Literacy Tips – Blending

By August 14, 2015L1, Literacy
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Reading. We love literacy here at ChatBox. It’s one of the most profound ways we can improve a child’s future. Not many other things we do can open up a whole new world of imagination, self education and success.

Blending (being able to put together letter sounds to make a word) is a critical literacy skill. It relies on using your auditory memory to hold the sounds, and your working memory to smoosh the sounds together to make a word.

Often struggling readers have difficulty with this skill. They might hear the sounds /k/ /i/ /t/ and guess ‘cat’ instead of ‘kit’ or they may struggle to come up with a way to read a nonsense word like ‘doob’ out loud. Fortunately there are a few tricks that might help.

Ignore letters

Don’t focus on alphabet letter names. Just talk about sounds. c makes a /k/ sound and so on. Letter names are almost entirely irrelevant to reading anyway.

Make it easy

Avoid doing things like ‘c-c-c-cat’. This makes life difficult for children because their auditory processing skills aren’t as developed as ours. A child might only have 3 ‘slots’ in their auditory memory and you’ll have occupied all or most of them by unnecessarily repeating a sound. Rather, say ‘c-a-t’.
Use objects like letter tiles, marbles or coloured tiles to represent spaces for sounds. That way, when you point to each object, it becomes really clear that there are 3 sounds in ‘cat’ and the first sound is /k/.

Aim for mastery

Focus on small groups of sounds. For example, you might start off with ‘at’ and put consonants like ‘c’ in front of ‘at’. That way you’re teaching automacity and reducing the amount of memory and processing required to remember and blend the sounds. Then you can change to ‘an’ and do the same thing, and then keep the ‘a’ and change the consonants either side. The idea is to stick to a relatively small set of sounds to practice the skill.

As always, we’re here to help if you have any difficulties. Our focus on parent skill and knowledge means you’ll end up knowing what to do and how to do it.

Author Gam

Gam loves using his skills as a speech therapist to help school-age kids with literacy difficulties (reading, comprehension, sound awareness, the whole bag!) and as a person who used to have a stutter as a child, is interested in stuttering as well. With lots of experience as a speech pathologist working with people with autism and a patient, flexible, client-directed style, Gam is good at making speech therapy fun and not ‘work’. Gam is also the author of a journal article, published in Cortex, Impaired semantic inhibition during lexical ambiguity repetition in Parkinson’s disease. Gam is a registered provider under the FaHCSIA Helping Children with Autism and Better Start programmes. When he isn’t doing something more fun, like therapy, he’s also the director of ChatBox (Brisbane Speech Pathology).

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