Blending and Segmenting Sounds

I just have to share a funny moment between my 3 year old and myself today…

I have been working on blending sounds with Leyson and today I wanted to test his understanding…

 Me: “/b/, /a/, /t/.  Put it together…”
Leyson:  silence
Me: “/b/, /at/. Put it together…”
Leyson: silence
Me: “/b/, /a/, /t/.  /b/, /at/. Put it together…bat. Let’s try another.
Leyson: “No.  /t/,/A/,/k/,/i/,/t/,/u/, /p/, /ar/, /t/. Take it apart!”

I don’t think he likes blending, but at least he figured out segmenting on his own!  And it’s pretty obvious that despite my classroom background, my own kids aren’t always receptive to my teaching efforts.

However, when they ARE excited about learning, how do I teach about blending and segmentingBlending is taking separate sounds and putting them together to make a blended sound  and segmenting is taking them apart, separating the sounds.  That’s easy to remember, right?

I blend and segment a LOT as if it’s perfectly natural to do in conversation.  My kids and I will be talking about baseball and I will say something like, “Don’t forget your baseball bat!  /b/ /a/ /t/ put it together… BAT!”

(Letters inside of / /  represents the sound those letters make.)

When I say “put it together” I take my two index fingers and bring them together to add a little visual to our blending efforts.  And would you believe that to “take them apart” I touch my fingers together and move them apart from each other?  I’d like to take credit for that simple little trick, but alas, someone got to the wheel before me.

When playing I also use toys to help me sound things out as well.  Today I used Hot Wheels to help me blend the sounds together.  I grabbed three cars to segment DOG – /d/ /o/ /g/ – and each time I said a sound, I moved a car up an inch.  This allows your child to visualize how many different sounds are within one word.  Three cars = three different sounds.

Kids really pick up on this repetition, and through that they begin to do the same thing in their heads.  They can better hear the differences between the sounds in words and how sounds work together to make words.  This is beneficial for when we sit down with written words and can break them down sound by sound then piece them back together.  Blending and segmenting are essential skills to learn in order to be able to READ!  This is also a skill that is often looked over in early reading programs that teach reading through visual repeitions such as flash cards.

Even after all this talk lately about putting sounds together and taking them apart, Leyson still missed the mark completely when showing off his baseball trophy with his name on it…

Leyson:  “L…e…y…s…o…n.  That spells ‘mine.'”

So just because he’s blending and segmenting does not mean that he’s reading quiet yet, but baby steps!

Side note:  your child does not have to know all 26 shapes of letters and their sounds for you to begin the habit of blending and segmenting sounds in everyday conversation.  Your goal for this is EXPOSURE… and through repetitive exposure, your child will begin to grasp the CONCEPT of phonemic awareness:  letters make sounds, sounds when put together make words, words are separated from other words and when put together they make phrases and sentences which make up our thoughts and conversations on and on and on!  When we understand this concept, we are ready to learn how to READ!

We Can All Learn From This Mommy Teacher….Casey From Kidpired Creations!

Hi!  It’s Casey, stopping by from Kidspired Creations once again!  My husband and I have recently discovered the game Bananagrams and it has instantly become a family favorite!  Even my boys (5 and 2) love to play as well… they just play with a different set of rules… Mommy Teacher rules!

If you are not familiar with Bananagrams, it’s a banana-shaped bag filled with Scrabble tiles and, like Scrabble, there are tons of the most frequently used letters in the alphabet (i.e. vowels) and several of the less frequent ones.  This makes building words easier than when you just buy a single pack of 26 letters from the kid’s section at a store because you are able to make words that have double letters, or several words that use the same letters at once.  As you can probably imagine, there are endless ways you can use these tiles to work on basic reading and spelling skills.

One of the building blocks to learning to read is being able to break words into syllables.  As expert readers, we do this when we come to a long word, but we are able to do this because we were taught this skill.  I notice myself doing this when I am typing out a long word in an e-mail quite

Refresher course:  what is a syllable?  A syllable is recognized by the presence of a VOWEL SOUND in a word.  For instance, the word “baby” has two syllables ( because of the presence of the long “A” and long “E” sound in the word.  Be careful, some vowel sounds are hard to hear, like the “schwa” sound in the word “table”/ˈtābəl/. <-That upside down e is called a “schwa.”  It sounds like “uh” and YES it’s a vowel sound.  But, I digress…

My oldest son, James, has already mastered sounding out/reading simple CVC (consonant/vowel/consonant) words like “cat,” and bigger compound words like “bedroom” (Jess teaches about compound words here), so now I am moving on to larger polysyllabic words (words with more than one syllable).  These words will be easier for him to read if he separates them into different syllables and reads them individually, but first, I need to teach him how to count syllables.

Clapping out syllables is a great way for kids to be able to HEAR the number of syllables in a word:  BED (clap)  ROOM (clap).  I suggest starting off with simple compound words (cupcake, doghouse, rainbow) because they are made up of two monosyllabic (containing 1 syllable) words, thus it is easier to hear the separate syllables.

Another great way to count syllables is to use objects such as pennies to represent each different syllable.  This helps kids to be able to SEE the number of syllables in a word:  cup.cake = 2 pennies.  Point to each penny as you say each syllable separately.

James found objects around the house

that only have 1 syllable:

car, ball, shoe (though it’s really a slipper),

cap, rock, dice, car (again)

You can also teach your child to FEEL syllables by having him place his hand under his chin as he says the word slowly.  With each syllable that he says out loud, his chin will make his hand move down.  The only problem with this is that some sounds (like the schwa) do not make your chin move, so when I say “table” while teaching this technique it sounds more like “tay-ball”… I over-exaggerate each word and make funny faces when I say it.

When your child has begun to understand the concept of syllables, you can start visually breaking down words into syllables by using the Bananagrams tiles.  Start with words that have short vowel sounds like “exact” (ex.act) or words that are monosyllabic that become polysyllabic when you make it past tense such as “started” (start.ed).

Just for fun, I broke down the word “hippopotamus” because our dog’s name is Hippo.  Notice how James sounded it out “hippo.pot.[long A].mus” and I did not correct him.  Once he put the word together he automatically fixed the “long A” to the schwa sound.  Give your kids a chance; they might surprise you with the things they can figure out without Mommy’s help!

Thanks, Jess, for letting me hop onto your blog!  Please visit my Kidspired Creations blog for affordable, customizable and kidspirational art!  I also frequently post DIY projects and party ideas!  Also, please stop by my personal blog about My Kidspiration and all the hilariousness that comes with raising two boys and a baby girl!

Find Your Rhythm

My 10 month old loves to drum on everything.  If he gets a hold of any object that resembles a stick, he will bang it against the ground, a chair, or even my head.  He dances to music and he even sings a note or two with his eyebrows raised as if he is trying to hold the note as long as he can.  There is so much brain research that links music and movement to better storing and recalling of information.  And it is amazing how the love of music is ingrained in children, from the time they are born!

So, today we are going to talk about a simple activity that falls on the 3rd step of the reading ladder….Syllables.

Compound words are the easiest syllables to hear so we should start there: like foot-ball (football), ice-cream, space-ship, and other fun words to break apart and put together.

Then, there are short 2 and 3 syllable words like “prin-cess, ti-ger, di-no-saur.”

Finally, there are longer words that have more syllables and can be harder to stay on track when you are clapping or tapping these 4+ syllable words: “cat-er-pill-er,”  “cin-der-el-la,” etc.

So, all that being said, this is going to help your little one start the process of hearing parts of words and playing with words which is going to pave the way and help your little reader develop an awarenss of sounds which will eventually help them sound-out words….are you with me?!?

mckayla sand toys

When I teach this I find two stick-like objects I can click together (spoons, chopsticks, drumsticks, or in the picture the student is holding wooden dowels I bought for Super-cheap at lowe’s).  Then I start by letting my little one play with them because otherwise they will never pay attention.  So at first I give about 5 minutes of chaotic free play (with safety boundaries of course).  Then, I say I am going to tap my sticks together to hear all the words in the word “ice cream.”  I tap during the word ice and cream and then say ooohhh- listen again and tell me how many words you hear in the word ice cream.  Hopefully they hear 2 haha unless counting is something that you really need to start working on 🙂

Then I will do this same thing a few more times with compound words, letting them tap with me.  I repeat this little activity with “how many parts are in your name?” Then mommy’s name, daddy’s, etc.  And keep going until your little one is ready to move on to something else 🙂

Have fun!

What’s Normal?

I was talking to Casey the other day about the reality of reversals that children have when learning letters, learning to read, or writing words like their name.  I know, how many people talk about this kind of stuff on the phone?  I can name two.

But the truth is that when children are writing their letters backwards when they already “know” the “right way”, it can be very frustrating for parents and even teachers who are not aware of typical brain development. Reversals such as writing “b” when trying to write “d” or writing the name Jessica “acisseJ” or some form of mirroring the name is NORMAL. Why is that normal? Because the brain makes some of the greatest changes in children throughout their early years. The brain has a lot of maturing to do in the way that children process information, store it into their brains, and recall the info from memory.

But there is hope…here are some of the ways that you can help your kiddos get through this process: 1) teaching pre-reading skills in sequence, 2) teaching letters and numbers using hands-on forms of the letters so children can use more than one of their senses, 3) repetition of one letter at a time instead of introducing “d” and ‘b” together, etc., 4) NOT getting frustrated when they make mistakes or have reversals 5) helping the process of maturing the brain through exercise and interactions. 

You want your little one to enjoy the process of learning and a big part of their brain development includes your POSITIVE GUIDANCE.  I want you to imagine if you were in China tomorrow, with no one who spoke English. As different as the oral and written language is from your own, can you imagine if your teacher was getting frustrated with you while you are trying to learn such a foreign language.  You will naturally have to study the basics over and over again, and even after studying, you will still mix things up a bit when you are writing. 

So, I hope this gives you a little more insight into your child’s learning struggles that are natural and normal and all that good stuff. 

Today’s “assignment” is to be gracious as you practice the basics today!

 *This article shares about some typical writing behaviors to expect from a young child. but if you have serious concerns about your child’s learning abilities then consult a specialist.


One Activity Can Go A Long Way

I know some of you are ready for more easy ABC activities that you can do with your little ones to really reinforce their knowledge of letter names and letter-sounds.

Well, today’s activity IS going to be a great game for practicing those skills, but it is also going to be a great game to practice lots of other skills to!

Take a mini chalkboard, mini whiteboard, or even a paper and pencil with a great eraser.  You basically just want any materials that you can use to wipe off what you have written/drawn.  A white board would probably be the easiest to clean.

Today’s game is all about writing or drawing a letter or picture and using different prompts to get your child to erase the letter or picture you are referring to.  You can play this game focusing on a lot of the skills that we have talked about in previous reading posts.  Here are some examples of different ways to play, depending on what “step” your child is on.

 I got my whiteboard at WalMart 🙂

Practice rhyming:

Draw simple pictures on a whiteboard, and ask your child to wipe off a picture that rhymes with _______.  Example: “I drew a fish, a cat, and a rose. Erase the picture that rhymes with NOSE ” (rose).

Practice listening for segmented words:

Draw simple pictures on a whiteboard, and ask your child to wipe off a picture that has these sounds  /_/-_____.  Example:“I drew a fish, a cat, and a rose.  Erase the picture that has all the sounds /r/ – ose” by saying just the first sound and the rest of the word.

Or, if this skill comes easily, have your child “Erase the picture that has the sounds /r/-/ō/ /s/” by saying all the sounds in the word.

Practice letter recognition:

Write random letters on a whiteboard, and ask your child to wipe off a letter that you name.  Example: “I am going to write some letters on the board, can you erase the letter ‘P’?” You can even put it to a tune like “The Farmer and the Dell” and sing “Erase the letter ‘P’ Erase the letter ‘P’ Which letter do you know to be the letter ‘P’?”

Practice Letter-sound relationships:

Write random letters on a whiteboard, and ask your child to wipe off a letter starts with a certain sound like /p/.  Example: “I am going to write letters on the board, can you erase the letter that makes the sound /p/?”

Or to erase the picture that starts with the same sound as /r/abbit (rose).

Practice upper-lower case matching:

Write letter sets (upper and lower) on a whiteboard, and ask your child to wipe off the pairs of matching letters that you name.  Example:”I am writing mommy and baby letters on the board, can you erase the “Bb” family?” –Remember that “baby “b” fits inside of momma “B’’s belly.


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