The easy peasy way to teach Cluster Reduction for R & L Blends

The easy way to teach cluster reduction

It really breaks my heart when I see an older student so aware of their speech difficulties, when they try so hard but the current therapy approach or activities just aren’t working. You can see how defeated they feel, how their confidence lacks and I usually find that ‘r’ and ‘l’ blends are the culprit.

Can we all just agree that R-Blends and L-Blends usually take waaaay longer to teach than their S-Blend friends! The ‘r’ and ‘l’ are in the middle for starters, which from a phonemic awareness point of view can be harder to ‘hear’ than a sound in initial position. These sequencing supports can help get rid of the ‘I can’t do it’ attitude and turn it into something manageable. Something achievable. Something successful.

So here is what I want you to do:

  1. Definitely download my freebie if you haven’t yet.
  2. Teach visually and point out the pictures. Talk about the pictures, make sure they are in your student’s vocabulary.
  3. Get hands on and tactile! Use your hands to tap out each part of the word.
  4. Think auditory and sound awareness – use feedback cues such as ‘did you forget to put on your bouncing ball sound?’ r ‘I didn’t hear a ‘b’ at the start of your word, let’s try again’.
  5. Cut into strips and cover or ‘hide’ the new word and see if your students can ‘make’ the new word (the blend) all by themselves. It’s a great way to mix speech and sound awareness.
  6. Upload the color sheets onto your tablet/device because kids love a different presentation.

So how do they work? Well, we’re teaching kids to join the first sound with a word, to make a new word. So ‘b’ plus ‘low’ makes the new word ‘blow’. I don’t usually drag these sounds out, but say them nice and fast as there can be a tendency for a schwa insertion. The flexibility of this resource is that they are minimal pairs at their core. Once the ‘b+low’ has been taught, you can easily switch to ‘low-blow’ and forget about the picture prompt at the start. It’s like a 2-in-1 therapy approach. And when THAT is easy, well, we just drill the last column and see how fast they can say their words.

Now I’m going to end on a disclaimer here, and it’s probably something that you already know. Not every approach fits every student. Some things will click for one but not the other which is why I made a free sample of this 🙂 So if  you’re a big Phonology fan or looking for other Cluster Reduction resources, check out my:


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