Daily Phonics Drill, part 3: Segment and Blend
Updated: Jun 9
The Daily Phonics Drill has 4 components, 2 of which use phonics cards:
Look and Say: Students look at a phonics card, and say it’s sound.
Hear and Do: Students hear a sound, and “do” (or write) the sound in a way that piques student’s tactile memory. I choose sand, but there are other less messy options as well.
Segment and Blend: Phonics cards are set up as syllables for students to segment and blend together.
Short Vowel Practice: Students practice hearing and isolating short vowel sounds by listening to a syllable and repeating the vowel sound
Look and Say
Hear and Do
Segment and Blend
SEGMENT AND BLEND – Sounds to Syllables
At this point in the Phonics Drill, students have matched phonemes (sounds) to graphemes (letters) in two completely different multisensory ways during the Look and Say and the Hear and Do portions of the Phonics Drill. In Segment and Blend, students use that knowledge of sound and letter association to read syllables.
It’s extremely important to train our brain to associate letters and sounds, but it’s useless if we can’t then use that information to read syllables and words. Segment and Blend helps students practice put their phonics knowledge to use and prepare their eyes and brain for authentic reading! As with any other skill practice is a must! Especially since research shows that reading is not something humans naturally learn (like we naturally learn to speak).
WHAT? Materials for Segment and Blend.
Phonics Cards that were used in the first portion of the Phonics Drill (Look and Say) will be used again in this portion. The cards in the set should have already been explicitly taught to students to keep this drill a review and practice of known phonics skills.
For small intervention groups, put the card piles (keep reading for clarity) on the tabletop or floor. In this case, the Phonics Cards are the only material needed.
With a whole class or a large group of students, display the piles (you’ll understand the piles in a minute) on an easel or the tray of your whiteboard. I use picture frame display easels (from The Dollar Tree) to hold the piles of Phonics Cards for this drill.
Phonics Cards set up on display easels for use in Segment and Blend with large groups of students.
HOW? Setting up the Phonics Cards.
Segment and blend requires a bit of set up. Pro Tip: place each Phonics Card into a pile for Segment and Blend after it’s used in Look and Say.
Put the Phonics Cards into piles:
The first pile (on the LEFT) is for beginning consonant cards.
On the back of each phonics card is a note to teachers to indicate if a card should appear only at the beginning (or end) of a syllable. If no note is available, the card can be place in either the beginning or ending pile.
Example, the letter r should only be place at the beginning of a syllable. At the end of a syllable, the r controls the vowel before it (which is taught/reviewed with it’s own Phonics Card).
The second pile is for all of the vowel cards.
Keep Magic e cards (those that say a-e, i-e, etc.) out of the pile. Put the Magic e card showing the letter e with a magician hat and wand within reach but not in a pile in order to add to the end of syllables for practice with Magic e vowels.
The third pile is for ending consonant cards.
As with the first pile, there will be a notation on the back of the Phonics Cards that indicate whether or not a card can or cannot be in the beginning or ending pile. If there’s not a notation, the card can be placed in either pile.
For example, the digraph -tch should only be in the third pile as it only occurs after a vowel, at the end of a syllable.
The fourth pile is for word ending cards — inflectional endings and final syllables (like consonant+le).
This pile will NOT be used in every blended syllable, but should be removed and added as necessary.
For example, students blend the only the first three (or two in some cases) piles of Phonics Cards together into a syllable. Then, if applicable, a word ending card can be added as an extra step in the blending routine.
HOW? Using phonics skills to read syllables
The set up of Segment and Blend is the trickiest part of this activity. Once it’s set up, the routine is a breeze! Set up is faster and easier as you get more used to it (teachers need practice, too!).
See the video below for examples of this routine.
The teacher points to each pile of Phonics Cards, from left to right. Students make the sound that the card represents as the teacher is pointing.
For certain vowel patterns and when practicing open syllables, removing the third pile and completing the activity with only two piles to create a syllable might be necessary.
The teacher slides his/her hand (or pointer) across the three piles as students blend the sounds together, or read the syllable.
At this point, if the three piles are blended together correctly the teacher can add a fourth pile, moving through steps 1 and 2 with all four piles instead of the first three.
Teacher then takes a card off of one pile, and repeats the steps. Keep going until all (or most) cards have been removed from each pile.
As both teacher and students get comfortable with this drill, changing the top card on more than 1 pile at a time is fine. At first, just change one sound at a time.
If a not-so-appropriate word comes up (as it inevitably will) just change a card or two in order to fix the issue before the students segment and blend the syllable.
Teachers may need to move the third pile away and then put it back pretty often once vowel patterns such as an, am, all, oll, er, or, etc. have been added to the set of Phonics Cards. The same will be true of moving the third pile once open syllables are taught so that students can practice reading these types of syllables.
Here’s an example of this drill being done with students in my intervention groups. Because these are small groups, my piles can just be on the tabletop.
The first group shown in the video is working through basic phonics skills in Set 1 of the Phonics Cards. I quickly stop them for some vocabulary prompts of real words that pop up (not all, just a couple), and also give a reminder of our most recent addition to the deck, voiced /th/ which was very hard for them. Near the end of their drill, we had to paused and work through some sound confusions multiple times, repeating after some quick practice until the sounds were used correctly within the syllable.
The second group is working through more complex phonics skills, and are in Set 3 of the Phonics Cards. There’s more moving around of the third pile and fourth piles in their segment, which start at about 3 minutes and 40 seconds in if you’d like to fast forward. In this video you may notice student hands pop in with thumbs-up, indicating that they recognize the syllable as a real word also.
Two different intervention groups completing the Segment and Blend portion of the Daily Phonics Drill.
Please comment with any questions or comments and to let me know if you do this with your students and how it goes! I’d love to hear from you!
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