Children who are able to segment and blend sounds will be able to apply this knowledge to spelling and reading more easily than those that have not yet mastered these skills. First, let’s define the two processes. Phoneme segmentation is the process of breaking a word up into its individual sounds. For example, saying the word, /cat/ and asking your child to tell you the three sounds that comprise that word, /c/ /a/ /t/ is phoneme segmenting. Phoneme blending, on the other hand, is taking the individual phonemes or sounds, and combining them to form the word. So, you would say the three sounds, /c/ /a/ /t/, and your child would have to blend these sounds together to say the word, /cat/. The two skills, although different, go hand-in-hand. In this post, I will describe some fun activities to help your child master the skills of phoneme segmenting and blending.
I know, from a parent’s perspective, playdough is NOT a favorite activity, BUT, kids LOVE it! And do we want them to have FUN learning these fundamental skills? YES! So, keep an open mind, please! To practice segmenting a simple CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) word such as /cat/, tell your child how many blobs of playdough to roll up and space out on the table (or another flat surface). Then, tell them the word and as they say each sound of the word, /c/ /a/ /t/, they smash the blob of playdough with their fist. You may also choose to have a picture of a cat and the word spelled out as part of this activity. That way, your child not only visualizes the word, but can also connect the sounds they are making to the actual letter that the sound represents. To practice blending phonemes, have your child roll the balls together as they blend and say the word.
If your child has matchbox cars or other small vehicles, they can use them to practice phoneme segmentation and blending! Write out the word you want your child to segment and blend on a piece of paper or whiteboard. Make sure the letters are spaced apart (at least 2 finger spaces). Have your child place the car at the first letter. As the car moves slowly across each letter, have them stretch out the letter sounds slowly. You can repeat this process several times, having them say the sounds faster each time.
Guess the Word
This is a fun game that requires nothing more than your imagination, a willingness to be a little silly, and can be played anywhere! With this simple game, you will be helping your child blend and identify a word that is stretched out into its individual phonemes. Tell your child that you are going to say a word really slowly (e.g., /fffffllllllaaaaaag/). (I picture Dory speaking “whale talk” here.) They have to listen carefully and guess the word you are saying. For extra support, you can display picture cards of objects on a flat surface in front of your child and stretch out the name of one of the objects. They can look at the pictures and guess the word you are saying. You can even turn this into a BINGO game of sorts, by having your child place a chip on the picture of the word guessed correctly! When they guess the designated number of correct words in a row, award a special prize!
However you choose to practice phoneme segmentation and blending, remember to keep it fun. Activities such as the ones described above can help your child develop phonemic awareness which is a strong predictor of reading achievement.