4 Questions I Hear Most Often About Blends and Digraphs
The number one question I hear teachers asking:
1. “What is the difference between blends and digraphs?”
A BLEND is when each sound of two or more consonants can be heard as they are blended together. For example, /pl/ as in play. You say (and teach) /pl/ but the /p/ and /l/ can be heard as separate phonemes. Each letter within the blend is pronounced individually, but quickly, so they blend together.
A DIGRAPH is when two consonants together make a single sound. For example, if you tell someone to be quiet by saying “shhhhhh”, you say it as one sound. You don’t say /s/ /h/.
2. What are the most common blends and what order should I teach them?
The most common beginning consonant blends include: bl, br, cl, cr, dr, fr, tr, fl, gl, gr, pl, pr, sl, sm, sp and st.
Click to download a FREE Beginning Blends Poster. Beginning Blends Posters, pdf
There is a great deal of variance as to which blends to teach first. Even many basal reading programs disagree. Yet, it is thought that the following is a good guideline of which to teach first: gr, pl, bl, st, br, sp, tr, cl, fl, sl, fr, sn, thr, cr, dr, sm. HOWEVER, this differs with the level of students you teach and the most important thing to remember is to teach intentionally!
There are also ending consonant blends in words such as fast.
Click to download a FREE poster for Ending Blends Poster. Ending Blends Poster
Some blends contain three consonants (clusters) such as str,spl, spr, shr, scr, squ, str. It is thought that these clusters along with nk and sk should be taught later rather than at the beginning.
3. What are the most common digraphs and what order should I teach them?
We like to call the most common consonant digraphs the “h” brothers. The most common are sh, ch, th, and wh but there also is ph. The most common to teach first are the “Big 4”! Many reading programs introduce blends before the digraphs. The main thing to remember is you need to teach whatever your district says! This goes for blends (clusters) AND digraphs.
Click to download a FREE Digraph Poster. Digraph poster, pdf
4. What is the correct spelling and pronunciation of DIGRAPH?
It is spelled d-i- g-r-a-p-h and pronounced dī- graf. There is no “a” as in d-i-a-g-r-a-p-h. It is not pronounced dī-uh-graf.
In conclusion, learning digraphs and blends are important in learning to read. Go by your district, your campus, or your reading program to guide you with when and how to introduce them. We all have our opinions but we must go by the guidelines our employers give us.
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