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 :
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;
st: star, stop
sl: sleep, slip
sp: spider, spot
sm: small, smart
sp: space, spoon
fl: flag, flip
bl: black, blue
cl: clap, clue
gl: globe, glue
pl: play, plate
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.
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
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.
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