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April 15, 2019 2 min read

Phonemic awareness…...many parents may have heard this term before but may not really know what it means. Phonemic awareness is a broad term meant to cover the ability to hear, think about and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in words such as syllables, rhyming, segmenting and blending. Since phonemic awareness is such an important building block for reading, children should be exposed to a variety of activities that give them opportunities to develop this skill.

One way to improve children’s phonemic awareness is by practicing verbal blending activities.  Blending simply means combining sounds together.

  • This is done by separating the sounds in a word (i.e. say /b/  /a/ /g/ ) and asking them to blend the sounds together to say /bag/.  
  • Practice this by beginning with three-letter short vowel words such as /h/  /o/ /p/ or /m/  /a/ /t/.
  • When they become more skilled at verbally blending sounds together, try using longer words that sound exactly like they are spelled such as /f/  /l/ /a/ /g/ or /s/ /i/ /n/ /k/.
  • Play this game anywhere or anytime.  You can play it in the car or while waiting or your food in a restaurant!

A few other tips for verbal blending:

  • When you introduce the activity of verbal blending, try saying something like “I am going to say some sounds to you slowly and I want you to repeat the sounds slowly back to me a few times and then say them at a regular speed.”  
  • When children blend the word, they should make sure the sounds slide into each other as they form the word.  Sometimes it is helpful for them to use a visual aid like a blending slide. This is done by drawing a slide on a piece of paper, dry erase board or chalkboard.  Write the beginning sound at the top of the slide, the middle sound on the middle part of the slide and the ending sound at the bottom of the slide. The child will use their fingers to climb up the ladder, stop at the top and say the letter sounds as their fingers slide down the slide. This will help them practice saying the sounds smoothly together when blending instead of being too choppy with the sounds.

The ability to verbally blend sounds is one of the beginning skills children need to develop their phonemic awareness.  These kinds of activities will help the children put the sounds together when they begin to read words.