When students are immersed in phonics and learn that each letter of the alphabet makes a sound (sometimes more than one!), it’s time to move on to digraphs. Digraphs are two letters put together that make one sound. The most common digraphs are “sh,” “th,” and “ch.” Digraphs take learning phonics to the next level because students suddenly discover that two letters can blend together to make one sound. It can get a bit confusing!
Fortunately, learning digraphs is fun. Here are a few engaging activities suitable for teaching or reviewing digraphs for 1st through 3rd grade students.
A large sheet of poster paper
These materials will be used to construct a word wall.
This lesson uses the digraph “ch” for illustration but any digraph is appropriate. To help you get started with the lesson, here is a list of common “ch” digraphs suitable for 1st through 3rd grade:
chap, chum, chip, chop, chew, chart, champ, cheer, chant, chase, choke, china, child, change, chilli, cheddar, chapter, chatter, chicken, challenge, chocolate, chipmunk cheese, chess, chest, charge, and chimney.
To prepare for the activity, the teacher creates a block of prepared text containing the digraph being taught that day. If starting with the digraph “ch” you could use the words chair, child, champ, chat, cheat, chimp, chop, chest and cherry in a paragraph. Be creative! The funnier the better. Write the paragraph on the board or on a large piece of chart paper. Or you may choose to make a copy of the paragraph for each student.
Read the paragraph out loud to the children. Then go back and point out two or three digraphs in the paragraph. Read the paragraph a second time and ask students to clap each time they hear a word that has the “ch” sound. Then ask students to brainstorm other words that start with “ch.” Write the words on the board or overhead projector.
Now its time for students to practice recognizing the “ch” sounds. Pass out old magazines and instruct the students to find pictures of objects that start with the digraph. Have them cut out 3 or 4 pictures.
Create a word wall with poster paper for the “ch” digraph. Let the students choose one of their pictures to place on the wall. One by one allow the students to come forward to describe their picture and name the object out loud. Attach the picture to the word wall and write the name of the object underneath.
As you introduce more digraphs you can add more pictures and sections to the word wall. Once students have collected many pictures of different digraphs, they can begin sorting or categorizing them by letter combination. For example, they can sort words that have the digraph “ch” and “sh” into two different groups.
Or they can use their collection of pictures to make a booklet for each digraph.
As an assessment give students a worksheet that contains several different words that start with “ch.” Be sure to include words that do not make the “ch” sound such as “Christmas” and “chrome.” Have them color each word that makes the “ch” sound.
Extension activities: As a class, create a poem that contains words with many digraphs. The teacher starts with the first line.The students can choose from a group of words to create the second line, the third line, and so on. As the students suggest the next lines the teacher writes them on the board.
For example, the teacher can start with, “There was once a chap named Billy.”
Students: “His favorite chow was chilli.”
Depending on the age of the students the poem may consist of only four lines or it may be longer.