Continuum Unpacked

Phonemic Awareness

Blending Phonemes - K/1

Category: Phonemic Awareness

Phonological awareness refers to the ability to reflect on the sound structure of spoken language.

Phonemic awareness is a subcomponent of phonological awareness. It refers to the ability to identify and manipulate the smallest unit of sound in spoken words, called a phoneme. When students begin to identify, notice, segment, blend, and manipulate individual sounds or phonemes in words, they are developing and consolidating their phonemic awareness. Teaching these skills occurs largely in the context of teaching the decoding and spelling of written words.

Knowledge and Skills: Blending Phonemes

Kindergarten/Grade 1
Orally blending phonemes to form spoken words, starting with blending two to three phonemes into a word (with a simple syllable structure) and progressing to more complex structures.


Grade 1
Orally blending phonemes in words containing up to five phonemes (e.g., teacher says /sh/ /o/ /p/, student responds shop; /s/ /p/ /l/ /i/ /t/ split)
Grade 2



Grade 3



Grade 4



Looks like: Kindergarten / Grade 1

Orally blending phonemes in words containing up to five phonemes(e.g., teacher says /sh/ /o/ /p/, student responds shop; /s/ /p/ /l/ /i/ /t/ split)


Looks like: Grade 1

Orally blending phonemes in VC/CV, CVC, and CCVC/CVCC words (e.g., prompt: “To blend the sounds /o/ /n/ I say them quickly, to say on”; “To blend the sounds /s/ /n/ /o/,I say them quickly snow.”), starting with continuous sounds, and then progressing to stop sounds.

Why is this important?

Blending is a critical skill for beginning readers. When students are decoding unfamiliar words, they must first say the sounds for each grapheme, and then blend the sounds together to form a word. Proficient blending allows students to decode unfamiliar words.


Blending should be explicitly taught and carefully sequenced. Generally, it is easier for students to blend fewer sounds than many. Blending /t/ /oo/ into too is easier than blending /sh/ /i/ /p/ into ship. It is also easier for students to blend continuous sounds since they can be exaggerated. Blending /s/ /ee/ is easier than blending /b/ /ee/ since /s/ is a continuous sound that can be exaggerated.

Teach students to blend through ‘connected phonation,’ where students blend sounds together without pausing in between. Research indicates that connecting sounds together like this can support stronger decoding. Encourage students to ‘sing the sounds together’ to limit pausing in between sounds.

As quickly as possible, blending instruction should be linked to print. We teach blending to support students’ reading skills, so take care to limit extended oral blending practice.

As a rule of thumb, research tells us that phonemic awareness instruction is most effective when it is provided in small groups, when only 1 or 2 skills are taught in a lesson (blending and segmenting have the most research support), and for very brief periods of time (no more than 30 minutes per week).


Blending and Segmenting Games

This Reading Rockets article provides materials and resources for several activities to teach blending and segmenting.  The authors provide research that supports the use of each of these activities.

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