‘To blend’ or ‘a blend’? – that is the question

What is the difference between ‘a blend’ (the noun) and ‘to blend’ (the verb)? Now that most schools are getting used to using synthetic phonics programmes some old terms are being dropped and new terms are introduced. So how do we now use the word ‘blend’ as a noun or a verb?

‘Blend’ – the NOUN
In the past ‘blends’ were used in phonics programmes to teach children to split words up into parts. Take the word ‘black’ – the word would be split up into ‘bl’, the onset (beginning) and ‘ack’, the rhyme (the end) part of the word. This was called analytic phonics because one would analyse the word and break it up into its parts. Teachers would teach different ‘blends’ e.g. gr, fl, tr etc. The problem with this approach was that children did now always recognise the ‘blend’ as two separate sounds so when they came to spell the words they would miss out letters. Also, this was an extra burden on their memory as each ‘blend’ was taught and then remembered as a unit on its own. And there are may such ‘blends’ to learn. Some words had beginning blends e.g. ‘stop’ and other end blends e.g. ‘hand’. And there were the words with initial and final blends ‘print’.

‘To Blend’ – THE VERB
Now in synthetic phonics blends are called ‘adjacent consonants’ because they are taught as separate phonemes (sounds) and graphemes (letters/s). A great deal of emphasis is made on teaching children to ‘blend’ throughout the word. This means that each grapheme (letter/s) is sounded out separately and then ‘blended’ into a word.

The opposite process happens when teaching children to spell. Children are taught to segment the word into phonemes (separate units of sound) and they are expected to write a symbol (letter/s) that spells each sound. Initially they may not get all their spellings right but from the very beginning they learn to expect to be able to read what they have written.

So now we talk about word structures CVC (consonant/vowel/consonant), CVCC, CCVC and CCVCC to indicate where the adjacent consonants are in the word.

So to summarise: out goes the noun ‘blend’ and in comes the verb ‘to blend’.

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