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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Dipthongs, Digraphs, and Blends...Oh My!

So this past week, my pre-service teachers began learning about various concepts associated with teaching word identification: phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, phonics, etc.  As we moved deeper into some of the phonics terms, students seemingly entered a bermuda triangle of confusion, intermixing dipthongs, digraphs, and blends.  This isn't the first time these concepts have caused trouble so I thought I would write a blog post to help clarify the individual differences present in the world of clusters, vowel and consonant.  For educators who must take the Foundations of Reading Test, these terms are important to know and understand as they will invariably be referenced on test questions.

Let's begin with a basic overview of definitions:

Consonant Blends - consonant pairs in which each consonant sound blends together:

          b+l = bl (two sounds in the blend /bl/  b and l)

Diphthong (a type of blend) – vowel pairs in which two vowel sounds blend together to make a unique sound (the vowel version of consonant blends) (note: y can act as a vowel as in oy)

          o+i = /oi/ two vowel sounds, o and i are blended together to create a unique sound; you can                 detect elements of each vowel in the dipthong

Vowel Digraphs - pairs of vowels that make only one sound (no blending of sounds present):
          ea = one vowel sound /ē/ represented by two letters

Consonant Digraphs are clusters of consonants that make only one sound (no blending of sounds present):
          /sh/ – one sound /sh/ represented by two letters

Here's a graphic representation:

Vowel Digraph
Consonant Digraph
Consonant Blend
How many letters?
Vowels or consonants?
How many sounds are present? (is the resulting sound a blend of two sounds or considered only one sound?)

Create your own examples:

Another trick that may help you distinguish digraphs from dipthongs and blends is to notice how your mouth moves when you pronounce them.  When you vocalize a digraph - your mouth doesn't need to move. However, when you vocalize a dipthong or blend, your mouth slides from one sound to another in order to blend them together.  Place your finger on the corner of your lip and notice how digraphs keep the mouth in place while dipthongs and blends make it move.  Try it and see!

Now that you've practiced understanding the difference between these terms, see if you can explain why the "ow" in show is considered a digraph but the "ow" in sow is considered a dipthong.  If you can answer this you're well on way to understanding the clusters discussed in this blog.

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