This unit focuses on blending and segmenting three-phoneme words. Find out who this unit is aimed at, what problems they might be facing and a suggestion for how you might deliver the sessions.

Who is this for?

This unit is designed for children who are not confident and successful at blending and segmenting three-phoneme words including words containing digraphs, for example: ship, night, rain.

It focuses on blending and segmenting:

  • words containing adjacent consonants in the initial position such as strap and sleep and final position such as west and bent
  • polysyllabic words, such as playtime.

This unit will support children who have not fully understood and internalised the concept of:

  • hearing individual phonemes (as in adjacent consonants)
  • two or more letters making one sound (as in digraphs and trigraphs).

Most children, once they are explicitly taught to blend and segment adjacent consonants, will be able to deal with all instances. Essentially there is no new learning in Phase 4: children simply learn to apply what they already know about consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words to consonant-consonant-consonant-vowel-consonant (CCVC) and consonant-vowel-consonant-consonant (CVCC) words.

Common problems

The main issue for children who are having problems with CVC, CCVC and CVCC words is that they need more practice in hearing and identifying the separate phonemes at the beginning and end of words. For example, f –r –o –g, frog; p-r-e-s-e-n-t, present; m-i-l-k milk; n-e-s-t nest.

For some children CCCVC and CCVCC words such as strap and twist are difficult to pronounce. It is important to continue to model clear articulation of phonemes, and to give the children ample opportunity to say the phonemes themselves. It can be helpful for children to use individual hand mirrors to observe the shape and movement of the lips and teeth when saying phonemes and words.

Delivering the sessions

  • In some Year 3 classes, there may be a large group of children requiring a number of sessions around a specific focus, for example listening and discriminating phonemes in longer words with three adjacent consonants (e.g. stranger).
  • In Years 3 and 4 there may be small groups needing focused teaching of the whole unit.
  • In Years 5 and 6 there may be a small group of children or an individual child needing specific teaching of segmenting and blending words with adjacent consonants.

It is important to make a clear distinction between consonant digraphs such as: ck, ng, dge, which are one phoneme, and adjacent consonants which are two or sometimes three phonemes such as: gl, sn, spr, br, str. Children will have opportunities for segmenting and blending more-complex words in Unit 5 and across the curriculum.