I firmly believe that teaching how to segment words is the foundational block that enables students to decode with accuracy and fluency. The Science of Reading principles show that cuing and guessing are not effective strategies for teaching students how to read. But, how can you get kids to ‘see’ the sounds in words, and know how to tap and blend? Check out these segmenting and blending strategies you can use in your classroom to teach your students how to read!
# 1 – Segment Words with Gross Motor Movement
A few years ago, I had students in the fourth grade who couldn’t segment and blend CVC words. We tried what felt like a million strategies, but this is the one that clicked for them. Have you heard of Sit Spots? You know, those Velcro circles that are put on the ground so kids know where to sit? We used a red, yellow, and green spot for each student and then wrote the CVC words on the board. They had to hop on each dot while segmenting the sound and then quickly run across the spots while blending them together. As they got better, they went from having to hop several times before blending to only needing to hop through each sound once!
# 2 – Segment Words with Fine Motor Movement
This strategy I like to use after we’ve mastered gross motor segmenting and blending. We smaller items (think mini-erasers, bingo chips, counters, pieces of candy, etc) to push each item as we say the sound. Students simply lay out the correct number of items in a row, and push one item up as they say the sound. Then, they blend and read the sounds together!
# 3 – Marking Up Words
Students learn to mark up words using specific dots and notations. For my class, individual sounds are ‘marked up’ with a dot under each letter. A digraph is marked by drawing a line under the two letters and a bonus letter is indicated with a star. This is great, because students will learn how to use this strategy and be able to independently mark up words on their worksheets!
# 4 – Blending with Magnets
Students love this one. Grab yourself some magnet wands and magnetic bingo chips. Students push up the bingo chips like in strategy number two, but after they push them up they use the magnet wand to blend the sounds together! As they sweep the wand across, the magnet chips jump up to the wand. Students should blend and sweep quickly!
# 5 – Tactile Learning for Segmenting
If you have students who need a tactile approach, try something like pieces of felt squares or the scratchy part of velcro. Students rub each piece as they say the sound. Then, they run their hand across each piece as they blend the sounds together.
Still have students who are struggling with knowing which sounds are represented by which object or hop on the floor? Make yourself some segmenting dry erase boards. Simply laminate several pieces of construction paper and give your students manipulatives that match the colors. With this set of boards, I would make sure each student had red, orange, and green counters, sit spots or magnets. Then, you can write one sound per board and students know exactly which counter is represented by each sound!
Decodable Phonics Resources
It can be be so hard to find decodable materials for your students. If materials aren’t decodable and structured intentionally, it can be a frustrating experience for your students. It’s important for students to get repeated practice with the specific phonics skills that they are working on. Check out this post for more information on some of my favorite phonics resources!