Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog!

Early Reading and Writing Ideas Using Blends, Part 1

Posted by Geraldine Haggard on Oct 5, 2017 4:22:33 PM


This is a guest blog post by Dr. Geraldine Haggard, who is a retired teacher, Reading Recovery teacher leader, author, and university teacher. It is the first post in a series about building literacy with early readers.

As I pondered ideas for this blog, I decided to visit my old friend, Marie Clay's Becoming Literate, from my days of training in Reading Recovery. Clay reminded her readers that the young reader is not only learning words or letter-sound knowledge, but they are learning how to use each of the sources of information as they read and write. They can then link new strategies to current reading and writing activities and become more successful.


  • Page 41: “Beginnings of literacy is more than learning letters, words, and letter relationships”.
  • Page 53 contains a caution about ‘decentralization’ of letter knowledge and the need for use of continuous texts.
  • Page 87 encourages teachers to attend closely to features of letters in writing experiences.
  • Page 314 cites that there are two variables used by children to derive sounds and meanings from words: direct visual perception and the use of spelling to sound.
  • Page 320: Clay states that young readers use information from sounds, shapes, and layout of text.
  • Page 87: The importance of writing is stressed because of its providing opportunities for students to access letter knowledge in different ways.
  • Pages 322 and 323 stress the importance of providing learning activities as they read and write that enable them to develop the articulate awareness of phonology and print.
  • Page 325 contains this quote from Clay: “My experience in the longitudinal monitoring of progress of the early instruction was that letters, sounds, words, and word analysis were accumulated gradually over a period of time because the child learned different ways of working with print.”




Those of us who have taught for many years have seen many changes in the ways that literacy skills are taught. My teaching experiences began in 1949. Basal readers were my only tools. Real writing and composing thoughts were not present in the early years. In the 80’s children were encouraged to share thoughts in writing, but modeling and child’s ability to proof and the analysis of his writing was not often present.

The national and state standards used now in our schools demonstrate the importance of the language arts’ multiple faceted programs: reading, writing, and even inclusion of content areas. Phonology is still important, but taught as a tool for reading and writing.

We model and help the students recognize and begin to use new strategies as they read and write. Letter knowledge is such a strategy. Letter knowledge involves letter identification, letter formations, phonology, word parts, and all aspects of written language. We should model and provide practice for the child as he combines new and already acquired strategies in real reading and writing activities.

Instruction of a phonetic blend is more than learning to produce the sound slowly. It involves vocabulary development and use of the blend in in various listening, speaking, reading, and writing settings.

The second part of this blog will provide ideas for doing this using Hameray’s Letter Buddies.



Geraldine Haggard is the author of several books from our Kaleidoscope Collection. She spent 37 years in the Plano, TX school system. She currently tutors, chairs a committee that gifts books to low-income students, teaches in her church, and serves as a facilitator in a program for grieving children. 


For more information on the books mentioned in this blog post, click the series highlights images below or click this link to visit our webpage for the Letter Buddies series.

Letter Buddies Blends Sales Sheet

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Topics: Letter Buddies, Blends, Letter Learning, Geraldine Haggard, Reading Recovery, Double Consonants, Kid Writing

Letter Buddies Part 2: Blends

Posted by Marcy Godesa on Feb 21, 2017 3:23:00 PM

marcy_godesa.pngThis is a guest blog post by Marcy Godesa, a first-grade teacher from Oregon who blogs over at Searching for Teacher Balance. If you like what you read here, be sure to check back here for more of her guest blog posts! 

It is always a great find when you have one resource that continues along with your students as their learning grows and develops. That is why I am still loving the Letter Buddies series from Hameray Publishing.


You can read all about how I used the first stage of Letter Buddies with my developing readers here. We have since moved into blends, which is huge for my readers! I am so proud of them and the connections that they have been making.

The blends books, which are the next stage in the Letter Buddies seriesare the perfect bridge to sight word development that all developing reading must achieve.

Slide1 (2).pngJust like the first stage, the blends books have a sight word book, Letter Buddies Blends, and a pattern book, Letter Buddies Best Friends, that complement each other.

Slide2 (2).png

After reading and reviewing the sight word book, my kiddos practiced building the words and finding connections between other words that they have learned.

They then applied these new words to the pattern book. The success they have with the pattern book is incredible because they are familiar with the words, thanks to the sight word book.

If you haven't checked out the Letter Buddies series from Hameray Publishing, get on it.  I cannot say enough great things about these books.

What is your favorite tool for supporting your developing readers?  Leave a comment below.  I would love to hear from you.



Click the images below to read about the Letter Buddies Blends and the Letter Buddies Best Friends.

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Topics: Letter Buddies, Blends, Sight Words, Marcy Godesa

Teaching Blends with Letter Buddies—with FREE Download!

Posted by Laureen on Oct 9, 2014 8:00:00 AM

This is a guest post by blogger Laureen. If you like what you see here, you can check out her blog, Teach with Laughter, for more of her writing.

Hi again! It’s Laureen from Teach With Laughter. I’m excited to be writing today about some blends books from the Letter Buddies series that I have had a chance to share with my students.

The Letter Buddies Blends Books each contain six examples of a blend, one per page with just the word printed underneath.  The Letter Buddies Best Friends Books are a perfect companion, using the same six words written in simple sentences.


I used the Blends Books in a small group to introduce the words to the students. Since the pictures gave us clues to the words this was easy and built their confidence. Then I introduced the Best Friends blends book with the same words used in sentences. Since students were familiar with the words and the other words were beginning sight words they were very successful, and we could focus on fluency and sentence structure.

Do your students struggle with ‘b’ and ‘d’ reversals? Mine do, so for this lesson I focused on the blends ‘br’ and ‘dr’. Scroll to the bottom of the page to download a ‘br’/‘dr’ blends anchor chart.


Then to check for understanding, I had my students complete the following activity. They needed to differentiate between pictures that start with ‘br’ or ‘dr’. Combined with the anchor chart, students completed this independently at a word work station while I worked with another group.


I hope that you have a chance to check out this great book series!


Laureen is a first-grade teacher in Canada. She has been teaching kindergarten and grade one for more than twenty years. Laureen loves to make learning fun and you can find her at her blog, Teach With Laughter.


To learn more about Letter Buddies, click here to visit our website, or click the series highlights images below to download information sheets with key features. To get today's free activity download, click the image to the right below!

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Topics: K-2 Literacy, Letter Buddies, Blends, Laureen

Learning About Letters: Teaching Beginning Blends

Posted by Tara Rodriquez on May 22, 2013 2:07:00 AM

describe the imageYesterday we looked at some ideas for how to use books to teach beginning letter sounds (Click to Read). Today's topic is the next step in understanding beginning letter sounds: beginning blends.

A blend is a consonant cluster—a combination of two (sometimes three) letters that blend together to make a common sound, such as the sound "bl" in the word "blue." Which letters are "allowed" to blend varies by language; in English, for example, we do not blend "hr" or "ts" at the beginnings of words, but those blends are used in other languages. Blends are usually taught after students have learned the sounds of all of the consonants and the short vowels, but before long vowels.

Letter Buddies Blends Books teach children the next level of letter exploration. Once students grasp the sound that each individual letter makes, they are ready to explore how multiple letters sound blended together. A critical part of literacy learning is related to phonemic awareness. Just as children learn how to “hear” the first sound in a word using the Letter Books, the Blends Books will help them to distinguish 22 foundational beginning blends. 

Working with the Blends Books

describe the imageYour focus with these books is to draw children’s attention to the sound that consonants make when they are clustered together at the beginning of the word. You can use a modified version of the lesson shared yesterday for the Letter Buddies Letter Books to help young children understand this concept. It is important to link this new learning to the student’s knowledge of how they heard initial sounds in the Letter Books. For example,

  • “You know how to listen for the first sound in a word. Sometimes you will see two consonants at the beginning of a word. These are called blends. You can hear each sound in the blend as you say it.”
  • “This is the Blends Book.” (Start with a conversation about the two letters that go together, then continue through the book.) 
  • “This word says ______. Can you say ______?” (Point to the word as you say it.) 
  • “What are the two consonants that go together at the beginning of _______?”
  • “Can you say the sound the two letters make at the beginning of ______?”
  • Continue this procedure for each of the six pictures in the Blends Book.

Below is a flipbook that allows you to check out a sample Blends book and see how you might be able to adapt the lesson to fit whatever similar content you may have on-hand.


describe the imageThe Letter Buddies Best Friends are designed to accompany the Letter Buddies Blends Books. Similar to the Letter Books and Starters companion products, the same vocabulary words introduced in the Blends Books are now placed within the context of easy-to-read sentences with sight-word rich vocabulary in the Best Friends series. These books provide young readers with opportunities to continue developing early reading behaviors while reinforcing the vocabulary and letter skills learned with the Blends Books.

Working with the Best Friends

The Best Friends can be introduced in a similar fashion with a focus on developing strategic reading behaviors. Below are some other points to think about while working with the Best Friends in a group setting. When introducing a book, have the companion Blends book available.

  • Make sure to direct the children to the highlighted blends on each page and reinforce checking the picture with those highlighted letters to predict the correct word. Have the children practice hearing and saying the sentence stem (I like..., See the...)
  • Have the children locate high frequency vocabulary words.
  • Make a chart of which letters become “best friends” as you introduce the books.
  • Develop charts of words for each of the introduced blends that can later be used as a reference when children practice writing.

The Best Friends series can also be placed in your Literacy centers. The activity page at the end of each book is similar to the one in the Starters and can be completed independently. Encourage your students to pair up and read the books to each other, reinforcing fluent reading skills.

A foundation in segmenting words with blends and the engaging nature of work that children do with the Blends and Best Friends will ensure children’s success in reading and writing words.

This is the second installment of our three-part series on teaching letters and sounds to emerging readers. Check out yesterday's post and come back tomorrow for more ideas! If you'd like to learn more about our early literacy products, you can receive a copy of our catalog and you can download a prodcut overview of the Blends and Best Friends Series by clicking the images below.

- Tara Rodriquez

Hameray 2016 Catalog Request New Call-to-Action New Call-to-Action

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Topics: K-2 Literacy, Letter Buddies, Beginning Letter Sounds, Blends

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