Blending and Segmenting Words in Reading

Blending and Segmenting Words in Reading
Poets, singers, writers, and readers blend and segment individual sounds and syllables in words. Learning to blend and segment the sounds our language makes is a critical early learning skill.

Blending is the ability to smoothly combine, or pull together, individual phonemes or syllables into words. If a child runs their finger under a word, saying the sounds they know, then puts the sounds all together, they are blending. Blending also happens when students hear sounds or syllables separately, and are able to pull them together in their mind to form a full word. Teachers of younger children often teach this skill by breaking words into phonemes or syllables during singing or rhyming activities.

Segmenting is the opposite of blending. When children are segmenting words or sentences, they are breaking them apart. Playful and fun segmenting activities include removing ending syllables and sounds and adding new ones, singing songs and changing the beginning or ending sounds, and playing rhyming games.

Understanding that words are made up of a sequence of individual sounds that can be put together and taken apart is key for young learners. Strong readers and spellers typically have good phonological awareness skills. Here are some activities to help build blending and segmenting skills:

I Spy Game
This is a version of the popular I Spy game. Tell your students that you spy something in the room. Slowly say the name of an object in a voice that sounds robotic, pronouncing each sound separately. Example: /m/- /u/ -/g/

Children will then blend the sounds together to guess the name of the object and find it in the room. Begin with short, simple words before moving to longer words. After demonstrating the game, give students a chance to segment words, and have others guess what they see in the room.

A fun version of this game is to use children’s names. Students love hearing their own names, and in this activity you will slowly segment a child’s name by saying the sounds in a robotic way, and ask the students to guess whose name it is.

Read Aloud Activities
Try some blending and segmenting activities during read-aloud times:

  • Choose longer words in the story you are reading aloud to break apart into syllables.

  • Replace the beginning or ending sound in a word in the story, and reread the sentence to hear what it sounds like with the new word.

  • Look for rhyming patterns in the story. Make a list of the rhyming words and ask the children to discover similar letters and individual sounds in the words.

  • Choose a sentence in the story. Say it out loud. Ask the children to slowly clap and say each word in the sentence separately.

  • Pick a word from the story, and ask students to tap or clap each sound in the word as you say it slowly together. Hold up fingers as the students say each sound. Ask the students how many sounds were in the word.

Elkonin Boxes

Pass out pictures of three or four connected boxes like the one above to each child. Give each child three or four game markers or pennies. This activity can be played with syllables or individual sounds in words. Show a picture. Children will push the markers into the boxes as they say the individual sounds or syllables in the word. After the markers have been placed correctly into the boxes, have the children run their finger under the box and say the whole word quickly. Note: It is common for children to have difficulty separating phonemes and syllables at first. If a child isn’t able to correctly separate each individual sound, model it for them. Keep at it. This activity is a powerful skill builder.

Tiles and Plastic Letters
Help children identify the beginning, middle, and ending sounds in three letter words using letter tiles, plastic letters, or letter cards. First, draw a three-column chart with the letters B, M, L at the top of each column. Say a word or show a picture card that has three letters and sounds, such as dog, cat, or run. Ask the children to repeat the word slowly as they put one letter for each sound in the columns for the beginning, middle, and last sound. Each column will hold one sound, so place blended sounds like /sh/ together in one column. After the word has been segmented into columns, ask the students to blend the word. Push the letters together. Ask students to say the word quickly as they run their finger under it.

Blending and segmenting activities are fun and important for building foundational skills for beginning as well as older readers who need to practice early reading skills. There are many ways to practice these skills. Please share your ideas for blending and segmenting activities in the Bella Online Reading Forum.

Here is a You Tube link recording of Raffi singing the Apples and Bananas song. It is a great example of blending and segmenting word play that replaces the vowel sounds in food words with different vowel sounds. This song is also used to teach children about the vowels.
Apples and Bananas

If you would like a CD recording of Raffi's Apples and Bananas song, you can order it from using the link below:

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You Should Also Read:
Phonemic Awareness Basics
Alphabet Activities for Young Children
10 Fun Early Reading Activities

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