Developing Phonics Knowledge: Blends, Digraphs, and Diphthongs
Phonics knowledge is defined as having an association between a letter and the sound it represents. In this text the focus is on associations between blends, digraphs, and diphthongs and the sounds they represent.
The student is unable to give the correct sounds of the blends, digraphs, or diphthongs (see Appendix ), is unable to use these phonic elements to decode, or both.
As with the consonant and vowel sounds, it is important that the student knows the consonant blends and consonant digraphs to analyze certain words. The vowel digraphs and diphthong sounds, however, are much less important. If the student has mastered phonics in the areas of single consonants, consonant blends, consonant digraphs, and long and short vowels, then it may not be necessary to teach the vowel digraphs and diphthongs. Instead, remediation efforts to assist decoding might more wisely be spent on the areas of structural analysis, context clues, and basic sight words.
Assessing Phonics Knowledge
A Phonics Assessment will help you determine which phonics areas are causing the most difficulty for the student. Administer the test before beginning a program of help in this area. If you wish to know if a specific blend, digraph, or diphthong phonic element is in a reader’s store of knowledge, you can have the reader attempt to read an unfamiliar word that contains that phonic element. If the reader correctly pronounces the word, then you can assume he knows the phonic element contained in that word.
Teaching Phonics Knowledge
The information provided in the Recommendations section can be used to design instruction to assist students to acquire blend, digraph, and diphthong associations. Much of the information can also be used when teaching other phonic elements.
ELL Students and Phonics Knowledge
ELL students may have confusion that can be traced to differences between the phonemes used in English and their first language. The instances of certain letter combinations in English standing for more than one sound can also be confusing to second-language learners. For example, knowing that the consonant digraph ch can represent three different sounds (the ch in chair, the ch in character, and the ch in chef) might confuse a learner who is used to a language that has a more consistent symbol-sound association.
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