Sound Blending

What is sound blending?

Sound blending is the ability to build words from individual sounds by blending the sounds together in sequence.

  • For example, the learner blends the sounds m, o, m to form the word mom.


Why is sound blending important?

Sound blending is essential in reading.

In order to read words, students must

  • know the sounds for each of the letters
  • then blend these sounds together to determine the word.

Sound blending is an example of a phonological awareness skill.

Instruction in phonological awareness skills supports the acquisition of literacy skills.

Students who have strong phonological awareness skills demonstrate better literacy skills. 


Sample goal for sound blending skills

 The learner will:

  • listen to the sounds in a word, presented orally with each sound said slowly (extended 1-2 seconds)
  • blend the sounds together in sequence (either out loud or in his/her head)
  • determine the target word
  • indicate the word by saying it out loud, signing it, or selecting the appropriate picture or AAC symbol with at least 80% accuracy.


Instructional Task

Here is an example of instruction to teach sound blending:

  • The instructor says the word "mom" slowly holding each of the sounds for 1-2 seconds
    • “mmmmoooommmm”
  • The learner
    • listens to the sounds
    • blends them together in his/her head
    • determines the word
    • says the word out loud, signs it, or selects the correct picture or AAC symbol from a group of 4.


Instructional Materials

Here is an example of a response plate for instruction in sound blending. The response options are pot, mom, mop, and man.

Response plate for sound blending:  pot, mom, mop, man.

This response plate is from the Accessible Literacy Learning (ALL) curriculum from DynaVox Mayer-Johnson, Inc.  Picture Communication Symbols (c) 1981-2009. DynaVox Mayer-Johnson, Inc. are used with permission. All rights reserved.

The learner must listen to the sounds, blend them, and then point to the picture of mom.


Instructional Procedure

The instructor teaches sound blending skills using the procedures described earlier

  • Model
    • The instructor demonstrates sound blending for the learner.
  • Guided practice
    • The instructor provides scaffolding support or prompting to help the learner blend sounds successfully.
      • Starts by saying the word slowly
      • Then says it a bit faster gradually blending the sounds
    • The instructor gradually fades this support as the learner develops competence.
  • Independent practice
    • The learner listens to the sounds and blends them independently.
    • The instructor monitors the learner’s responses and provides appropriate feedback.  


Student Example

Michael is 3 years, 2 months old in this video

  • Michael was diagnosed with autism when he was 2 years old.
  • He had just turned 3 when we first met him. He was only able to say a few words and he didn’t yet know how to read. Michael used a few signs and PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) to request favorite foods or activities, but he was very frustrated that he couldn’t express himself more fully.
  • This video was taken after 4 weeks of literacy instruction.
    • Michael is learning to blend sounds.
      • Tina, a graduate student at Penn State,
        • shows him a response plate with 4 PCS: the picture symbols for bag, leg, bed, and beg.
        • reviews the symbols with him to make sure he knows them
        • says the target word slowly
          • “b [short pause] eeeeg”
      • Michael
        • listens to the word said slowly
        • blends the sounds together
        • points to the PCS for the target word, “beg”
  • After 4 weeks (approximately 4 hours) of instruction, Michael has successfully learned to blend sounds.
  • He is also starting to say more words.
  • Michael is already on the way to becoming a successful reader.

Click here to learn more about Michael’s success learning literacy skills.



Some letter sounds can be elongated and held continuously:

  • a, e, f, i, l, m, n, o, r, s, u, v, w, y, z

Other letter sounds cannot be elongated or held continuously:

  • b, c, d, g, h, j, k, p, q, t, x

If the sound can be held continuously, hold the sound for 1-2 seconds and blend it smoothly into the next sound in the word

  • For example, for the word man, say "mmmmaaaannnn"

If the sound can not be held continuously, say the sound once, pause briefly for 1-2 seconds, and then say the next sound in the word elongating it for 1-2 seconds if possible

  • For example, for the word pin, say "p [1 second pause] iiiinnnn"

It is easier to blend sounds that can be held continuously.

Start instruction with words that have continuous sounds

  • For example, mom, run, van, sun

Gradually add words that have sounds that cannot be held continuously

  • For example, dad, cat, dog, pop

Some students may benefit from visual supports when learning sound blending skills.

  • Point to the letters while saying each of the sounds slowly
    • Say “rrrruuuunnnn” and point to the letters r, u, and n in sequence as each sound is said
      • The letters provide a visual support to help the student hold the sounds in memory.


Last Updated: February 19, 2019