Why I don’t teach “blends” in my reading courses…

Phono-Graphix is the method I use for teaching reading in my online courses.  It is similar to traditional “phonics” in that the focus is on the relationship between sounds and symbols.  That is pretty much where the similarity ends because in Phono-Graphix we do not teach rules, blends, letter names or word families.  I address the non-use of letter names in an earlier post.  I will address blends and word families here.  The avoidance of teaching rules for learning to read will come in a later post.

It is important to know that teaching “blends” and “word families” becomes obsolete when students are first taught, and show mastery in the basic code and the skill of blending.  Yes, we blend sounds together to form words in Phono-Graphix but we do not teach all the possible combinations of “blends”.  Once students know the sounds for all the letters and can demonstrate proficiency in blending those sounds, they do not need to memorize all the combinations separately.  They can decode words whether consonants are next to each other in a word or not.

There are only 134 sound pictures that need to be learned in order to excel in reading.  Adding every combination of consonant blends to this list is unnecessary and confusing.  Have you considered how many “blends” there are?  Here are just a few of the blends that can be learned without teaching them separately as “blends”:  st, nd, gl, gr, br, sl, sn, cr, cl, dr,fr,fl,pr,pl, tr  (Please don’t get me started on the three sound blends like ‘str’  and ‘spr’ !)

How can learning “blends” be a hindrance to learning to read?  I have had tutoring students that had learned their blends so well (in the regular classroom) that they could not “unglue” them when then time came.  So the word “gas” was pronounced “grass”  and the word “bat” became “brat”.  Students can become dependent on focusing on the first letter and guessing with one of their well-known blends.

The same phenomenon can happen when “word families” are taught.  Once a student learns, for example, the “at” family, every word they try to figure out has an “at” at the end of it.  For example:  the student reads “fat cat sat on hat” perfectly, then struggles with other three sound words like “fan, can, sap, and has” all are pronounced “fat, cat, sat, and hat” by the student.

Phono-Graphix is a common sense approach to teaching reading that only focuses on the absolute basic information needed.  By mastering the three basic skills of segmenting, blending and auditory processing, and knowing the code sets readers up for success.


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