When begining your quest to learn about teaching phonics, there are several terms that you need to know. This week the focus is on the difference between consonant blends and digraphs (and trigraphs).
There are many words in the English language contain consonant blends and consonant diagraphs.
It is bennificial for new and struggling readers and spellers to be explicitly taught about these types of consonant sounds.
Understanding the difference between these terms gives readers a better explanation of how to approach the pronunciation or spelling of a word.
At the surface level, the most fundamental difference between a consonant blend and a consonant digraph is that in a blend, each letter represents it’s sound (phoneme) in the pronunciation of the word. While in a consonant diagraph (and trigraph) the letters represent one sound (phoneme).
(aka Consonant Clusters)
A consonant blend is when there are two or more consants beside each other in the same syllable, and in the pronunciation of the syllable at least two of these sounds are heard.
In the pronunciation of the syllables, each consonant sounds can be heard but they are blended together in a smooth manner.
Consonant blends can be found in any syllable of a word but they are most commonly found in the first and last syllables.
Some examples of consonant blends include the following letter combinations: bl, gr, sm, tw, scr, nd, str
There are two things you must remember about consonant blends:
- For adjacent consonants to be considered a blend, they must be part of the same syllable. For example, in the word cranberry, the ‘cr’ at the beginning of the word are considered to be a consonant blend because they are two adjacent consonant letters in the same syllable. However, the ‘nb’ in the middle of the word, is not a consonant blend because the ‘n’ belongs to the first syllable of the word and the ‘b’ belongs to the second syllable.
- A consonant blend containing three or more letters may include a consonant digraph.
For example, the word thrill has both a consonant blend ‘thr’ and a consonant digraph ‘th’.
Consonant diagraphs are when there are two different consonant letters that represent one speech sound (phoneme) that typically is different than either of the consonant sounds the letters represent in the diagraph.
Like blends, consonant digraphs can be found in any position of the word.
Some common consonant diagraphs are wh, ch, sh, th (voiced and unvoiced).
Some phonics systems consider the letter combinations of kn, gn, wr, ck and ng to be consonant diagraphs.
Some phonics systems use the term triagraph to refer to three letters (-tch) that when combined together make one sound.
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