phonics reading instruction methodologies

Sounding out words phonetically – How to Blend Sounds? AVOID this common mistake!

In this post, we are going to talk about sounding out words correctly, because this is a crucial skill for becoming a fluent reader.

But, wait, before you even  start working on this skill with a child, he/she should be able to recognize the  the individual in words, also called phonemes.

So, it is really important that before trying to sound out words, parents and/or educators have previously worked with the child on the letter names and the letter sounds at the same time.

When teaching your child to read, ALWAYS teach letter names and sounds at the same time.

How to teach letter sounds correctly for future successful blending?

A very common mistake that parents and even educators make when teaching letter sounds is adding the “uh” sound at the end of consonants.

So, they would say the letter “C” makes the “cuh” sound, rather than the “c” sound.

It is important that we stop that very common habit, because it is going to present problems when we go from segmenting to blending.

Why? Well, we will be adding additional “uh” sounds to the words, and therefore creating words that do not make sense or ending up with different words entirely.

For instance:

The word “pit” – It is formed by the sounds /p/ /i/ /t/


When we push all of these sounds together, we get the word “pit”.


Let’s sound its individual sounds out adding the “uh” sounds… /puh/ /i/ /tuh/


What happens when we push these sounds together?


We get something that sounds something like “puituh”


It doesn’t make sense! How can the child the make sense of it?


I think this idea can be much better understood if you watch this video. You can skip directly to the minute 1:47


Once we have mastered the skill of hearing sounds in words, we can move on into pushing all the sounds together, so we can actually read words!

Our objective is to get the child to connect the sounds of a word and say the word without pause!

This is called blending the sounds.

The 2 ways of blending sounds

There are 2 different types of blending for you to practice with your child.

But, most likely, you haven’t heard of the second one that I am going to talk about.

This is because, normally, the sort of blending that you hear of and children are taught is what could be named “choppy blending”.

Choppy blending is when the sounds of a word are sounded out individually without connection.

For example, with the word “MAP”…

When we are doing Choppy blending we sound it out like this:

/m/ /a/ /p/

Between each of the sounds in MAP there’s a short pause, which will lead to a choppy blend.

With choppy blending, we are not making a “connection” between each of the sounds.

>> This can present problems for some children, as they are not able to figure out the connection.

If you want to see a demonstration of choppy blending go to the video above, and skip to minute 3:38.

That is why there are so many strategies out there trying to solve this. I am sure you may have heard of some, like moving your arms at the same time you are sounding out each individual sound, etc.

And, in fact, many children who have blending difficulties know the letter sounds perfectly, but then when they are “choppy blending” they just can’t figure it out.

This is because they have not grasped that there is actually a connection that needs to happen among all of those sounds.

They hear a brief pause, and they think that they are isolated sounds, not a word.

And this is when the second type of blending (smooth blending) comes into play….

Smooth Blending vs Choppy Blending

You probably haven’t heard of this one!

Smooth blending is quite the opposite of choppy blending. You sound out the words in a way that all the sounds are smoothly connected to say the actual word that you are reading.

So let’s compare:

  • CHOPPY blending MAP would sound /m/ /a/ /p/ – with a short pause in between each individual sound.
  • SMOOTH blending MAP would sound mmmmaaaaaap – note that we are streching the individual sounds and connecting them with each other.

I recommend that you go to the video above and skip to minute xxx.

If the difference between choppy blending and smooth blending is not clear enough in written, after watching the video, I am confindent that you will be able to see the difference!

So, since grasping the concept of making a connection among the individual sounds with choppy blending can be hard for many kids, you want to work on a mix of choppy blending and smooth blending. And, I would say, focus a lot more of smooth blending.

Tips & Considerations when practicing Smooth Blending

Bear in mind that there are some letter sounds that cannot be stretched. If you do try to stretch them, you end up altering them.

These sounds are: B, C, D, J, P, T, CH.

They are referred as stop sounds.

With these sounds, you do not try to stretch them out. Simply smoothly connect them to the next sound.

By the way, even if you focus more on smooth blending, you still can use choppy blending. Especially if, for whatever reason, you want to emphasize individual sounds.

When you are practicing blending, use your index finger to move along the letters that form the words that you are reading.

You will find sometimes some blending activity worksheets that have words underlined with an arrow pointing in the direction in which you need to read. This is precisely so you move your finger along the line as you are sounding out the different individual sounds. See the example below:

Blending Sounds
Move your index finger along, at the same time you are sounding out the sounds.

How to get started with sounding out words and blending?

So, how to get started with this?

I suggest that you start using simple CVC words.

These are words that follow the structure Consonant Vowel Consonant, and they are the easiest of all structures in the English language.

If you want a handy list of CVC words, you can find a link to download a list of CVC words here. Just remember to use the trick of moving your index finger along.

Ideally, you are doing this in the context of a phonics approach. And, ideally, in the context of a Synthetic Phonics approach.

Also, if you want to know more about helpful resources that you can use when working on this skill with your child,  I will leave you more links at the very bottom of the article. You can also check our library of free resources for learning to read.

I didn’t want to finish without mention that you need to persevere and be patient.

Practice with your child. Repetition is really important to master this skill!

And, as I said, prioritize smooth blending over choppy blending!

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