Initial Consonant Blends – An Interactive Digital Phonics Word Building Activity for First Grade

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My son’s first grade class has been learning initial consonant blends. They’ve done a lot of cutting and pasting to form new words, which is great. Still, I wanted to put together a digital phonics activity that would help him review initial consonant blends without leaving scraps of paper (or letter tiles!) all over the floor for our baby to eat. That’s where I got the idea for this digital beginning blends word building activity.

For starters — what are initial consonant blends?

If you’re like me, it may have been 30+ years since you had to know the actual phonics terms for various letter combinations. Blends, digraphs, dipthongs — those are all things we use every day. However, unless you’ve been teaching phonics lessons to early readers, you probably haven’t used those terms. 

beginning consonant blend activity pin image for the sl blend (1)
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A consonant blend is two consonants whose sounds combine together. Each consonant in the blend makes its own sound, but they are said so quickly, they seem to “blend” together.

Note: this is different than a digraph, which is two consonants that combine together to make a brand new sound — such as “ph” making the f sound. (You can find a similar word building activity I created for teaching and practicing digraphs here.)

Consonant blends can occur anywhere in a word, but this particular word-building activity focuses only on initial consonant blends. An initial consonant blend is a blend that occurs at the beginning of a word.

How does this digital consonant blend activity work?

Your child or student will build new words utilizing beginning blends!

Using their fingers or mouse, they will click and drag the beginning consonant blend over to the caterpillars. By correctly placing the consonant blend at the beginning of the caterpillar, they’ll be able to build a complete word. 

Digital Consonant Blends Activity Example slide showing the fl blend

Each slide has several different words formed using the same initial consonant blend (as pictured above). This is deliberate because it helps drive home the concept for the child: the same consonant blend sound can be used to create a variety of different words. 

This concept is similar to the idea of CVC word families (CVC = consonant-vowel-consonant). In a CVC word family, you teach kids to change the initial consonant (or ending consonant), and leave everything else the same. The child learns to form a word family like: rat / cat / bat or mat / map / mad.

(*If you’re looking for a CVC activity to try, you can check out my snowmen CVC word families word building activity here.)

This initial consonant blend activity was designed for first grade. Ish.

This initial consonant blend activity was designed with first graders in mind. As such, most of the words students will build in this activity consist of four letters: two in the consonant blend itself, plus two more. A handful of words are smaller or larger because there aren’t many four-letter words using that particular consonant blend.

For example, take the “sm” blend. I used five-letter words for that slide because a word like “smut” just isn’t a great fit for a first grade phonics lesson! 

Sm Beginning Consonant Blend Activity Slide Example for first grade

Despite being designed for first grade, the fact is, early readers vary widely in their abilities. Some preschoolers and kindergartners will already be ready for this activity; some second graders or older struggling readers may benefit from the additional phonics practice an activity provides.

You know your child or students best!

Do I need special software to do this activity with my child or students?

No, not really. This activity can be done in Google™ Slides (which is free) or PowerPoint (which many families have already on their computer, but if not most school districts have it on their devices). It might work in other software applications, but I haven’t tested any of them, so I don’t know. 

The key is the student needs to be in EDIT MODE, NOT presentation mode. In presentation mode, the consonant blend pieces become immobile and no word building can occur. Below is a picture of my screen in Google™ Slides edit mode. You can see that I was able to move the cl blend with my mouse. 

Beginning Consonant Blends sample to show first graders how to use edit mode
You can tell I’m in EDIT mode because you can see the slides on the left and the “PRESENT” option is present in the upper-right.

I prefer to have my kids work on an iPad using the Google™ Slides App. I find iPads are much easier for little hands to manipulate than laptops/computers. My oldest, a third-grader, has mastered the laptop and touchpad mouse, but waiting for my first grader and preschooler to do so is painful.

Whatever device you choose, simply open the slideshow in the Google™ Slides app, PowerPoint program, etc. Then, you’re ready to go!

There are some teacher-specific slides explaining how everything works, which you can leave or delete. There’s also an example slide for students showing them how to use the initial consonant blends, referred to as beginning blends, to make new words.

Side note: the terms initial consonant blend and beginning blends tend to be used interchangeably. I prefer the latter because it most clearly describes the concept for little learners. 

How do I get a copy of this activity?

You can purchase this Beginning Consonant Blends Caterpillar Word Building Activity from my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. Upon completing your purchase, you will receive a digital download with the link to the file. This will allow you to make your own copy of the slides so you can make any additions/deletions/changes you’d like.

The beginning consonant blends digital slideshow includes:

  • A few teacher or parent-specific slides with instructions, formatting, etc.
  • An information slide for students, defining consonant blends and addressing the different blends covered in the activity.
  • An example slide for students, showing them how to move the caterpillar pieces (pictured earlier in this post)
  • 26 Word-building student slides, each with 3-5 word caterpillars per slide (The following beginning consonant blends are covered in this activity: bl, br, cl, cr, dr, fl, fr, gl, gr, pl, pr, sc, sk, sl, sm, sn, sp, st, sw, and tr)

TPT allows you to download a preview of the file so you can see more of the slides for yourself (in addition to the ones I’ve included in this post). If you have any questions or need any help with your activity, you can email me at [email protected]

Optional Extension Activities for Additional Consonant Blend Practice

In the slideshow, I included a blank slide formatted like the rest (see picture below). This allows you to add your own instructions for your students or child without it looking weird or like an afterthought.

Blank Consonant blend slide for teachers or parents to reuse

You could have students identify some additional words that use consonant blends and type them on the slide. You could also ask them to type sentences using some of the consonant blend words (either ones from the slideshow, or ones they think of themselves).

Finally, you could see if students can identify words with ending consonant blends. This is a great way to check for understanding. Can the student apply the concept (consonant blends) to a new situation (the ending of a word, instead of the beginning)?

If you want them to get some additional fine motor and handwriting practice, you could have them do any of the aforementioned activities on paper. Extra handwriting practice in the early years is NEVER a bad thing!

Building words with caterpillars will bring some novelty to teaching consonant blends to your students. It’s a different spin to your typical letter tile activity. That can come in really handy if your district is engaging in distance learning or hybrid learning. This is especially true if you’re unable to share physical materials (or, as I said at the beginning, if you have a baby at home who you don’t want eating your student’s letter tiles and scraps).

I hope you and your student(s) enjoy this digital consonant blend activity!

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like: 

Writing Prompts for Elementary Students — Especially Boys!

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