Blending, Chunking, Segmenting, OH MY!

Learning to read can be frustrating. Letters can make multiple sounds. Some letters don’t make any sounds in certain words. Words can look the same but have different meanings. Words can look different but sound the same and mean something different. Reading can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes the only way to know a word is to memorize it; however, as beginning readers, decoding words is easier and often times it can be more fun! Today I am going to list three different methods of “decoding” words that young children can use as they begin to read: blending, chunking, and segmenting.


  • I’m going to start with segmenting first. Segmenting is the idea that a word can be divided into segments. For instance, in the word “cat” we would say there are three sounds: /c/ /a/ /t/. It’s one of the most basic ways to read a word: sounding out each letter sound. I met a kindergartener today who taught me to use my arm as a way to segment a word. Starting with the top of my arm, I would say /c/, then I would move to the inner elbow to say /a/, and then I would touch my wrist to say /t/. The arm has no real importance except that it gives children a place to touch as they break apart the word. It’s similar to using the Eyes on Words popsicle stick.


  • Next comes blending. Blending is putting those letter sounds back together to form words. So once we have split up /c/ /a/ /t/, we can then put them back together to form “cat.”


  • Our final skill is chunking. Chunking is using prior knowledge of letter sounds and words to identify parts of a word we might already know. For instance, the word “stop.” This could be chunked two different ways.
    • I know the chunk “st,” so I just need to figure out what “op” is. Once we have done that, we can blend them back together to form “stop.”
    • I know the word “top,” so I just need to blend it with the /s/ sound to make “stop.”

We use these skills on a daily basis without realizing the fancy names for them. The fancy names aren’t important. The important part is to use the skills. This blog has some great ideas on how to work with your child: MakeTakeTeach. These skills can be used while reading sight word books, nonfiction books about a favorite topic, or a favorite picture book.

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