occurs at the onset of a word, such as 'fr' in 'frog.' Conversely, an ending blend appears at the terminus of a word, like 'nk' in 'sink.' There are 27 beginning consonant clusters (e.g., bl, str), 49 ending consonant clusters (e.g., nd, mpt), with only three appearing in both positions (sk, sp, st).

When and Which Blends to Teach?

Blends can be introduced as early as the first years of schooling and continue to be relevant in higher grades. As soon as students encounter blends in their reading, it's essential to equip them with the skills to decode these blends. Likewise, they will begin to see blends appear in their writing from early school years.

The order of teaching blends is typically determined by your school or area's specific spelling approach, which will have an established scope and sequence. To ensure consistency, it's best to align with your school's recommended order.

However, as a general rule, start with the most common and straightforward blends. Below is a recommended order based on ease of pronunciation:

  • BEGINNING BLENDS - br, cl, cr, dr, fl, fr, gl, gr, pl, lr, sc, sk, sl, sm, sn, sp, st, tr, tw) ENDING BLENDS - (ft, ld, lk, lp, lt, mp, nd, ng, nk, nt, py, ry, sk, sp, st, ty

How to Teach Blends?

The methodology for teaching blends will largely depend on your chosen phonics approach. The two ideas and resources mentioned below can complement any phonics or whole language strategy.

Blend Stories - Spot the Blends!

The front cover of Beginning Blend passages, from Sherbert Learning.

This resource covers each blend and encourages students to identify them within a meaningful context, such as fun stories, then practice with supporting activities.

Students love these short stories, which serve as an excellent tool to reinforce beginning blends. Each of the following blends has a dedicated story and corresponding activity page:

★ bl ★ cl ★ fl ★ gl ★ pl ★ sl ★ br ★cr ★ gr ★ pr ★ fr ★ tr ★ sc ★ sk ★ sm ★ sn ★ sp ★ sw ★ st ★ dr

You can find the blend stories HERE!

Blend Board Games - Practice with Play!

An example of one of the Beginning Blend board games

For additional reinforcement, a blend board game can be seamlessly integrated into any spelling program or used in reading groups/rotations.

Included in the Beginning and End Board Game Pack, these fun and engaging games offer students targeted practice in spelling and reading common blends. When used alongside the blend stories, they can significantly boost students' mastery of these combinations.

The front cover of Beginning Blend board games, from Sherbert Learning.

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