What are Digraphs?
A digraph occurs when two letters make a single sound. They can be made of two consonants. For example, th, wh, ch, sh, and ph are all consonant digraphs. Digraphs can also be made up of two vowels, like in ay, ou, ee, etc. If two letters come together to make one sound, it is considered a digraph!
I like to follow this series of steps when introducing digraphs to students for the first time:
- Begin by defining digraphs for your students. If you have already taught blends to your students, you can build off of your students’ understanding of blends first. Explain that sometimes when two letters come together, you can hear both sounds. Other times, the two letters come together to make a single sound.
- Create an anchor chart with several examples, and words that use those sounds.
- Grab a collection of objects that have digraphs in them. Students name the objects out loud and practice listening for the digraph sounds.
Strategies for Teaching Digraphs
As you move through the school year, you will want to reinforce your students’ understanding of this skill. Use these teaching ideas!
A great way to reinforce how well students understand using and reading digraphs is through sorting activities! You can use a variety of materials to create a sort for your students. Give students several tiles or cards with digraphs on them, so they can sort them into sound categories. Or, make things more challenging by giving students word or picture cards. Students must read the word, or name the picture, and sort cards that have the same digraph sound in them.
Tactile activities are always a great way to cement a student’s learning. In small groups or centers, give students different words or sounds to stamp. Every time they stamp, they must read and identify the digraph in the word. This task creates a multi-sensory approach to learning and remembering digraphs, which makes it more likely for students to remember them!
Seeing the skill in context is a great way to teach a new concept! Phonics passages provide students several opportunities to practice a skill authentically in their reading. As you introduce new sounds, use passages that focus on one sound at a time. Throughout your unit, or as you want to spiral review, use passages that blend several sounds together.
As in all reading tasks, comprehension is key! After reading and practicing the skill, be sure your students are also understanding what they read. My phonics passages include two quick comprehension checks at the end of every story. These passages give you the opportunity to assess a student’s success with the pattern, while also gauging comprehension and fluency at the same time!