3 Tips for Teaching Students to Blend Sounds

April 2, 2023

Have you ever had a student who can accurately say each sound in a word, but struggles to blend the phonemes together to make a word?! Me too! Every year I seem to have at least one student who needs a little more help blending sounds together to make words. If you’re in the same boat, then this is the blog post for you! Today, I am sharing 3 tips for helping students blend sounds to make words.

Before I dive in, I wanted to let you know that all this information is available in video/audio format. If you want to watch, just click play on the video below:

If you’d rather read the information, just keep scrolling!


Tip 1: start with 2 sounds instead of 3

It can be really tempting in first and second grade to begin blending with CVC words, but it will be easier to help them blend by starting with 2 sound words first!

Above are just a few examples of 2 sound words that students can begin blending. Now when doing this with students, I wouldn’t introduce the letters just yet. I would do this orally instead. I would tell students we are going to hear two sounds and we will try to blend them together to make a word. “/i/ /n/ = in”

After practicing this a few times aloud, I would introduce the letters so students can practice blending those as well. We can do this with some simple letter cards displayed in front of the class, you can use a blending board, or you can simply write the letters on the board as you say the sounds. By introducing the letters while you say the sound and having students blend, you are creating a stronger connection for students to remember the sound-letter correspondences.



Tip 2: Choose your words wisely

What I mean by this, is when we are choosing words to have students blend together, we want them to start with a continuous sound and end with a stop sound. We can do this purposefully to help students get used to really stretching that word to blend it together.

By starting with words that have continuous sounds, your students can continue making that sound and blend it into the next sound. A continuous sound means that the sound can continue for as long as you have breath. Below are some examples so you can try it out:

All the vowels are continuous sounds, so when blending CVC words our first two letters will make continuous sounds! Now the second part of this tip is to have your words end with a stop sound. Our stop sounds are sounds that can only be made once as they are stopped by the airflow being blocked while making it. Below are some examples of stop sounds:

So using this information, we can make lists of purposeful words for our students to try blending together. Just like with tip 1, we can start with the sounds first, but then quickly introduce the letters! Think of the word, “mat.” When teaching this to students I can over-emphasize those first two continuous sounds to really have them blend together. Then the stop sound at the end forces us to stop the blend and end the word. “/mmmmm/ /aaaaaaa/ /t/.”

You can see some examples of these types of words below to get you started:



Tip 3: Use Successive Blending

Now this is a strategy I have mentioned many, many times. In fact, I talked about it in this blog post about decoding strategies for beginning readers. This was a game-changer for me in my classroom! Usually, when introducing a new phonics skill whole group, I will teach students how to decode the word using successive blending first, then move to sound-by-sound blending. In small groups, however, with readers still working on blending or decoding these sounds, I will stick with successive blending to help!

Essentially, instead of blending each phoneme together to make a word, students will only see (or hear) the first two phonemes and blend those together. Then, they will hold that blended portion in their mind and add on the last phoneme. It looks like this:

So instead of students blending /k/ + /u/ + /b/ at one time to make “cub,” students will first say the sound of c, “/k/” then they will blend /k/+/u/ to make “cu” and lastly, they will add the /b/ to “cu” to make “cub.” This helps students working memory by only attending to one sound at a time instead of focusing on all of them!

Just like with the first 2 tips, I would recommend starting this with just the sounds first! Then we can move onto letters. When doing this with letters, we will want to slowly reveal letters (if they’re already on the board) so you can cover up the last letters as we successively blend the first ones. If you are writing letters, then you can simply just write the first letter, then add the second one, then add the last one. This way they aren’t seeing ALL the visual inputs of the letters while blending.

If you’re looking for some fun ways to add this type of activity into your classroom, I have an entire unit of successive blending slides ready-made and organized by phonics skill:

There are hundreds of words ready to blend for the following skills: CVC words, blends, digraphs, silent e, vowel teams, r-controlled vowels, and diphthongs! Each skill has its own unique theme and blending tool that slides underneath to promote blending. You just display them in Google Slides and click next! All the work is done for you 🙂


These are available in the SJT Literacy Club for all members, but they’re also available on TPT and in my site store as well. Just click below to check them out:


Do you have any other tips for helping students blend sounds together to make words?! Let me know down in the comments!


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