Consonant Blends: Teach Blends with Free Decodable Passages
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A consonant blend, also known as a consonant cluster, is a series of consonants that appear together before or after a vowel in a word. In a blend, each letter retains its own sound. For example in the word frog you can hear both the /f/ and /r/ sounds. These individual sounds are called phonemes, and make up all the sounds in the English language. For more information on phonemes, check out my article, Phonemic Awareness: A Guide to Phonemes with Visual Examples.
Pro Tip: Consonant blends are different from digraphs, in which two consonants work together to make a single sound, or phoneme. Examples of digraphs include SH, CK, and TH. For more information on teaching digraphs, check out my article, How to Teach Digraphs.
Consonant blends can be made up of either two or three letters, and can appear at the beginning, middle, or end of a word.
Blends that appear at the beginning of a word are called beginning blends. These include examples such as the consonant blend cl, which appears at the beginning of the word clap, or the consonant cluster scr, which appears at the beginning of the words scrape, screen, and scrimp.
Consonant blends that appear at the end of a word are called ending blends. These include examples such as the consonant blend ft in the word lift and the consonant blend mp in the word bump.
Consonant blends that appear in the middle of a word are called medial blends. Words containing medial blends tend to be multisyllabic, making them harder for children to read. As a result, medial blends are focused on later in a child’s education, once beginning and ending blends have been mastered. Some examples include the blend sk in the word basket and the consonant blend st in the word festival.
Learning to blend letters doesn't just happen. It takes hard work and a lot of practice, and for many children, the process of blending consonant sounds is one of the hardest to master.
Focusing on a single kind of blend at a time is a great way to cement a child's recognition of what that blend sounds like. For more practice with consonant blends, check out the Charge into Reading Consonant Blends Decodable Reader Set.
Before anyone can teach consonant clusters, it is important to understand how to categorize the blends. Our scope and sequence breaks consonant blends into five stages: L blends, R blends, S blends, T-blends, and word-ending blends.
L blends occur when the second letter in a consonant cluster is the letter L. L blends typically appear as initial blends. The six most common L blends are bl, cl, fl, gl, pl, and sl.
Below are examples of L-blend words:
One way to practice L blends is by writing decodable sentences or stories using these words. Here's one example:
Brad spots a flag.
The flag flaps in the wind.
Brad clasps the flag.
Brad flips the flag.
Brad slips the flag on a blimp.
The blimp lifts the flag.
Pam has a plan. She is going to clip the plump plums growing on her plot of land. But what can Pam turn her plums into? And what kind of mess will she end up making in the process?
L blends in this story: blast, blends, claps, clips, clumps, flat, flips, glad, glob, plan, plants, plops, plot, plugs, plum, plump, plums, slab, slips, splits
High-frequency words in this story: she, the
Additional consonant-blend words in this story: land, pond, spots
R blends occur when the second letter in a consonant cluster is the letter R. R-blend words are one of the more challenging blends for readers to master, as many children do not learn to properly pronounce the letter R until they are a bit older.
Pro Tip: When the letter R follows a vowel, it changes the sound of the vowel. These are called R-controlled vowels and appear in words such as scarf, tart, and harm. Because the vowel sound is grouped into the blend, these consonant clusters are not grouped into standard consonant blends.
The seven beginning R blends are br, cr, dr, fr, gr, pr, and tr.
Below are examples of R-blend words:
Practice R blends with these R-blends decodable sentences:
Grant grabs a drum.
Grant drags the drum.
He has a cramp.
Grant drops the drum.
Want more R-blend stories? Check out Grub Grab: An R Blend Decodable Reader, part of the Charge into Reading Consonant Blends Decodable Reader set.
Charge Mommy Books is committed to getting children the resources they need to learn how to read. But we know that not every parent and teacher around the world has access to our printed books. That's why we offer free beginning reader books and resource on our site. Sample resources include:
S-blends occur when the first letter in a consonant cluster is the letter S. S-blends can appear as either beginning blends or ending blends.
The eleven beginning S blends are sc, scr, sk, sl, sn, sp, spl, spr, st, str, and sw.
The three ending S-blend are sk, sp, and st.
Pro Tip: The letters SC also form a digraph that make the /s/ sound. These letters only form a consonant cluster when both sounds can be heard, as in the words scan and scar.
Below are examples of S-blend words:
Practice reading S blends with this decodable story featuring S consonant clusters:
Stan spots a script.
He snags the script.
Stan skims the script.
Stan stamps the script
Stan slips the script on his desk.
For more S blend stories, check out Stan and the Slug: An S-Blends Decodable Reader, part of the Charge into Reading Consonant Blends Decodable Reader set.
T-blends occur when the last letter in a consonant blend is the letter T. The seven T-blends are ct, ft, lt, nt, pt, st, and xt.
Below are examples of T-blend words:
Pro Tip: Although T blends typically occur as word-ending blends, they can also be paired with the letter W to form a beginning blend, as in the word twist.
Practice reading T blends with this decodable T-blend story:
Brent is on a hunt for a nest.
A draft hits Brent.
It is a gust of wind.
A twig drifts past Brent.
It is a hint.
The twig is from the nest!
Brent spots the nest.
And don't forget to check out our upcoming T-Blends book: Prints in the Frost!
When a falling twig wakes Brent, he soon finds himself on a quest to follow the mysterious prints outside his tent. But who—or what—were they left by?
T blends in this story: Brent, crept, fast, felt, front, frost, gust, just, left, next, past, plants, prints, rest, slept, soft, swept, tent, tuft, twig, twin, went
High-frequency words in this story: into, of, saw, the, to
Additional consonant-blend words in this story: snap, swamp, wind
There are a handful of word-ending blends that don’t fit into any particular category. These include: ld, lf, lk, lp, and mp, and nd. Below are some examples of word-ending blends:
Pro Tip: When working with ending blends, beware the silent L. Words such as walk and calf do not qualify as consonant blends as the L cannot be heard as a sound of its own.
Practice reading word-ending blends with this decodable text:
Gram and Gramp
Gram and Gramp tromp past the pond.
Gram stomps in the sand.
Gramp stands in the sand.
Gramp lets Gram grasp his hand.
Gram and Gramp tromp up the ramp.
For more word-ending blend practice, check out The Bump: A Word-Ending Blends Decodable Reader.
W blends feature the consonant clusters DW, TW, and SW. Below are some examples of W blends:
Practice reading W blends with this decodable story:
A swan swims in as swamp.
The swan swats at a twig.
The swan twists.
The swan swaps spots with its twin.
What is decodable to one child may not be to another. Ask yourself the following questions:
Use our reading assessment to find the right books for your child.
Practice makes perfect, and there are many ways to practice consonant blends.
Encourage children to find consonant blends within words by connecting them with a scoop or an arc. Reading words in this way forces children to look at the component letters of a word before reading it, which will help them to identify where the blend sit.
Encourage students to read words with blends in them. Pay close attention to finding the blends and circling or highlighting them. As above, this practice forces them to identify the blends, which assists in reading them.
Create sight cards with pictures that children can identify. Rather than writing out the full word on the card, only include the letter blend. Then encourage the child to say the word aloud, listening for the two sounds the letter blend makes.
Create a chart or grid featuring only words that use one kind of consonant blend. Reading several of the same consonant cluster in a row helps build familiarity and will help readers to understand how the blend is formed and how it sounds in familiar words.
Below is a sample fluency grid for GR words:
Keep in mind when working on consonant blends where a reader is in their ability. A word like treat is going to be a challenge because readers need to not only know how to blend tr but also need to be able to identify the vowel team ea. Instead, focus on decodable text—that is, text that uses only the sounds and spelling patterns a reader is familiar with.
Pro Tip: Remember, children do not need to memorize these consonant blends. They just need to recognize HOW to sound them out in order to be successful in reading them! And the more they practice, the more blending consonants will become second nature.
One of the best ways to practice consonant blends is by reading consonant blend specific books. While printed passages are good start, the sense of accomplishment a child feels from completing a physical book cannot be rivaled. This achievement can make a child feel like a "big kid."
Grounded in the Science of Reading and designed in consultation with Orton-Gillingham trained literacy specialist Marisa Ware, the Charge into Reading Decodable Readers take the guesswork out of learning to read!
The Consonant Blend Beginning Reader Set is perfect for children who know their letter sounds, have mastered reading (blending) CVC words, and are ready to begin decoding or "sounding out" consonant blends. Each book in the set focuses on a single type of consonant blend, building reading confidence one sound at a time. Compelling storylines paired with a strict scope and sequence make for a series that children won't just be ABLE to read, but that they will actually WANT to read.
5 consonant-blend specific stories with a clear beginning, middle, and end that a beginning reader can ACTUALLY read.
A comprehensive set of consonant l-blends. This collection of l-blends is downloadable and printable for use at home or on the go! Just print and start practicing reading and blending.
A comprehensive set of consonant r-blends. This collection of r-blends is downloadable and printable for use at home or on the go! Just print and start practicing reading and blending.
A comprehensive set of consonant 2-letter s-blends. This collection of s-blends is downloadable and printable for use at home or on the go! Just print and start practicing reading and blending.
A comprehensive set of consonant 3-letter s-blends. This collection of s-blends is downloadable and printable for use at home or on the go! Just print and start practicing reading and blending.
A comprehensive set of consonant t-blends. This collection of t-blends is downloadable and printable for use at home or on the go! Just print and start practicing reading and blending.
A comprehensive set of consonant word-ending blends. This collection of word-ending blends is downloadable and printable for use at home or on the go! Just print and start practicing reading and blending.
A comprehensive set of consonant w-blends. This collection of w-blends is downloadable and printable for use at home or on the go! Just print and start practicing reading and blending.
Sounding out words (and ultimately reading) begins with understanding letter sounds. This consonant blend activity encourages children to identify picture words that include an S-blend.
Word scrambles are a great way for kids to figure out how words go together! This consonant blend activity encourages children to unscramble words by focusing on the beginning and ending consonant blends.
Consonant blends are two or more consonants that appear together while still making their own unique sounds. This consonant blend activity focuses on L blends, encouraging children to identify the different words formed and match them to the appropriate pictures.
Consonant blends can appear at the beginning or at the end of a word. In learning how to read consonant blends, it is important to recognize that more than one letter blend may appear in a word. This consonant blend locating activity encourages children to focus on finding blends only at the end of a word.
Hearing the letter blends within a word is the first stage in identifying consonant blends. This consonant blends activity encourages children to identify beginning letter blends sounds by speaking a word aloud.
Drawing a correlation between phonetic sounds and the letters that appear in words is one of the first steps in reading. This consonant blend activity encourages children to recognize beginning letter sounds by matching the beginning sound they hear when saying the word with the correct beginning letter.
The ability to sound out words and figure out what letters they include is one of the first steps in reading and spelling. Ask your child to say each picture word. Then work with them to figure out what consonant blend the word uses and match it to the words in the word bank. This consonant blend activity focuses on the -MP, SL-, CR-, and -ND letter blends.
Writing letters means understanding how they are formed. And that means understanding how big or small a letter should be, and how high or low a letter should extend. Try drawing the sky, plane, grass, and worm lines for your child. Then teach them what lines each letter should touch!
Being able to figure out what letters are missing from a word is important for building word recognition and fluency. This consonant blends activity provides the end of each word, but asks the child to identify the beginning letter blend (also called the “onset”).
Identifying the sounds made by consonant blends enables early readers to develop a base on which they can build by supporting greater predictability with reading and spelling. This consonant blend activity encourages children to match letter blend sounds and pictures that use the same blend, putting a focus not on the spelling of a word, but on the sound it makes.
Decoding text is an important part of reading comprehension. That means asking a child to read sentence without any visual cues, and then asking them what it said or what it meant. This consonant blend activity uses similar letter blend sentences to engage children in decoding and understanding the full sentence, rather than just a single word.
Understanding rhyming words is rooted in understanding what makes two words the same and what makes them different. This consonant blend activity encourages children to create a new rhyming word by changing a letter blend at the beginning of a word.
Being able to figure out what letters are missing from a word is important for building word recognition and fluency. This consonant blends activity provides the beginning of each word, but asks the child to identify the ending letter blend (also called the “rime”).
Spelling is easier with letter choices! This consonant blend activity encourages children to sound out words one letter at a time. Write down each letter your child chooses (or have them write it down) until the whole word is written!
Being able to locate consonant blends is an important first step in being able to read more complex words. This consonant blend scooping activity encourages children to find the letter blends within a word, whether the blend appears at the beginning or end of the word.