Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Early Reading and Writing Ideas Using Blends, Part 2

This is a guest blog post by Dr. Geraldine Haggard, who   is a retired teacher, Reading Recovery teacher leader, author, and university teacher.   It is the second post in a series abou t building literacy in early readers. To read the first post,   click here .

PART TWO: Introduction of Consonant Blends.

As we begin to think of ways to use the   Letter   Buddies     teaching aids as we help students develop strategies to unlock words as they read and write words, we can go again to Clay’s   Becoming Literate . On page 263 she spoke of the importance of the child’s exploring the details in word and letter patterns. On page 312 she added letters, clusters of letters, and word groups to the strategies for unlocking words. On page 314 she shared two ways students can derive sounds and meanings from words. Direct visual attention and spelling were the two ways.

On pages 318 and 319 three ways of learning about letters were cited. These ways were experiencing modeling of letter activities, self-directed learning, and learning by discovery. Page 320 list four sources of information used by the beginning reader.

  • Sentence structure
  • Order of ideas, words, and letters.
  • Size of words and letters
  • Special features of sound, shape.

Each of the above are part of the suggested plans for the use of   Letter Buddies .


Some of the students will need some formal modeling of letter formation before instruction is shared with a larger group. The teacher can study handwriting samples and make a list of students who are not using correct letter formation. Some may still be having directional difficulty. Some may not be using the lined paper correctly. Some may be confusing the visual and auditory aspects of some of the letters. These children can learn and practice using the   LetterMats   from   Letter Buddies .

Research of handwriting programs share that the most effective programs are those that use oral directives for the forming of letters as students are instructed and practice letter formation. The teacher can use the formation lines and numbering system of the mats to teach directions and encourage students to say the directives with her/him. For example: Capital ‘R”- “Pencil at top of the solid line, move pencil to bottom of line. Lift pencil to top of line and do half a circle to the right. Slant to bottom of line.” To help a student who has difficulty doing this, teacher can place student’s hand in hers and help the student follow the steps. Some students can profit from working at board and using large strokes and then smaller strokes. The   Letter Buddies Letter Books   have front covers that share the letters in a multisensory way. The students can say the directives and follow with a finger to feel the letter on the front of the books.

Some students may need review of the use of ‘p’ and ‘r’. The   Letter Buddies Starters   books   Put That Here   and   The Rocket   can be used in guided reading groups. The two books could also be part of the classroom library and be read as independent reading and/or read by students in pairs who share oral reading of the books. The writing activities in the back of the two books could be used with the class, or part of the class, after the teacher has read each book to students. Using the letters in reading and writing activities can facilitate the introduction to ‘pr’.

LB.jpg The   Letter Buddies Letter Books   ‘p’ and ‘r’ can be used to review words that begin with these letters. As the students name the objects in the pictures, invite them to move an index finger across the bottom of each word and notice what they see as the word is said. The beginning sound should be recognized. Medial and ending sounds can also help the children read the words. They may recognize smaller words or word parts in the pictured words. Remind the students that the beginning sound is not the only part of a word available to help them as they read unfamiliar words.

Help in recognizing words with the two sounds are shared on the last page of each book and on the backs of the handwriting mats.

Use of   Letter Buddies Best Friends   book   Present from the Prince   can now be used in guided reading groups or with larger groups. An Elmo projector might be used to display the pages which might be read as a shared reading activity. You will observe that the ‘pr’ in each word is in a different color of font. Discuss also how the pictures provide clues for the reading of the pages. Be careful not to stretch the sounds of the target words in a separated way. Say each word in a natural way and ask the students to listen for the sounds and check the other things that the students notice about the words.

The final page of the book contains some ideas for using the new learning in writing activities. Some of the students will need more help than others as they create story pages. You might work with these students using guided writing as the instructional mode. Other children might profit from an example of a story page.


As a teacher, you can remind the students of the uses of the visual and auditory help they can receive from consonant blends. This can be done during guided reading and writing and as you conference with students as their writing is discussed and the child is encouraged to use what he knows as he writes.

During guided reading group-time, the children might identify consonant blends and search for some found in a story.


Geraldine Haggard is the author of several books from our  Kaleidoscope Collection . She spent 37 years in the Plano, TX school system. She currently tutors, chairs a committee that gifts books to low-income students, teaches in her church, and serves as a facilitator in a program for grieving children.  


Click the images below to learn about the Letter Buddies series, which are mention ed in this post.