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Where am I in the Reading Universe Taxonomy?

Word Recognition
Phonological Awareness
Phonics
Language Comprehension
Reading Comprehension
Onset-Rime

Some of my students struggle to blend the onset and rime during phonological awareness practice. What should I do to help them grasp this skill?

Blending onset and rime can be hard for kindergarten children who don't yet know how to read. It's also a common difficulty for children who struggle with learning to read. 

There are several ways to help children learn to blend onset and rime, and you may have to try more than one way before finding the one that works with your students. 

Before you attempt to teach onset-rime blending, make sure that they can identify the first sound in spoken words and can easily blend and segment syllables in spoken words with two and three syllables

Watch a kindergartner named Autumn below. I had the chance to work with her at Windy HIll Elementary in Calvert County, Maryland. You'll see several different techniques that I tried to help her catch on. 

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Produced by Reading Rockets

Here are two of the approaches I took with Autumn:

  1. Teach the child to blend two-sound words (e.g., ice, may, by, itch, at). Then, move to blending onset and rime with three-sound words.
  2. Try reversing your onset-rime exercise. Ask the child to blend the first part of the word through the vowel (beginning and middle) with the last sound. For example: blend /sī/ and /n/ to get sign.

Here's another activity that I didn't have the chance to try with Autumn: 

  • Use three words that you can represent in pictures. (You can use Reading Universe's picture cards below.) This activity will be easier if all words have different first sounds, for example: lamp, ball, phone. The activity will be more difficult if the words start with the same sound, for example: moon, mop, mouse
  • Place the pictures in front of the child with two felt squares (or pieces of paper) under each picture. 
  • Choose a picture and say the onset and then the rime for it. For example, choose lamp and say: /l/, /amp/.  Ask the child to point to the picture and say the whole word (without your help; they're using the picture to come up with the word). 
  • After they identify the correct word, have the child say the onset and rime while touching the felts. Have them then say the whole word sweeping a finger under the felts from left to right: lamp. You may have to model this for the child.
  • If the child doesn't point to the correct picture, you should point to the correct picture, say the word, then follow the steps above.

(Linda Farrell, 2023)

4 images on a sheet of paper that can be cut to flash cards

Reading Universe Picture Cards for Instruction

Use this free set of printable picture cards for phonological awareness instruction.

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Reading Universe is made possible by generous support from Jim & Donna Barksdale, the American Federation of Teachers, the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, and three anonymous donors.

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