Digraphs are two letters that make a third letter sound when combined, for example sh and th. The digraph sound is different than the individual sounds the letters make so they can not be sounded out by young readers. Therefore, it is important for young students to learn and be able to recognize these digraphs in order to read new words and to read fluently.
In this blog post I’m sharing some interactive and engaging ways to teach both beginning and ending digraphs.
Introduce the Digraphs with Pictures & Pocket Chart Activity
When introducing digraphs I like to first show students the two letters that combine to make the digraph and introduce its sound.
Then, I point to pictures that begin with the digraph and have students tell me the name of the picture. I then show them the word that corresponds to the picture with the digraph being a different color so that it stands out and students can see that it is at the beginning of the word.
Next, students come up with their own words for the digraph and I write them down using a different color for the digraph so that it stands out.
To reinforce the digraph sounds, we sort pictures using the pocket chart. We sort the pictures into 2 groups, “Starts with the digraph” or “Does NOT start with the digraph”. Students come up to the pocket chart and put each of the pictures under the correct heading. They love getting a turn at the pocket chart and actually choose to do this sorting activity during free time!
After several digraphs have been introduced, I change the pocket chart headers and we sort pictures between 2 or 3 digraphs which helps students distinguish between the different digraph sounds.
I follow the same procedure when teaching ending digraphs, making sure to point out that the digraph is at the end of the word.
To help students recognize the letter pairings of each of the digraphs, I like to do digraph hunts.
During small groups, I put digraph cards in front of students and say the sound of one of the digraphs. Students use special pointers to point to the correct digraph.
Then we go on a digraph hunt around the room. We sing the following song similar to the We’re Going on a Bear Hunt chant:
We’re going on digraph hunt /ch/ /ch/ /ch/ (digraph sound)
I’m not afraid, are you afraid? No!
What’s that up ahead? Can we take it with us?
When we come up on a digraph card that was hidden in the room beforehand, we decide if it’s the digraph for which we are hunting. If it is, we take it with us.
To check individual student understanding, I use these digraph hunt pages. They help students to visually discriminate between the 4 digraphs in various fonts and also help students find the digraphs in words. The full-color pages are placed in page protectors and used in centers and small groups. The black and white versions are used for take-home practice when needed and for early finishers.
My young students love doing mazes, so I decided to create some digraph mazes for them so they could practice distinguishing between the sounds of all of the digraphs.
Students have to follow the correct digraph pictures from the start to the finish of the maze. They can use markers, crayons, bingo dabbers, bingo chips, mini-erasers, or pencils to mark the path. Changing it up for each digraph keeps it fresh and fun!
All Sorts of Digraph Sorts
Sorting activities are a great way to teach digraphs because they help students to compare and better recognize the differences between the digraph sounds and the digraph word pairings or spellings.
I have students sort digraph cards under the correct pictures to help them distinguish between the spellings of the digraphs. We practice this both for beginning and ending digraphs.
We also sort picture cards under digraph headings to help with distinguishing between the different digraph sounds.
I use these two column sorts as targeted practice for students who are struggling with a particular digraph or confusing two digraphs.
When doing sorting activities with young children it is important that you provide practice in both sorting objects into groups AND looking at groups of objects that have already been sorted and figuring out how they are sorted.
I like to put digraph picture cards into groups on the pocket chart and see if students can tell me how they are grouped.
Interactive Digraph Activities
Students nowadays love anything digital, so I created self-checking Boom Cards that they can access on the computer or iPads. They are similar to the hands-on activities we practiced so that students are familiar with them and can do them independently.
Since they are self-checking and have sound for each of the pictures, students are able to practice on their own at their pace. I can then check the data provided by Boom Learning to see with which digraphs students are struggling.
Here is a short video clip of the digital beginning digraph activities.
Here is a short video clip of the digital ending digraph activities.
If you would like to use any of the above digraph activities with your students, they are available on Teachers Pay Teachers. There are a wide variety of resources from which to choose.
They are available in the following money-saving bundle packs: