Read the Blog

5 Tips for Teaching CVC Words

Learning to read CVC words is a big step! CVC words are consonant-vowel-consonant words. They're the first type of word that children typically learn to decode once they've learned the alphabet and letter sounds.

For some kids, learning to read CVC words comes easily. For some kids, it takes a bit more time and practice. In this post, we'll explore 5 tips for teaching CVC words that are helpful for all kids, including those who struggle!

Tip #1: Start with VC words rather than CVC words!

In a CVC word, there are 3 sounds for a child to say and then blend together. That's a lot of sounds for a little one who's just learning to read!

Practicing VC words can be a great "bridge" to CVC words. VC words are "vowel-consonant" words like: at, ad, Ed, in, if, it, on, up, us.

Tip #2: Use successive blending.

Successive blending can make it easier for kids to read CVC words, because they're only putting together 2 sound chunks at a time instead of 3 individual letter sounds.

For example, you can blend to read the word sip "traditionally," like this: /s//i//p/, sip.

Or you can use successive blending: /s//i/, /si//p/, sip. Here, the reader puts together the sounds for the letters s and i before adding the sound for the p.

To see successive blending in action, check out this video:

Tip #3: Focus on phonemic awareness.

When a child is asked to read a CVC word like "hat," they must:

  1. Recognize the letter h, a, t
  2. Produce the sounds for those letters, and relatively quickly
  3. Blend the sounds together

That's a lot for beginning readers!

That's why lots of phonemic awareness practice is important. Phonemic awareness exercises involve working with just the sounds in a word - no letters involved. The activities are done through listening and speaking.

Here's an example: You say 3 sounds to a child (i.e. /m//u//g/) and have them say the whole word (mug). In this activity, the child can just focus on the sounds. If we look back to that list of what's required to read a CVC word, steps #1 and #2 in the list above are eliminated. There's less cognitive demand placed on the child, which can help them practice blending so that they can eventually apply it to read CVC words.

Tip #4: Start with words that begin with continuous sounds.

Continuous sounds can be produced without stopping. The primary sounds for the following letters are continuous: a, e, f, i, l, m, n, o, r, s, u, v, z.

When a word begins with a continuous sound, it's usually easier for a child to blend. They can more easily "hang onto" that sound and smoothly integrate it with the other sounds.

So you might start with words like "leg" and "mat" instead of "beg" and "pat."

Of course, kids need to eventually learn to read all kinds of CVC words - but continuous sounds are a good starting place!

Tip #5: Begin modeling how to read VC and CVC words before you're finished teaching the alphabet.

Many phonics programs include instruction on the consonant and short vowel sounds as children learn the alphabet. After that, they move onto CVC words. This can be quite an abrupt transition for many kids!

Instead, what you can do is model how to read VC and CVC words as you teach the letter sounds. Once students have learned, for example, the letters a, s, and t, they can watch you blend to read the words "at" and "sat." In time, they can begin to blend along with you!

This not only makes the transition to reading CVC words smoother, but it also helps kids learn the letter sounds more quickly! When children are seeing the letter sounds used for a purpose (in this case, reading) and have opportunities to apply their growing knowledge (by blending along with you as you read), they're more likely to retain the letter sounds.

For a complete phonics program for Kindergarten, first grade, and second grade that covers letter sounds, CVC words, and so much more, check out and download free sample materials at this link.

What Should a Kindergarten Phonics Curriculum Cover?

3 Phonics Strategies That Help Kids Retain Skills

Tips for Teaching Phonics to English Language Learners