Blending words | Teaching kids how to read| Phonemic awareness

Why your child can’t blend words yet | Phonemic Awareness

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“B-u-s. What word is that?”

*Your child stares at you cluelessly.*

Does this sound familiar? So your child knows most of the sounds in the alphabet and you’re ready to teach him to blend those sounds. But when you tried sounding out each letter for him to blend, he just doesn’t get it.

So you wondered whether you missed a step.

The missing recipe is the lack of phonological awareness.

Phono- what? Bear with me and read on. Trust me, it’s a fun skill to build on.

Skills needed to learn reading

As shown below, phonological awareness is the third skill that your child needs before they can know how to read.

  • Book & Print Awareness
  • Alphabet Knowledge
  • Phonological Awareness
  • Phonics
  • Comprehension

Phonological Awareness

It’s not as complicated as it sounds. Many may be familiar with phonics and not so much with phonological awareness. To understand better, here is an overview with some brief explanations of all the terms for this skill.

Phonological awareness is knowing and being able to manipulate the sounds in speech.

Sounds in speech includes the words in a sentence, syllables in words, rhymes and the phonemes.

Phonemes are the smallest units in sounds (e.g. the /c/ in the word ‘cat’).

Phoneme awareness comes under phonological awareness. Refers to the child’s ability to manipulate or play with the smallest units of sounds.

Phonics vs phonological awareness They are not the same. Phonics involves the relationship between sounds and written symbols. Phonological awareness involves sounds in speech only.

Why play with sounds?

Playing with sounds in speech will help your child build phonological awareness and this is what that’s going to help your child to begin reading words. According to studies, poor readers, regardless of their age, have poor phonemic skills. Therefore, building on the skill early is really important!

Skills of phonological awareness

There are 4 parts to building phonological awareness:

1. Word level

Being able to count words in a sentence

2. Syllable-level

Being able to segment:

  • words into syllables (e.g elephant to e-le-phant)
  • onset and rime (e.g. cat to c-at)

Onset and rime are found in one-syllable words (e.g. cat, chick).
E.g. cat- onset: /c/, rime /at/
chick- onset: /ch/, rime /ick/

3. Rhyme Level and alliteration

Being able to recognize:

  • Rhyming words (e.g. ‘fan’ and ‘pan’)
  • Alliteration (e.g. Peter Pipper picked some pears)

4. Phoneme Level

Being able to:

  • Blending (e.g. /b/ /u/ /s/ to bus)
  • Segmenting (e.g. bus to /b/ /u/ /s/)

How to help children build phonological awareness?

Now that we know what skills to build on, I will be sharing with you what you can do with your child.

Types of activities

According to the book “Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning About Print”, the author recommends these 5 things that you can focus on with your child:

  1. Rhyme and Alliteration
  2. Categorizing sounds by picking the odd ones out (focus on the bold letters)
    • Rhyme (e.g. cat, men, and fat)
    • Beginning consonant sounds (e.g. son, sit and car)
    • Ending consonant sounds (e.g. bat, sun, men,)
    • Middle long-vowel sounds (e.g. cake, late, meet)
    • Middle short vowel sounds (e.g. pot, mat, lap)
    • Middle consonant sounds (e.g.missing, kitten, lesson)
  3. Oral Blending
    • syllables (/ta/-/ble/ to /table/)
    • onset/rime (/c/-/at/ to /cat/)
    • phonemes (/s/-/a/-/t/ to /sat/)
  4. Oral Segmentation
    • syllables (/table/ to ta/-/ble/)
    • onset/rime (/pot/ to /p/-/ot/)
    • phonemes (/cat/ to /c/-/a/-/t/)
  5. Manipulating with phonemes
    • Substituting (substitute to the /s/ in /sat/ with /m/)
    • Deleting (sun without /s/ become /un/)

5 Guidelines for conducting activities:

#1 Focus on sounds first, not prints
The focus of these activities should not be on written words or letters. If you noticed, the 5 types of activities mentioned above can be done by simply allowing your child to listen. It’s all about training their auditory skills first. Visual cues are meant as aids, and will eventually benefit your child as they become more familiar with identifying the alphabets.

#2 Keep it fun
Every activity listed above can be made into fun games. It’s all up to your creativity.

#3 Practice makes perfect
Do these activities every day. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Just a simple game of let say, identifying rhyming words can be done anywhere, from the park to your long bus ride journey.

#4 Let them emulate and don’t sweat it
Model how to do each activity. For example, when teaching how to blend, show them how you blend words and let them listen to you first. Over time, they will know how to do it just like you. And if your child makes mistakes, don’t sweat it. Acknowledge their attempt before correcting them accordingly.

#5 Follow your child’s pace and progress
As a general rule, you can introduce each type of activity every week. However, it is important to note that every child progresses differently. Some catch on faster, while others need a little more time to build-up on specific skills. If you see your child has some difficulty with let say segmenting syllables, take more time to reinforce the skill.

Ready to crack the code?

So now that your child knows how to play with sounds, it’s time to get into the meat of this reading series. Teaching them how to crack the reading code. Click the link below to find out how!
Part 4: How to help your child decode words when reading?-Phonics


Intro: Guide to teaching children reading

Part 1: What your child needs to know before learning to read | Print Awareness

Part 2: 8 Strategies for teaching children the alphabet | Alphabet Knowledge

Part 3: Why your child can’t blend words | Phonemic Awareness

Part 4: How to help your child decode words when reading? | Phonics

Part 5: Helping children make sense of words and sentences | Comprehension

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Blending words | Teaching kids how to read| Phonemic awareness

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