What is a consonant cluster?

What is a consonant cluster?
When two consonants appear next to each other it is called a consonant cluster. We explain how teachers explain consonant clusters to children and how you can help your child spot them when you are practising reading at home.

What is a consonant cluster?

A consonant cluster is when two consonants are positioned together. They can appear at the start of a word, for example:

st in stay
fr in friend
cr in croak

Or at the end of a word:

sk in task
st in fast
nt in went
nd in sound

This is not to be confused with a consonant digraph, where the two letters make one sound. In a consonant cluster, you can hear the two sounds as you say the consonants.

Children tend to learn letter sounds first, then start combining them to read CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) words such as hat, top, nag etc. 

Once they are confident with this, they will then be introduced to consonant clusters. It can take children a while to be able to read words such as 'trap' when they are used to reading words such as 'tap'. It is important for a teacher to ask a child to sound out the two individual sounds 't' and 'r' and then put them together to make the sound 'tr'.

Teachers may concentrate on one consonant cluster for a set period of time, for example: they may choose to focus on 'mp' for a week, therefore they will give the children phonics activities involving reading and writing words containing 'mp', such as 'jump', 'bump', 'mumps' and 'lamp'. They will encourage children to say these words out loud while looking at the letters and to practise writing the words themselves.