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  • Tina Wray

Stage 1: Oral segmenting and blending

Updated: Jan 9, 2021

At this stage, you and your child are focusing on sounds of words and how these sounds can be combined (blended) to make words. You and your child will have different roles.

Your role will be to make sounds that are needed to make words (you will say these sounds out loud). Your child's role will be to blend those sounds to make the word (and they will say that word out loud back to you). Don't worry if this sounds confusing. It's best to start off by looking at this in action.

Please note that what you see in the video is what you want your child to achieve towards the end of stage 1. Harrison took a few months before he could confidently blend sounds into words.

Ok, so where do we start?

Well, we need to start by understanding two key words. The first is segmenting, and the second is blending. In stage 1, you will be segmenting words and your child will be blending them. So, let's have a look at what these words mean.


In the video above, you can hear me making these short abrupt sounds, such as d-o-g and r-u-n. What I am doing here is splitting the word into the sounds that make that word - and this process is called segmenting. Think of how you would peel an orange and then pull each segment of the orange apart (the orange is the word, and each segment is a sound).


Blending is the reverse of segmenting. It's when you take those sounds and put them together to make a word. In the video, you can hear Harrison say what the word is, and that's because he could blend the sounds to make the word. Think of blending as putting the orange segments back together to make the whole orange again. Blending is what is needed for reading, so this is a skill your child needs to master. Remember, at this stage, it's all done orally (your child listens to you make sounds, and they blend these sounds into words).

Blending and segmenting is a reversible process.

That's it for stage 1! I think it's a good idea for you to read the advise section below, but if you don't want to, that's fine too!


Some useful advice

1. When you say the letter sounds, make sure to say them clearly. You can copy the presenter in the video below.

2. Start with words that are made up of 2 sounds. Examples include boy (b-oy), toy (t-oy), joy (j-oy), day (d-ay), pay (p-ay), say (s-ay), may (m-ay), me (m-ee), go (g-ow), my (m-igh), do (d-oo), door (d-or). You can this below.

3. You can help your child with their blending, if you give them a clue, for example, by giving your them a sentence with the word missing, for example, you will say "Please pass me that "t-oy".

4. Segment 1 syllable words with 3 sounds. These are good word to segment: park (p-ar-k), cake (c-ay-k), play (p-l-ay), box (b-o-ks), queen (kw-ee-n), pink (p-i-ngk).

NOTE: we teach some letters as 1 sound when they are in fact 2 sounds. Examples include 'x' (which is c and s), 'qu' (which is 'c' and 'w')and 'nk' (which is 'ng' and 'c'). Here is what I mean:

When we segment the word "box", we say b-o-ks (we don't say b-o-k-s). When we segment the word queen, we say kw-ee-n (we don't say k-w-ee-n"). And when we "pink", we say p-i-ngk (we don't say p-i-ng-k) - you can hear this in the audio above.

5. Words your child might find tricky blending are those that start with the 'h' sound, such as he, ham, and hand. You may find that when you say h-a-t, your child will say "at", missing out the 'h' sound altogether. To understand why the 'h' sound can pose a small problem, we need to know what voiced and unvoiced sounds are. The 'h' sound (at is "hat") is unvoiced. This means that if you put your hand on your Adam's apple (vocal chords) and make the 'h' sound, your Adam's apple will not vibrate. Try saying the 'm' or 'g' sound to compare. Other unvoiced sounds include 'c', 't', 's', and 'p'. Voiced and unvoiced sounds don't pose much of a problem to children, but words that start with the 'h' sound have another layer of difficulty. To best explain this, I want you to get your mouth ready to say the word "hat". Now, get your mouth ready to say the word "at". Do you notice how your mouth is in the same shape for both of these words? Try this again with the words "him and "im" - your mouth shape will be the same for both of these words, and this is because there is no specific mouth shape for 'h'.

To really understand the point I'm trying to make, let's compare our mouth shapes with other sounds. So, get ready to say "fat", and now get ready to at "at". Do you notice how there is a specific shape your mouth and teeth have to be in for the 'f' sound? (When we did "hat" and "at", our mouth shapes were the same). Try this with other words, such as "rat", "bat" and "cat". When we teach our little ones how to make these letter sounds, you will need to draw their attention to the position and shape of your mouth, teeth and tongue in order to help them to make the sounds correctly.

6. Make sure your child understands the words they are making and that they can relate them to their experiences. For example, when your child successfully blends the sounds

m-u-d to make the word mud, talk about how there is mud on their wellies.

7. You can move on to more challenging words to blend. These include words such as star, grab, sleep, hand. Why are these words more challenging? It's because of the st (star), gr(grab), sl (sleep), nd (hand) - it's these consonants that are next to each other that are making things tricky. Consonants are letters that are not a, e, i, o, or u.

Think back to when your little was starting to talk. They might have said "boo" for blue, or "sop" they are actually trying to say stop. For now, it's OK to just know that words with 4 sounds are trickier than words with 3 sounds for your little one to blend.

I will create a blog post to explain why at a later date.

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