‘h…e…l…p… hep!’

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Do you have a pupil who appears to be stuck working at the CVC level? They can read and spell words like ‘sat’, ‘nap’, ‘big’ etc. but when it comes to reading and spelling CVCC words, like ‘lamp’, they’ll often omit the inner consonant? They’ll write and say ‘jup’ for ‘jump’ and ‘vet’ for ‘vest’.

For when you find yourself in this situation:
1. use the cover and blend strategy
2. start with CVCC words as the inner consonant is always a continuant (a continuant is a sound that can be ‘stretched’, lasting as long as a breath lasts, without the sound being changed, e.g. /s/ as in ‘sat’ is a continuant whereas /k/ as in ‘kid’ is not).

The cover and blend strategy is extremely simple, here is a typical dialogue you would expect when using this strategy (T=teacher, C=child, *=action):

T: We’re going to break this word down. *T write ‘vest’ on a whiteboard, cover the last two letters with your hand*.  Could you blend these sounds please?
C: /v/ … /e/ … ‘ve’
T: Good, /v/ /e/ ‘ve’. *reveal the next letter*. ‘ve’… *gesture beneath the next letter*
C: ‘ve’ … /s/ … ‘ves’
T: Good, /v/ /e/ /s/ ‘ves’. *reveal the final letter*. ‘ves’ … *gesture beneath the final letter*
C:  ‘ves’ … /t/ … ‘vest’
T: Well done, ‘vest’.  Now let’s say the sounds and read the word.
C: /v/ /e/ /s/ /t/ … ‘vest’.

I’d recommend always following up reading a word with writing the word. This is when you can use the continuant to help the child segment the word for spelling:

(Optional- for children omitting sounds in CVCC words, as there are 4 sounds in ‘vest’ you could ask the child to draw 4 ‘sound lines’ to write each spelling on).

T: Now I’d like you to write the word ‘vest.’ What’s the first sound in ‘vvvvvvest’?
C: /v/ *writes ‘v’*
T: What’s the second sound in ‘veeeeest’?
C: /e/ *writes ‘e’*
T: What’s the third sound in ‘vessssst’?
C: /s/ *writes ‘s’*
T: What’s the last sound in ‘vest‘?
C: /t/ writes ‘t’*
T: Now let’s say the sounds and read the word.
C: /v/ /e/ /s/ /t/ … ‘vest’.

(If you choose to use ‘sound lines’, or similar, I like to follow this up by saying, ‘let’s say the sounds and write the word again, without sound lines’).

Here are some CVCC words for you to start with:
wind, vest, lamp, jump, bend, fist, damp, mint, fist.

Glossary:
Blending – putting things together so that they combine; in phonics, pushing sounds together to hear a word (or part of a word)
Segmenting – divide something into parts; in synthetic phonics, splitting a word into individual sounds
Continuant – a sound that can be ‘stretched’, lasting as long as a breath lasts, without the sound being changed
CVC ‘C’ – a consonant sound in a word
CVC ‘V’ – a vowel sound in a word
CVC – a word with 3 sounds that follows the structure consonant, vowel, consonant
CVCC – a word with 4 sounds that follows the structure consonant, vowel, consonant, consonant
Inner consonant – in a CVCC word, the second consonant sound is the inner consonant; an adjacent consonant in the middle right of a CVCC word

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