Phonetic blend charts are an effective way to teach early study phonetics to an individual or class. By taking the individual sound that each letter makes and blending it with others produces sounds of words. This encourages reading skills, as well as recognition of words and objects. By using a form of blend chart, students can spend time developing their skills in a passive, as well as active, manner.
Phonetic blend charts come in a variety of forms. Some are hand held flip charts, others are a large poster of pictures and words, while others show the phonetic symbols associated with sounds with very little graphics. When determining which form of chart to use, it is vital to assess the level of student. Advanced students who are studying phonetic symbols and their use will benefit from a chart showing the phonetic marks. However, early students learning English as a second language or developing their speech may prefer a lower level chart which shows lots of words alongside pictorial representations, which can improve vocabulary at the same time as phonetics.
Students should first of all be taught the difference between a vowel and consonant. Long and short sounds follow, with the student demonstrating knowledge of long and short sounds formed by each letter. This is prime for the use of chart, either small hand held charts for each student or a large group exercise. Charts are very common which show pairs of letters, which are perfect for the next stage. To begin, students should be asked to sound the individual letters, blending them themselves and sounding the final blended sound. Over time this can develop into memory based soundings of the final sound, which can then progress to three or four letter words.
Another way of encouraging group participation is producing a dice where each face has sound pairs on it. A student rolls the dice and uses the pair shown to sound out first the sound, then a word which begins with that sound.
Index cards are a good method of teaching to small groups or individuals. By producing a coil bound index card set, a small chart can be produced, which is exceptional for more intimate teaching. Splitting the cards into two or three can produce the sounds required, and some sounds, such as “BH” will appear, where the student can recognise that the blend does not exist.
For advanced students, a phonemic chart is effective in avoiding blends but teaching phonetics. Recognising the symbol associated with each sound is a good skill to teach, particularly for future vocabulary, avoiding time taken to teach “sounding” of the new word, preferring instead to teach the phonemic method. This can be taught using letter pairs to teach the symbol, not dissimilar from teaching a foreign language.
Other methods of using charts are present, including using a chart as a book cover, making it a large class game, encouraging continual exposure to the material, aiding the student to learn by immersion.