Blending Sounds in ESL

In teaching English as a second language, blends are super important. Blends are basically when two letters (typically consonants) come together to make a certain sound. Native speakers rarely realise when blends are happening. But when you're learning English as a second language, the sounds can be much harder to wrap your tongue around!


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The thing with blends is that it changes the characteristic of the consonant and the sound it would make on its own. For instance, by itself, the letter B has a distinct sound. But when it is couple with L or R, it becomes less prominent. You need to physically change the movement of your jaw and tongue to get the sound right.

Give it a go... BL. BR. BL. BR. Do you notice how for BL, your tongue kind of clips the top of your mouth. But to say BR, you need to use more of your jaw. Welcome to blends!


When anyone learns another language, the whole linguistic structure needs to be learnt and learnt again. If you speak another language, you might notice how you sound different in your voice. This is because you are using different muscles and movements to speak a foreign language. It's pretty fascinating!



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For young children learning English, they literally have to learn how to move their tongue and jaw to make these sounds. Blends make this soooo much harder for them! That is why adorable flashcards can help!

I've created these handy blends cards for my online classes. They are great as a warm up activity or something to do mid-session to refocus.



The idea is that you look at the three letter blends available, such as sl, tr, tw. There is a picture of a tree on this one. So you ask the student what they see in the picture. The spelling of the word (with the missing blend) is written there too for another visual cue.

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Now, the student can see the picture, part of the word, and what two letters are missing. Next, they need to pick one of the three blends to fill in the missing spaces.



You can do this in many ways, depending on the student's level and ability. Sounding out each option can be a fun way to go. Try saying: slee for the first blend and ask the student if that sounds like a word. Hopefully they'll say no for this one!


Drawing attention to the incorrect sounds can help the student to better identify when something sounds right and why. It is important to emphasis the beginning sound and even chant 't for tree' to consolidate that phonetic awareness.


These blends flashcards are such a useful resource. To keep things eco, I drew them myself. I found some card in the recycling bag from some tasty cookies we had. There were also some tags from bathmats we had recently purchased.




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Hello, useful cardboard resources! I cut them up to the right shape and size for flashcards and got my pencils out.



While I create my own drawings, I do look to others for inspiration. Sometimes I try to draw without looking at a picture but what I see in my mind doesn't translate to what I create on the paper! So looking at an image can help me a lot.

For these blends flashcards, I credit Fairy Poppins and the cute clip cards available. Check out this website for other useful and adorable teaching resources!

I hope you've gained some inspiration from this post in teaching blends, getting creative, and using different materials to create resources. Why add more to recycling and landfill when it can become such a great teaching resource!? It's all about how you look at things before they go into the bin!


Remember, keep it eco and keep it educational!