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Maths Phonics

The Top Three Questions on Blends and Digraphs

I’m sure you’ll agree that teaching English is not as straightforward as we think. Reading is an acquired skill and it takes systematic strategies, multisensory resources and regular practice to develop fluency. Phonics is a powerful tool to teach Reading systemically and within Phonics instruction, one cannot exclude Blends and Digraphs as an important component for building phonetic vocabulary. 

Our experts at Kutuki recommend that before you teach blends and digraphs, ensure that your child can clearly distinguish between sounds of different vowels and consonants. Read on to find out!

Q1)What is the difference between a Blend and a Digraph? 

One of the most frequently occurring questions is the difference between a Blend and a Digraph. It is highly important for you to know the difference between these two terms. A blend is when two consonants come together and each of them retains its individual sound. In simple words, when put together, letters in a blend maintain their sounds. Let’s take the example of the word ‘stick. In this word,/st/ is a blend and that is because the sound of /s/ and /t/ can be heard distinctly as separate phonemes. In other words, the two letters are heard as two separate sounds. 

One the other hand, a digraph is when two letters come together to make a completely new sound. This can be explained with the help of an example. Let’s take the word ‘show’. When you teach and sound out the word, you do not say /s/ /h/ individually but as a whole i.e. /sh/ as in show. 

Hence, there stands one clear distinction between blends and digraphs. A blend when combined retains its original sounds, but a digraph produces a new sound. 

Q2) What are the most common blends and digraphs and where do I start? 

To start off , one must remember that there are no predefined rules or an order to teach both blends and digraphs. Our experts at Kutuki recommended that before you teach blends and digraphs, ensure that your child can clearly distinguish between sounds of different vowels and consonants. It is crucial that they also understand how to blend individual sounds to form CVC words. After that you can explore blends and digraphs as mentioned below :

BLENDS

When you teach blends, always start with the most commonly occurring blends i.e. ‘S,’ ‘L’ and ‘R’ blends. You will often hear the term ‘consonant blend’. It is when two or more consonants are blended, but each consonant’s sound is heard in the blend. 

The most common consonant blends include; 

S-blends 

st: star, stop 

sl: sleep, slip 

sp: spider, spot 

sm: small, smart 

sp: space, spoon 

L-blends 

fl: flag, flip

bl: black, blue 

cl: clap, clue 

gl: globe, glue 

pl: play, plate 

R-blends 

fr : frog, fruit

gr : grass, green

cr : crown, crab

tr : tree, trip 

dr: drum, dress

Blends usually appear at the beginning of a word like blow, glass, please. For children, blends are difficult to pronounce in isolation. Hence, it is best to slide to a vowel sound right away to make it easy for them. Remember to go as slow as possible and give your child enough time to practice each blend. 

DIGRAPHS 

We now know that a digraph is two letters that come together to make a new sound.

The sound that is created by a digraph is called a diphthong. 

Usually, digraphs must be taught once your child can distinguish the sounds of consonants and vowels. You can start teaching your child with the most commonly occurring digraphs ‘ch’ ‘sh’ ‘th’ and ‘wh’ consonant digraphs. Let us look at the examples for each of these digraphs

-sh – ship, sheep 

-ch – chair, chain 

-th – think, thumb 

-wh – when, where 

To help your child learn these consonant digraphs in a fun way, watch the story  Mr. h and his four Best Friends’ on Kutuki for Android or Kutuki for IOS today.

Q3) How should I teach blends and digraphs? 

Every child is unique and preschoolers, especially, develop at their own pace. It is important to give them their space to explore and experiment while also supporting them with guided instruction especially for an acquired skill like reading. 

Explicit phonics instructions in many ways provide clear direction to a child for what a blend and digraph sound like. It is important to use multisensory aids such as alliterative rhymes and stories, observing lip movements to sound out the blend or digraph, pictorial representations, flashcards, cue cards and a range of games that will allow children to apply their learning.

We hope this blog has given you the answers and effective tips to teach your child blends and digraphs and get them started on their reading journey.

Want to learn blends and digraphs from the experts? 

Join Kutuki’s Live Phonic and Math Program today! Call now and  enquire about Kutuki’s Live Phonics and Math Program, please send a WhatsApp message and speak to our Academic Counselor.

Download the Kutuki App either from Kutuki for Android or Kutuki for IOS today and free yourself from the fuss of teaching your child phonics.

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Categories
Maths

Powerful ways to overcome the fear of Math

When I was a child, I was terrified of Maths the way some people are terrified of heights or being stuck in a narrow elevator or being attacked by a gang of bees. I was phobic. Maths-phobic.

This seems strange in retrospect, because as an adult I use maths a lot, and use it reasonably well. I calculate my taxes correctly, I draw household budgets, and I compute taxi fares based on distance and rates pretty fast in my head. In other words, I turned out ok at maths.

So why was I so scared of math and numbers?

Maybe it was because no one told me what the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears was really about.

Huh? What does an old European fairy tale have to do with maths and my childhood fear of numbers? Stay with me to find out. I’m going somewhere good with this, I promise. When we read the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears with our children, we think it is about many things. It is about a girl’s curious discovery of a cottage in the woods. It is about her finding just the right sized chair to rest in, the right porridge to eat and the right-sized bed to sleep in! It’s about the thrilling imminent danger of being discovered by the three bears, and Goldilocks’ escape from the forest.

But there is one important aspect of the story that we don’t immediately catch onto, which in fact, is one of its primary themes. Goldilocks and the THREE Bears is also a story about counting. It’s about counting to three, in specific. The story features three beds, three chairs, three bowls of porridge, and three bears. Again and again, Goldilocks counts up to three objects. When they discover her trespasses, the bears each complain about the three eaten bowls of porridge, the three sat-in chairs, and the three slept-in beds.

The tale is told in this way to establish a cognitive recall of the number three for most children. While we are on the subject of mathematical concepts as themes, Goldilocks and the Three Bears is also about qualitative comparisons. A chair is too big, a bed is too narrow, and so on. It encourages a child to move beyond cardinality or pure numbers into the realm of comparative analysis, the jump a young learner makes to start thinking in terms of one and many, large and small.

But who would have thought the story of Goldilocks had maths in it? We don’t make that association easily because we are conditioned to think of maths and stories as the opposite ends of the learning spectrum.

Like many learners, I learnt best through stories, but no one around me was putting maths in a story. On the contrary, I was being told that the faculty for maths and the faculty for storytelling belonged in different galaxies altogether. If I didn’t understand maths as hard numbers, I just wasn’t “mathematical” enough. No wonder I started to sweat at the thought of subtracting three digit numbers!

I’m happy to report now that these stereotypes about maths and stories are exactly that. Stereotypes. Maths and stories aren’t unrelated concepts but instead two versions of the same impulse: to make sense of the vast, unknowable world that crouches over us.

We tell stories to establish meaning in chaos. And we quantify for the exact same reason. We number time into days and hours to deal with its infinity. We tell stories about where we came from, and where we are going. We count. We tell stories. We make patterns. We are creatures who crave narrative. Without our stories, we are nothing. So essential is storytelling to our survival as a species, that the brains of children and grown-ups have evolved to learn through narrative structure.

That is the first reason storytelling is a great learning tool for maths. The other?

Stories are fun! They have imagination, humour and ups and downs that hook the learner and set her imagination ablaze. They inspire emotion and thought. Stories stick around in your head. Who wants to get up and walk away from the grip of a cracking yarn?

As a writer of educational content for preschool children between ages 2 and 7, I keep dipping for inspiration into the narrative-math continuum! When told as a narrative, Maths is immediately relatable, especially for early learners who are both highly visual and interested in stories. I can’t emphasise enough the importance of using stories to help early learners understand math concepts. Stories are the bridge that can take your child from simply mugging up numbers to actually understanding how counting works in real life!

The Hand Monster

The “Hand Monster”

One example: Recently I wrote a few scripts teaching early learners how to count. In one of these scripts, The Hand Monster, which is about how to count to Five, a small boy imagines his hand as a famished five-horned monster who won’t stop at eating five of anything. Five rocks, five laddoos, five leaves — everything is game for the hungry beast. I tried to put classic storytelling elements — fantasy, role play, humour, a plotted adventure — in a Maths story to make it more absorbing.

I wrote it for my inner math-phobic child. You can watch this story on the Kutuki App with your child/ niece/ inner math-phobic child to see if it works!