Phonemic Awareness: Research on Sound Blending Skills

Phonemic Awareness: Research on Sound Blending Skills

Sound blending, the ability to blend letter sounds to form words, is a prerequisite skill for phonetic decoding strategies. According to Vellutino and Scanlon (1986), one of the problems associated with poor blending skills is that students retain erroneous sounds for letters. Specifically, these researchers along with others such as Ackerman, Dykman, and Gardner (1990) found that those who struggle with this skill often add a redundant “uh” sound to consonants when they are pronounced in isolation. In efforts to blend these inaccurate sounds, they are unable to decipher words. For example, when attempting to synthesize letters to form the word dad,  a struggling reader might say “duh-a-duh”. Consequently, prominent experts such as Kilpatrick (2015) insist that special attention must be given to proper pronunciation that eliminates this extra sound. Educators and parents must insist that the letter T is pronounced /t/, not /tuh/, and so on.

According to Bond, Tinker, and Wasson (1989), another major problem associated with blending skills is that some students overly separate parts, making it difficult to synthesize them into words. Many investigators (Bond, Tinker, and Wasson, 1989; Harris and Sipay, 1990; Ekwall and Shanker, 1988) reveal that a solution is to provide training in successive blending. With this approach, students are required to give sounds in a smooth and uninterrupted manner, continuously saying one phoneme (unit of sound) until the very second that another is to be blended (mmmaaaddd). They are discouraged from hesitating between sounds. In a study of 47 lower performing children, O’Connor, Jenkins, Leicester, & Slocum (1993) demonstrated that this type of continuous blending was superior to onset-rime (m-ad) or separated sound (m-a-d) approaches. They also revealed that participants who used the continuous method were able to decode with 100% accuracy.

Ackerman, P. T., Dykman, R. A., & Gardner, M. Y. (1990). Counting rate, naming rate, phonological sensitivity, and memory span: Major factors in dyslexia. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 23, 325-327.

Bond, G. L., Tinker, M. A., & Wasson, B. B. (1989). Reading difficulties: Their diagnosis and correction (6th ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Ekwall, E. E., & Shanker, J. L. (Eds.). (1988). Diagnosis and remediation of the disabled reader (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon, Incorporated.

Harris, A. J., & Sipay, E. R. (1990). How to increase reading ability: A guide to developmental and remedial methods. New York: Longman.

Kilpatrick, D. A. (2015). Essentials of Assessing, Preventing, and Overcoming Reading Difficulties. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

O’Connor, R. E., Jenkins, J. R., Leicester, N., & Slocum, T. A. (1993). Teaching

phonological awareness to young children with learning disabilities. The Council for Exceptional Children, 59, 532-546.

Vellutino, F. R., & Scanlon, D. M. (1986). Experimental evidence for the effects of

 instructional bias on word identification. Exceptional Children, 53, 145-155.

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