Students who know most if not all of their letters and sounds but are unable to even begin sounding out simple consonant-vowel-consonant (cvc) words are lacking blending ability. The good news is that they are usually ripe for learning to read. Often they have been taught to read words by sight, and simply have no idea how letters actually work together to make words. Sometimes they are simply new to the reading process and have picked up letters and sounds from their parents or some sort of early learning program. Regardless, they need to be shown how to blend sounds together to make words as soon as possible if they are to move quickly forward.
Getting your students to actually blend sounds into words may be challenging at first. They have to develop a "listening" for it before they will be able to blend consistently and effectively. Once they begin to "hear" how the letter sounds blend together to make words, they will be ready to take off! The quickest way to get them "hearing" the word is to introduce them to a good blending technique. We recommend "punching" the first sound, dragging out the middle/vowel sound, and quickly (and a bit more softly) adding on the final sound. Point to the letters as you do so. When reading the word "cat," you would point to the appropriate letters and say "/c/ /aaaaaa/t/." We recommend helping your kids sound out the word three times in a row before even attempting to blend it together. You should practically be saying the word each time you sound it out. Make sure you do not keep the sounds further apart than they need to be, as this makes blending harder than it needs to be. Continue having your students sound out each word three times before blending it together until they are able to "hear" the word accurately the first time through. (See video clip on reading short words for an audible example.)
To create beginning word cards for your students who already know a lot of letter sounds to read, put a list of cvc words that utilizes all of the letters of the alphabet onto individual index cards. Each card should contain only one neatly printed word. You'll want a word that has an a in it, a word that has a b in it, a word that has a c in it, etc. (See sample list below.) Use any letters a student has trouble with multiple times. This helps give them an often needed review of letters and sounds while also teaching one of the main components of reading -- how to blend sounds together to make words. After you have created the cards, point to the letters and instruct your kids to make the sound of the letter you point to. Help get them blending the sounds together through the blending technique mentioned above. In minutes you should see students start to "hear" the words being called out. Some will take longer than others to "hear" it, but all should hear it before long. As soon as a word is put together/read, ask your student or students to use the word in a sentence. This will ensure your kids learn to think about what they are saying as they "read" the words rather than simply becoming "word callers." It's also a great way to reinforce new vocabulary. Once they are reading and understanding individual words, add sentences made up of cvc words for them to read and tell you about.
Immediately after your kids can blend cvc words and sentences, show them how to blend words that contain beginning and ending blends. Work these words into your sentences, along with scattered sight words you want them to recognize. When you run across the sight words that don't follow regular phonetic patterns, sound them out anyway! Let your kids hear how funny they sound before telling them what they actually say. Do this until your kids begin to recognize them naturally. You'll need to begin introducing "tricks" (sh, ch, th, er, ou, oo, gh, etc.) as well. They are in almost every word, and need to be taught as soon as possible if you want your kids to really become expert readers and writers. (Yes, even kindergartners should be taught the tricks!) Incorporating literacy chart instruction into your daily schedule (utilizing our literacy chart instruction techniques when doing so) is a great way to wrap all of these lessons in one as you read the "slow and fast way," and run across all types of tricks and sight words that your kids need to have repeated experiences with to become independent readers and writers. Before you know it, your students will be able to read (and write) all sorts of words, sentences, and stories without any help from you!
Sample Beginning CVC Word List (utilizing all of the letters of the alphabet):
*Don't get stuck on cvc words! As soon as your kids can read them, introduce words with blends and tricks!