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Where am I in the Reading Universe Taxonomy?

Word Recognition
Phonological Awareness
Phonics
Language Comprehension
Reading Comprehension
Phonemic Awareness

In our phonemic awareness practice, my students struggle to break apart words that have consonant blends, such as clap or shrimp. What can I do to help them?

This is a common difficulty for children. For some it’s because they were previously taught that blends spell one sound unit, not separate sounds.

Children who struggle to segment blends need to be explicitly taught that the sounds spelled with a consonant blend are separate sounds.

For example:

  • The first two sounds in clap are /k/ and /l/.
  • The first two sounds in shrimp are /sh/ and /r/.

And as they work to master this, here’s an example of how you can offer them some positive error correction, so they don’t get discouraged:

  • When a child segments black as three sounds ( /bl/, /ӑ/, /k/ ), tell them, "You gave me all the sounds. Now, make them four separate sounds." This will remind your student that /b/ and /l/ are separate sounds.

Below I’ve shared some examples of phoneme manipulation practice that you can use to help children solidify this. Since this a phonological exercise, you won’t use letters. You can draw blank lines on paper (one line for each sound) on paper or use felts (also one for each sound) to explicitly show that each sound is separate.

A teacher and students use felts for phonological awareness

Start with one three-sound word, and add other sounds to show blends.

For the word clap:

  • Start by saying lap. Draw three blank lines on a page or whiteboard: ____ ____ ____.
  • Have your students segment lap by touching each line while saying a sound: /l/, /ă/, /p/ (touch and say).
  • Next, have students blend the sounds into a word: lap.
  • Add another line before the first line: ____ ____ ____ ____.
  • Tell the children to add the sound /k/ before the other sounds in lap.
  • Tell the children to touch and say the sounds and then blend the new word: clap.

Then try a three-sound blend. Here are two examples:

For the word shrimp:

  • Start with rim: ____ ____ ____.
  • Have your students segment rim by touching each line while saying a sound: /r/, /ĭ/, /m/ (touch and say).
  • Next, have students blend the sounds into a word: rim.
  • Add a line at the end of the row for the sound /p/: ____ ____ ____ ____.
  • Tell the children the added sound at the end is /p/, and have the child touch and say the sounds and blend them into a nonsense word: rimp.
  • Add another line before the first line: ____ ____ ____ ____ ____.
  • Tell the children to add the new sound /sh/ to the beginning of rimp. Have the child touch and say the sounds and blend them into a new word: shrimp.

For the word strap:

  • Start with rap: ____ ____ ____.
  • Have your students segment rap by touching each line while saying a sound: /r/, /ă/, /p/ (touch and say).
  • Next, have students blend the sounds into a word: rap.
  • Add a line at the front of the row for the sound /t/: ____ ____ ____ ____.
  • Tell the children the added sound at the end is /t/, and have the child touch and say the sounds and blend them into a word: trap.
  • Add another line before the first line: ____ ____ ____ ____ ____.
  • Tell the children to add the new sound /s/ to the beginning of trap. Have the child touch and say the sounds and blend them into a new word: strap.

Note: The blends spelled 'shr' and 'str' can be difficult for many children. Students may pronounce shrimp as skrimp, and they may pronounce street as skreet. These patterns are often influenced by speech or dialect. (Linda Farrell, 2023)


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