Best Approaches to Teaching Silent Letters and Consonant Clusters


In this article, we shall be discussing silent letters and consonant clusters.

Explain silent letters


There are important issues to note in consonants. Certain consonant letters may be silent (not pronounced) in some words.

You should not pronounce those letters in the words they appear. Such letters may occur at the initial, medial, or final positions. Consider the examples below.

Give examples of silent letters.

 (k)ne    (k)not        (k)nife           (k)nit        (g)naw           san(d)wich             (p)sychology

(k)nat      (p)salm    (h)onest     (h)our          k)night           (h)onour               (g)nat

(p)neumatic          (k)now           (g)narled         (k)nock       (k)nee                   strai(gh)t

(k)nife                   (k)nap           (k)nell             (k)knuckle    (k)notty               (k)nell

(k)notty               cas(t)le          yo(l)k               lis(t)en         apos(t)le              si(g)n

resi(g)n      han(d)some            su(b)tle              de(b)t           ta(l)k                  ans(w)er

s(w)ord             bom(b)er            plum(b)er        de(b)tor          cor(p)s               recei(p)t

cu(p)board      chris(t)mas          wres(t)le           of(t)en            rei(g)n              mali(g)n

champa(g)ne   (w)rite                 (w)rench          (w)rist             (w)rap              (w)rinkle

t(w)o               colum(n)              bom(b)            com(b)             tom(b)              lam(b)

lak(h)             succum(b)              lim(b)             thum(b)           hum(b)            plum(b)

clim(b)            balle(t)                 sache(t)           chale(t)           rappor(t)          hym(n)

condem(n)      (p)neumonia     (p)sycholinquistics                     a(d)just           ex(h)aust

ex(h)ibit          ve(h)icle            a(c)quire           s(c) ene            s(c)ent            des(c)ent

dis(c)iple        cha(l)k                 ca(l)f                pa(l)m            sa(l)mon          col(o)nel

je(o)pardy      le(o)pard             pe(o)ple         dau(g)hter       nei(g)hbour          li(gh)t


 Choose the words that are not silent consonants in the options below.

  1. (a) kot (b) knit (c) knot (d) knock
  2. (a) often (b) apostle (c) list (d) wrestle
  3. (a) tomb (b) comb (c) lamb (d)top
  4. (a) wench (b) write (c) wrench (d)wrap
  5. (a) leopard (b) jeopardy (c) colonel (d) bonnet
  6. (a) sport (b) ballet (c) sachet (c) chalet (d) rapport

Explain the important keys to note.

  1. Note that if you have /q/, /k/, /f/, /t/, /p/ and other voiceless sounds as in tenths, books, grips, pots, etc appearing before the last ‘s’ the ‘s’ after the sounds above will be pronounced as ‘s’. Practise the words above until you get the pronunciation right.
  2. If you also have any of these consonants: /ʤ/, /t/, /s/, /z/, /ʧ/ as in churches, washes, hisses, judge, etc., the ‘s’ should be pronounced ‘z’.  Practise the words above until you get the pronunciation right.
  3. If you have the following voiced consonants: /d/, /g/, /l/, /b/, /n/, /m/, /v/, /j/,as in bells, cards, cabs, moves, cells, seems, etc.,  the ‘s’ appearing after them will be pronounced as /z/. Practise the words above until you get the pronunciation right.
  4. You should also note that if the sound that comes before a past tense marker is either /t/ or /d/, the last ‘ed’ should be pronounced as ‘id’. Practise the words below until you get the pronunciation right.

wanted   as  /wantid/

minded   as  /maidid/

drafted   as  /draftid/

reminded  as /rImandid/

loaded   as  /lǝʊdid/

rested   as  /restid/

vested   as  /vestid/

5. Provided that the sound that comes before the past tense marker is a voiced consonant or it is a vowel, you should pronounce the ‘ed’ as /d/. Practise the words below until you get the pronunciation right.

begged   as   /begd/

prayed   as   /preid/

longed   as   /longd/

slammed   as /slæmd/

caged   as    /keidd/

carved  as  /ka:vd/

6. If the sound that comes before the past tense marker is a voiceless consonant, the ‘ed’ or past tense will be pronounced as ‘-t’. Practise the words below until you get the pronunciation right.

stopped  as  /stɒpt/

passed   as  /pa:st/

slapped  as  /slæpt/

ticked   as  /tikt/

briefed   as  /bri:ft/

breached  as  /bri:ʧt/


 Choose the word that has a different ending sound in the options.

  1. (a) market (b)  decided  (c)  stopped  (d)  toilet
  2. (a) slapped (b) hummed  (c)  stopped  (d)  cursed
  3. (a) briefed  (b)  ticked  (c)  slammed   (d)  passed
  4. (a) books  (b)  grips  (c)  pots  (d)  cabs
  5. (a) breached (b)  longed  (c)  caged  (d)  curved
  6. (a) cards  (b)   tenths  (c)  seems  (d)  calls
  7. (a) mangoes  (b)  churches  (c)  washes  (d) tents
  8. (a) begged (b)  prayed  (c)  longed  (d)  passed

Explain consonant clusters.

Consonant clusters or blends are made up of consonants found next to each other in a word. They are a succession of multiple consonant sounds in a word.

Consonant clusters/blends can be two letters or three letters or four letters at the beginning (initial), at the middle (medial), and at the end(final) position of a word.

The maximum of consonants at the initial position is three (3) and at the final position is four (4), which is C3 v C4.

Give examples of two-initial consonant clusters/blends.

bl – blend, bland, blue, black

cl – click, clam, clean, claim,

fl – flimsy, flute, fling, float, fluffy, flit

gl – glass, glaze, glee, glitter, globe, glove, glue

pl – place, plan, plate, plum, plumber

sl – Slick, slack, slice, slim, slime, slow, slot, sleep

br – brain, brown, bright

cr – crab, crumb, crazy, create, credit, creature

dr -dress, drone, drink, drag, drawer, dry

fr – from, freezer, frighten, friend, fruit, freak

gr – grueling, grape, grass, grease

pr – practice, prove, pretzel,pride, promise

tr – truck, try, trust,trade, trash, travel, treat

sc – scale, score, scrap, scratch, schedule

sk – skunk, skate, skinny, sky, ask, mask

sm – small, smart, smear, smash,

sn – snack, snore, snake, snob, snow, sneeze, snap

sp – space, spot, splash, speak, spend, splurge

st – stair, step, steak, stand, star, list, last

sw – sweet, sweat, swing, swim, swamp,

tw – twinkle, tweet, tweezer, twelve,

Give examples of three-initial consonant clusters/blends.

scr – scrape, scrap, scream, screech, scroll, scratch, scramble

spl – splash, spleen, splendid, splint, spliff, split

spr – sprain, spray, sprint, sprite, spread, sprawl

str – strain, strap, strobe, strong, stream, strength, stripes

Give examples of medial (middle) consonant clusters/blends.

attract   conclude       describe        application    instruct       incriminate

Give examples of three-final consonant clusters/blends.

 tests          /tests/

sixth         /siksq/

asked       /a:skt/

pinched    /pinʧt/

nests        /nests/

next          /nekst/

bands        /bændz/

tasked        /ta:skt/

fifths          /fifqs/

twelfth       /twelfq/

prompt       /prǝmpt/

Give the examples of four-final consonant clusters/blends.






Choose the words that have the same clusters in the options.

  1. text (a) texts (b) test (c) asked (d) nexts
  2. prompts (a) prompt (b) texts (c) next (d) twelfth
  3. sixths (a) twelfths (b) sixth (c) pinched (d) bands
  4. asked (a) prompts (b) texts (c) sixths (d) tests
  5. scroll (a) spill (b) scream (c) sprite (d) splash
  6. blue (a) play (b) plow (c) blouse (d) slow
  7. sweat (a) scope (b) sweet (c) sponge (d) screen
  8. practice (a) price (b) please (c) play (d) splash
  9. strong (a) spring (b) sprain (c) strain (d) split
  10. scroll (a) screen (b) spleen  (c) strong (d) space

Author: Deola Adelakun

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