Seems like this week there’s been quite a few questions about blends and digraphs. Teachers have been asking and wanting to know what the difference is between a blend and a digraph, which to teach first and the best way to teach these skills. Well, with all these questions, that was motivation enough for me to finish this post that I started literally a year ago. I’m hoping this post can answer some of these burning questions about teaching blends and digraphs.
Question 1: What’s the difference between a blend and a digraph?
A consonant blend is when two or more consonants are blended together, but each sound may be heard in the blend. The most common beginning consonant blends include: bl, br, cl, cr, dr, fr, tr, fl, gl, gr, pl, pr, sl, sm, sp and st. Blends can also occur at the end of words as in the word “last”. There are also blends which contain three consonants. Common three consonant blends include: str, spl, and spr. When teaching blends, most teachers introduced them in groups. For example, a teacher may choose to introduce the l-blends first (bl, cl, fl, gl, pl and sl) followed by the r-blends. When introducing the concept of blends and digraphs, cue cards often help. Here’s one I made with many of the consonant blends. You can download this for free.
Click HERE to download this freebie from my TpT store
In a consonant digraph, two consonants stand together to represent a single sound. the most common consonant digraphs are: sh, ch, th, and wh. There are other consonant digraphs (ph); however, most teachers typically introduce these 4 digraphs first as they are the most common. They are often referred to as the “h brothers”. Teaching digraphs can be lots of fun. However you choose to introduce this concept, be sure to add visuals as they are so helpful especially for our struggling readers. Here’s the cue card specifically for digraphs that I made to introduce the concept. Specific instructions for introducing digraphs during instruction can be found in the Consonant Blends and Digraphs Activity Pack.
Click HERE to download this cue card for free from my TpT store
Question 2: Which should be taught first?
This is a little tricky. Some reading programs do not even teach blends as they are really two separate sounds. Personally, I believe teaching blends is a good idea as they are letters that frequently occur together so students are learning to recognize patterns in words. Many reading programs introduce blends before the digraphs. I would suggest following the sequence presented in your reading series.
Question 3: How do we teach blends and digraphs?
For all learners, but especially for struggling readers, systematic and explicit phonics instruction is critical. “Systematic phonics instruction” refers to the sequence of phonics skills introduced. In a phonics program, there must be a logical order of introduction of skills. “Explicit phonics intruction” refers to how the skills are taught. Students need instruction where the teacher is providing precise directions for teaching the skills. Struggling readers require additional guided practice in small groups and instruction must be differentiated to meet individual needs.
My girlfriend, Jen, made this video in the summer using the teaching cards in the activity pack for me. Jen is now a middle school principal (go figure), but prior to accepting the principalship, she was a Reading Specialists in one of our local schools. There are many ways to introduce the concepts of digraphs. This is just one way and I hope it helps my teacher friends who need ideas for introducing this skill.
Make, Take & Teach Resources for Teaching Blends and Digraphs
Call me crazy, but love digraphs almost as much as I love short vowel sounds. It’s so rewarding to see our young readers begin to move beyond just single letters and sounds and move towards more advanced phonics skills. The Consonant Blends and Digraphs Activity Pack contains 10 hands-on activities that you can use to both teach and practice blends and digraphs. The activities are designed specifically for small group instruction and contains a 13 page teaching manual with step-by-step instructions for each activity.
Click HERE to download the Consonant Blends and Digraphs Activity Pack from my TpT store
Volume 5 of the Cookie Sheet Challenge was designed specifically for practicing blends and digraphs. The cookie sheet activities are great for use within literacy centers and contain activities which can be differentiated. Students and teachers just love the colorful graphics.
Click HERE to download the cookie sheet activities for blends and digraphs from my TpT store.
Because I love those blends and digraphs, I have quite a few activities within my TpT store. Click HERE and you’ll be taken to the Blends and Digraphs category.
The Make, Take & Teach intervention kit contains 15 activities for teaching and practicing blends and digraphs. You’ll receive all the materials (Play-Doh, dry erase boards, etc) and printed materials (color copies on 90lb cardstock) all contained in a sturdy Sterilite container delivered to your front door. Assembly is required.
The Consonant Blends and Digraphs Intervention Kit can be purchased from the Make, Take and Teach website.
If you have any fun ideas for teaching blends and digraphs, please let us know by leaving a comment. To leave a comment on this blog post, just click the title.
I know it’s a little crazy, but I really do love vowels. It’s so important that our young readers learn those vowel sounds correctly so that they can decode words and use them correctly in their writing. Activities which involve discriminating the vowels sounds are so helpful, especially for those students who are having difficulty hearing the difference between the similar sounding vowels. I created the vowel sticks activity with a little Valentine twist for use during your small group instruction. For children just learning the vowel sounds, you may opt to begin with only two vowels (begin with dissimlar sounding vowels such as the /o/ and /i/) and then gradually work up to using all five. You simply say the vowel sound and have the students hold up the correct stick. To add a little more difficulty, say a word with a short vowel sound (“cat”) and have the students hold up the correct vowel.
Click the following link to download the FREE Valentine Vowels Valentine Vowels
Sorting activities are also great when teaching and practicing short vowel sounds. I purchased these candy chocolate heart containers in the holiday/seasonal section at Walmart. They are the small candy heart containers and I think they were less than $1 each. You’ll need 3 as you can use both the top and bottom of the container for sorting. For this activity, have the student name the picture and then place the pictured heart in the correct vowel container.
Click the following link to download 16 FREE short vowel pics Valentine Vowels Sorting
Working with word families is also important for our young readers as they learn to recognize patterns in words. When you download the Be My Valentine- Word Families activity you’ll receive 15 word family Valentine templates with 63 colorful hearts with corresponding pictures for sorting.
Click HERE to download the Be My Valentine Word Families from my TpT store.
Ready for some football? The big game is quickly approaching–unfortunately the Lions won’t be playing so I’m not sure who I’ll be cheering for. Anyway, Super Bowl Sunday is really fun at our house. We typically gather with our close friends and make a night of it. I’m thinking maybe the Ravens?
To celebrate the big game, Kyle and I quickly whipped up a fun sight word activity. All you’ll need to do is print the footballs single-sided to double-sided (I usually print them on cardstock), cut them out and you’ll have a ready-made game! This activity is easily differentiated as you choose how many and which sight word footballs to use. To play the game, students take turns choosing footballs and reading the words. Pick the “touchdown” or “field goal” football and the player can choose more footballs, but pick the “penalty” football and all the balls go back in the pile. This game has been a hit with the boys!
Click HERE to download this activity from my TpT store
I love the little football that Kyle created so I also made it into a math activity for practicing addition facts to 12. You can also modify the game for subtraction.
Click HERE to download this freebie!
Sometimes it’s difficult to engage our little boys, especially those who are struggling. The Race Car Blending activity has been quite popular with these kiddos. The students blend the sounds as they are moving the car across the letters.
Click HERE to download this activity from my TpT store
If you are a football fan, enjoy Super Bowl Sunday!
These cute little 4-In-A-Row templates have just been sitting in my computer files just waiting to be made into an activity. Last month I used the templates to create activities for sight words, but I know many of our kinders are now working on decoding CVC words and I wanted to make an activity specifically for them. Of course, there are first graders who could use extra practice with this skill, too.
Click the following link to download this freebie! Winter 4 In A Row CVC Words
My first grade friends are now working on decoding CCVC/CVCC words. So I whipped up this 4-In-A-Row game board.
Click the following link to download the 4-In-A-Row game board for blends Winter 4 In A Row CCVC
Let’s not forget the more advanced phonics skills. We have second graders who could use a little more practice with r-controlled vowels.
Click the following link to download the 4-In-A-Row game boards for r-controlled vowels Winter 4 In A Row R-Controlled Vowels
If your students enjoy playing 4-In-A-Row, they may also like the game for practicing sight words, too!
Click HERE to download to the 4-In-A-Row game boards for lists 1-9 of the Dolch 220 sight words. There are 9 sight word game boards and 4 blank boards so that you can add your own words.
Here’s another winter-themed activity for practicing sight words. Kyle created 4 different game board designs–penguins, polar bears, snowmen and marshmellows!
Click HERE to download the sight word game boards for the Dolch 220 sight words. There are 9 game boards with sight words and 4 blank boards. This activity can be found in my TpT store.
We are often asked by parents if we think their child has dyslexia when the child is having difficulty learning to read. This question certainly is raised if the child is reversing letters or numbers in writing. There seems to be a certain mystic around the term “dyslexia”. “Dyslexia” simply means “difficutly with words” as dys means “difficult” and lexia, “words”. The term “dyslexia” is used mostly used within the medical profession when describing children who are struggling with reading. In the school setting, when a child’s reading difficulty is so severe that he or she requires special education, the child is often labeled with a “Specific Learning Disability” (SLD). We know that dyslexia occur on continuum. The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) reports that perhaps 15-20% of the population may have some of the symptoms of dyslexia (slow and inaccurate reading, poor spelling and writing, or mixing up words). It is estimated that approximately 6-7% of the school population have academic difficulties so severe that they require special education under the category of SLD (the vast majority being reading realted). So, in other words, children whose reading difficulties are so severe that they require special education are in fact dyslexic (have difficulty with words). There are, however, children who have difficulty with reading, who do in fact meet the definition of “dyslexia”, however do not require special education services within the school. The Dyslexia Basics article authored by the IDA is a helpful article that you can provide to parents. The article addresses the definition, symptoms, causes and treatment of dyslexia and learning disabilities.
If an article just isn’t enough, and you’d like more information on dyslexia and reading difficulties, my all time favorite resource book is Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz. Dr. Shaywitz is a pediatric neuroscientist from Yale University. It’s a great book for both parents and teachers.
Whether children qualify for special education services or not, we do know that children with reading difficulites benefit from systematic and explicit language-based intervention to improve their reading skills. These children often benefit from the use of a multisensory approach (using all the senses). In addition, instruction needs to be provided within small groups so that the teacher can provide immediate and corrective feedback and students need added practice (more than children who are learning to read normally) on specific skills. The Orton-Gillingham approach is often associated with the multisensory, phonics-based, explict/systematic instruction geared towards students with dyslexia. In our schools, we use a program based on the Orton-Gillingham methods, Phonics First, through the Reading and Language Arts Center (RLAC). Most of our Title One teachers, Reading Specialists and special education teachers have received this training.
While looking through the education section at a local book store I found this book, School Success for Kids with Dyslexia. I love this book as it is geared more towards the intervention component for students with reading difficulties.
The intervention section of the book requires the use of a “Phonics Deck”. You can certainly make your own (and the book tells you exactly what to do), or you can download the deck I created for you. You’ll need the phonics deck for both the assessment and intervention. Be sure to print the deck single-sided to doubled-sided on cardstock as I provided key words for the correct pronunciation of the sound. There are 154 cards covering vowels, consonants, vowel teams, initial and final blends, r-controlled vowels, consonant digraphs, special phonograms, consonant +le, Vowel+Consonant+Consonant, and Final Stable Syllables.
Click the following link to download the Phonics Cards Phonics Deck
Here are a few of my favorite online resources. Reading Rockets is really my favorite website for all things education-related. Here’s a link to their Dyslexia page. Be sure to watch the brain imaging video clips which can be found in the multi-media section–absolutely facinating!
Click HERE to go to Reading Rockets Dylexia Resource page
LD Online is another awesome website with tons of great information on learning disabilities. Click HERE to access this webpage.
While poking around these websites I found a link to a HBO documentary on dyslexia that looks absolutely fabulous. I watched the movie trailer and it features Dr. Sally Shaywitz and many high achieving people with dyslexia. Check out The Big Picture website. There are tons of resources too. It’s brand new and I just ordered it!
I hope you find these resources valuable in helping to understand dyslexia/reading disabilities. If you have favorite resources, just leaving a comment below.
One of my teacher friends had this quote hanging above her computer. Every Monday when I visited her classroom I would make it a point read the quote. It just set the tone for my week and was a gentle reminder of the power we have as teachers in the lives of children. Teaching skills, of course, is an important part of job, but establishing relationships and creating an atmosphere where all children feel valued is crucial. Sometimes we have difficult children in our classrooms who can absolutely drive us crazy . Especially with those children, it is very important that check ourselves and be sure that we are still treating those children with compassion and understanding.
Click the following link to download a pdf of this quote Quote-Haim Ginott
I know, I know, snowball fights are not allowed at recess, but maybe your students will love having a good old-fashioned snowball fight during literacy centers or small group instruction. Students simply take turns choosing a snowball and naming the letter or reading the words. The player who chooses the bear throwing the snowball must put all their snowballs back in the pile and the game continues. I love this game because it is really simple (often the best kind of games) and fast paced which allows for multiple opportunities for students to respond. Great for practicing skills.
Click HERE to download Snowball Fight-Alphabet from my TpT store
Click HERE to download Snowball Fight for Dolch Sight Words Lists 1-9 from my TpT store
Click HERE to download Snowball Fight CVC Words from my TpT store
Click HERE to download Snowball Fight-Blends and Digraphs from my TpT store
Hope your kiddos like this fun winter-themed activity.
I’m so, so glad to have completed Cookie Sheet Volume 6. Kyle and I have been working on it for quite some time (like, FOREVER) and, I assure you, it’s well worth the wait. I’m thinking this is now my new favorite! This volume is jam packed with 43 pages of word family fun. There are 15 word families represented and 62 unique and colorful pics created by my awesome artist, Kyle. Most of my teacher friends have been using the Cookie Sheet Activities for their literacy centers, but they also work great for small group instruction.
Click the following link to download a sample template complete with the corresponding pictures. Cookie Sheet Activities Volume 6 Sorting Template and pics
This volume also includes 15 templates where the student is required to match the correct letter to the picture for each word family.
Also included in this packet are templates where the student is to match the correct word family.
The full version of Cookie Sheet Activities Volume 6- Word Families can be downloaded from my TpT store.
Feel free to check out the other Make, Take & Teach Cookie Sheet Activities Volumes:
Cookie Sheet Activities Volume 1: ABC Order, Rhyme, Making Words
Just a little heads-up! Kyle and I are working on volumes for Vocabulary and R-Controlled Vowels. Can’t wait to share those with you too.