You’ve started with individual letter sounds. Now it’s time to introduce digraphs. Students need to know these two-letter combinations that represent one sound. You’ll need to introduce digraphs like ch in chin, ck in luck, wh in whip and sh in wish—and give students plenty of practice.
Introduce digraphs with a game
I love to introduce digraphs using games or puzzles. Here are two to try.
Introduce digraphs with Guess the Missing Sound. Write three words with the digraph you are introducing on the board, leave space for the digraph itself. An example might look like this:
Tell students that all three words are missing the same digraph, or the same sound spelled with two letters. Have students write the words on paper or their whiteboard filling in the missing letters.
Then fill in the missing letters on the board and read the words aloud. Ask students to think of other words that use the same digraph, such as chin, chips, rich, and bench.
More practice with spelling games
If you’re after more ideas for spelling practice, then check out our spelling game challenge. Here’s how it works: Sign up, and each day, for five days, I’ll email you a new spelling game along with a short explanation on how to use it. So go ahead and bring some fun back into spelling.
Introduce digraphs with Mystery Bag
You’ll need a bag with items that have the digraph in the word. For example, for the digraph /sh/, I could have a shell, sheep, ship, shoe, dish, and fish.
Once you have your mystery bag together, continue like this:
- Write the digraph on the board and say the sound in a sample word. For example, write /sh/ and say sh as in wish.
- Ask students to tell you more words that have that sound. Remind them that the sound can come at the beginning, middle, or end of the word.
- Write students’ suggestions on the board. If the word is one of your props, take it out of the bag and introduce it to the class.
- Keep going until students cannot think of any more words.
- If some of the props haven’t been mentioned, have students reach into the bag and feel a prop to see if they can come up with the word, or give clues until students figure out the word.
Ideas for after you introduce digraphs
After you introduce digraphs, keep them in front of students and provide plenty of practice. Here are 9 things to try:
1. Make a digraphs word wall
Add digraph words to your existing word wall or create a section where you add words after you introduce different digraphs.
2. Use digraph posters
Instead of a word wall, use posters that include a word (with the digraph highlighted) and a picture.
3. Try dictation sentences
Create a series of sentences that uses a variety of words with the digraph you introduced. For example for /ch/ you could say: If I win I will be such a rich lad or I had fish and chips for lunch. Have students write the sentences. When they have written them all, ask them to underline all the digraphs.
4. Play I Spy
Say I spy with my little eye, something that starts with sh (or whatever digraph you want to practice). Have students look for the object and say the word. Write the words of all the objects you spy on the board as students guess them.
5. Play beginning, middle, or end
To help students recognize that digraphs can show up anywhere in a word, tell students to listen for a digraph (I’ll use /sh/ as an example.).
Make three columns with the headings Beginning, Middle, and End on the board. Ask students to listen for the /sh/ sound in each word you say and tell you where in the word it appears. Write the word in the appropriate column. For example, ship would go in the beginning column, wishing would go in the middle column and brush would go in the end column. Challenge students to think of other words for each column. Students should notice that some digraphs like /ck/ don’t come at the beginning of words but can come in the middle or end.
6. Use digraph cootie catchers
My students love playing with cootie catchers and they provide great practice for lots of phonics skills. Get a pack of digraph cootie catchers for digraph fun.
7. Create digraph word searches
Have kids hunt for words in a letter grid. Use word searches to practice words with specific digraphs or a variety of digraphs.
8. Play a matching game
Print cards with images of words that contain digraphs and another set with the words themselves. Shuffle the cards and lay them face down. Students take turns flipping two cards. Have them say the word for each. If they match, the student keeps the pair of cards. If not, they turn them over and the next student takes a turn.
9. Ask “Who am I?”
Tell students you are going to give them clues and they have to guess the word. Let them know all the words will include your target digraph. Say each clue and give a chance for one or two guesses. Then read the next clue. For example, “A dog may use me.” (Chance to guess) “A fish may swim in me.” (Chance to guess) “You eat off of me.” (Chance to guess). If no one guesses, write the word with blanks on the board like this: __ __ sh. Repeat the clues and see if students come up with the word (in this example, dish).
For more ideas to help you introduce digraphs and provide practice in class and at home, check out the Ultimate Digraph Teaching Kit.
This bundle covers 10 common digraphs and contains 200 pages of resources ready to print. You get multiple print and use activities for each digraph plus posters, word wall words, and additional ideas for introducing digraphs in class.
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