Blending and Segmenting Games

Children who can segment and blend sounds easily are able to use this knowledge when reading and spelling. Segmenting and blending individual sounds can be difficult at the beginning. Our recommendation is to begin with segmenting and blending syllables. Once familiar with that, students will be prepared for instruction and practice with individual sounds.

When to use: Before reading During reading After reading
How to use: Individually With small groups Whole class setting

More phonological awareness strategies

Why teach blending and segmenting?

Teaching the skills of segmentation in isolation or in combination with blending instruction helps with successful reading development.

When beginning readers sound out words, they slowly say each sound in a word (c-a-t), and then say the sounds quickly together to "read" the word (cat). In reading, teachers call this blending because sounds are being blended together. Blending (combining sounds) and segmenting (separating sounds) are skills that are necessary for learning to read.

Developing a child's phonological awareness is an important part of developing a reader. Many research studies indicate that kids who have weak phonological awareness also have weak reading skills.

The figure below shows how the teaching of segmenting and blending should progress, starting at the sentence level, moving to syllable, and finally to individual phonemes. Be sure to provide lots of practice at the easier level before moving on.

phonological awareness sequence


Watch: Drive-Thru Blending

By simultaneously driving through and sounding out the letters of a word, students will practice early decoding skills. See the lesson plan.

Watch: Pound and Sound

Students use a fun kinesthetic strategy to isolate and blend phonemes in words. See the lesson plan.

These videos are published with permission from the Balanced Literacy Diet. See many more related how-to videos with lesson plans in the Phonemic Awareness section.



Guess-the-word game

This activity, from our article Phonological Awareness: Instructional and Assessment Guidelines, is an example of how to teach students to blend and identify a word that is stretched out into its basic sound elements.

Objective: Students will be able to blend and identify a word that is stretched out into its component sounds.

Materials needed: Picture cards of objects that students are likely to recognize such as: sun, bell, fan, flag, snake, tree, book, cup, clock, plane

Activity: Place a small number of picture cards in front of children. Tell them you are going to say a word using "Snail Talk" a slow way of saying words (e.g., /fffffllllaaaag/). They have to look at the pictures and guess the word you are saying. It is important to have the children guess the answer in their head so that everyone gets an opportunity to try it. Alternate between having one child identify the word and having all children say the word aloud in chorus to keep children engaged.

Robot talk

Talking in "Robot Talk," students hear segmented sounds and put them together (blend them) into words. See example >

See all Blending/Segmenting Activities from the University of Virginia PALS program

Blending slide

The "Reading Genie" offers teachers a simple way to teach students about blends. Teachers can use a picture or small replica of a playground slide and have the sounds "slide" together to form a word. See example >

Oral blending activity

The information here describes the importance of teaching blending skills to young children. This link provides suggestions for oral sound blending activities to help students practice and develop smooth blending skills. See example >

Sound blending using songs

This activity (see Yopp, M., 1992) is to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands."

If you think you know this word, shout it out!
If you think you know this word, shout it out!
If you think you know this word,
Then tell me what you've heard,
If you think you know this word, shout it out!

After singing, the teacher says a segmented word such as /k/ /a/ /t/ and students provide the blended word "cat."


This activity, from our article Phonological Awareness: Instructional and Assessment Guidelines is an example of how to teach students to segment, first with sentences, then words, and finally sounds.

  1. Early in phonological awareness instruction, teach children to segment sentences into individual words. Identify familiar short poems such as "I scream you scream we all scream for ice cream!" Have children clap their hands with each word.
  2. As children advance in their ability to manipulate oral language, teach them to segment words into syllables or onsets and rimes. For example, have children segment their names into syllables: e.g., Ra-chel, Al-ex-an-der, and Rod-ney.
  3. When children have learned to remove the first phoneme (sound) of a word, teach them to segment short words into individual phonemes: e.g., s-u-n, p-a-t, s-t-o-p.

Segmenting cheer activity

This link provides teachers with information on how to conduct the following segmentation cheer activity. See example >

Write the "Segmentation Cheer" on chart paper, and teach it to children. Each time you say the cheer, change the words in the third line. Have children segment the word sound by sound. Begin with words that have three phonemes, such as ten, rat, cat, dog, soap, read, and fish.

Segmentation Cheer

Listen to my cheer.
Then shout the sounds you hear.
Sun! Sun! Sun!
Let's take apart the word sun.
Give me the beginning sound. (Children respond with /s/.)
Give me the middle sound. (Children respond with /u/.)
Give me the ending sound. (Children respond with /n/.)
That's right!
/s/ /u/ /n/-Sun! Sun! Sun!

Segmenting with puppets

Teachers can use the activity found on this website to help teach students about segmenting sounds. The activity includes the use of a puppet and downloadable picture cards. See example >

Differentiated instruction

for second language learners, students of varying reading skill, and for younger learners

  • Use oral activities to help support students of lower level reading skills.
  • Use activities that include pictures to support ESL students and younger students.
  • Ask students to write the words that they form in the blending/segmenting activities.

See the research that supports this strategy

Chard, D., & Dickson, S. (1999). Phonological Awareness: Instructional and Assessment Guidelines.

Fox, B., & Routh, D. K. (1976). Phonemic analysis and synthesis as word-attack skills. Journal of Educational Psychology, 68, 70-74.

Sensenbaugh. (1996). ABCs of Phonemic Awareness.

Smith, S.B., Simmons, D.C., & Kameenui, E.J. (February, 1995). Synthesis of research on phonological awareness: Principles and implications for reading acquisition. (Technical Report no. 21, National Center to Improve the Tools of Education). Eugene: University of Oregon.

Yopp, H. K. (1992). Developing phonemic awareness in young children. The Reading Teacher, 45 , 696-703.

Children's books to use with this strategy

I'm Number One

I'm Number One

By: Michael Rosen
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

When the humans are away, a toy soldier named A-One becomes demanding, calling the other toys names. When they begin playing with the sounds and letters of the words, insults become silly to make everyone smile and reform. In addition to playing with the sound of words, this humorously illustrated book just may start a discussion of bullying and behavior.

A Huge Hog is a Big Pig

A Huge Hog is a Big Pig

By: Francis McCall, Patricia Keeler
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

This rhyming words game is illustrated with crisp photographs and is sure to tickle the imagination as another rhyming description is sought. For more experienced readers (grade 2-3), try Eight Ate: A Feast of Homonym Riddles by Marvin Terban — just what the title indicates.

Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook

Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook

By: Shel Silverstein
Genre: Poetry
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Runny Babbit talk is created by spoonerisms, switching the first sound in a pair of words, so a "silly book" becomes a "billy sook." Kids build their phonemic awareness without even trying! The audio book narrator's slightly gravelly voice is ideal for sharing these funny poems (completed though not published before the popular poet's death in 1999).

Snow Music

Snow Music

By: Lynne Rae Perkins
Genre: Fiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

The whisper of snow and the jingle of dog tags set a wintery tone in this story of a boy and his friend in search of his lost dog on a snowy day. Music is everywhere in the rhythm of the language and patterns of the illustration in this unusual and memorable book.


Both of these strategies would not work with special ed students who have speech difficulties. And learning disabled with vowel on top and consonants below.

Really helped me to rethink.....will be a perfect road map to make my child understand sounds and blend it....

I have been working with a seventh grader with the same problem. I conducted a phonological awareness assessment. The student was missing several phonological awareness skills. As the student master the skills, her gaps are becoming smaller.

Does anyone have suggestions for individual instruction with 5th graders who have blending challenges with reading? I need phonemic activities that support blending skills.

Thank you for this wonderful resource on phonological awareness! I love the children's list of books to accompany this strategy. This year I am working as a Mentor/Lead/ Coach Literacy, and this will aid in the success of my students reading development, I'm sure!

thanks for the great resources. I have got a lot of idea and teaching strategy.

Your phonological awareness approach is simply beautiful. It makes me think of teaching early reading skills differently now. Thank you!!!

Thank you for the ideas. Although I've finished my coursework for a Reading Endorsement in Oregon, I feel as if I'm learning authentic reading instruction for the first time. (Post-graduate programs can also be poorly-thought out.) I especially appeciate the presentation of the body-coda blending approach, rather than the onset-rime. I can predict that the blending slide would be very engaging for young students.

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