Gain Student Independence With ➔

What are Digraph Words and How to Teach Them to Your Students

Understanding digraph words is a crucial step in a child’s literacy journey. Teaching these foundational elements effectively can significantly enhance a student’s reading and writing skills. This blog post will explore what digraph words are and provide practical strategies for teaching them to your students.

What Are Digraph Words?

A digraph combines two letters that create a single sound or phoneme. These combinations can comprise two consonants or a combination of vowels (more commonly called vowel teams). Here are some common examples:

  • Consonant Digraphs:
  • ch (as in “chicken”)
  • sh (as in “shoe”)
  • th (as in “thumb” or “this”)
  • wh (as in “whale”)
  • ph (as in “phone”)

These combinations are essential because they form sounds that are not always predictable from the individual letters, which can confuse young learners. Recognizing and understanding digraphs helps students decode words more accurately and improve their reading fluency.

Strategies for Teaching Digraph Words

Teaching digraphs can be engaging and effective when using the right methods. Here are some strategies to help your students master digraph words:

Introduce Digraph Words with Visuals and Sounds
Begin by introducing each digraph with visual aids and corresponding sounds. Show pictures of objects with the digraph sound and say the word aloud. For instance, display a picture of a “ship” and emphasize the “sh” sound. These cards can be found in my Digraphs and Blends Sorting Worksheet resource.

digraph words - sorting cards

Use Multi-Sensory Techniques
Multi-sensory approaches, such as sandpaper letters, playdough, or finger tracing, can help reinforce learning. Have students trace the letters while saying the sound, engaging their tactile and auditory senses. These digraph task cards incorporate digraph learning with fine motor skills.

digraph words task cards

Incorporate Engaging Activities
Use games and activities to make learning digraphs fun. Activities like digraph bingo, matching games, or sorting games where students categorize words based on their digraph sounds can be very effective. Boom Cards are one of my favorite ways to engage students! This resource comes from my March Phonics and Math Centers Boom Card Bundle but can also be purchased separately on the Boom Card website.

digraph words boom cards March

Create Word Lists and Charts
Develop word lists or anchor charts for each digraph. As you come across new digraph words in reading materials, add them to the list. This helps students visualize the digraph in different contexts and reinforces their learning.

Practice with Decodable Texts
Provide students with decodable books and texts that focus on specific digraphs. These texts are designed to reinforce the sounds and patterns they are learning, helping them apply their knowledge in context. You can even practice them with the cross-curricular resource – digraph word problems!

digraph words word problems

Utilize Phonics Songs and Rhymes
Songs and rhymes that emphasize digraph sounds can be a powerful tool for memory retention. Find or create catchy tunes with digraph words and sing them regularly with your students.

Engage in Word Building Activities
Use magnetic letters or letter tiles to build words that contain digraphs. This hands-on activity helps students understand how digraphs fit into words and strengthens their spelling skills.

Incorporate Technology
Educational apps and online games focused on phonics can be an excellent supplement to traditional teaching methods. Many apps are designed to reinforce digraph sounds through interactive and engaging activities. The Boom Card deck below is found in my End of the Year Assessment Bundle. Digraphs words are important phonics skills for students to learn before they enter first grade.

digraph words boom assessment

Conduct Regular Assessments
Regularly assess your students’ understanding of digraphs through informal checks, quizzes, or reading exercises. This helps you identify areas where they may need more practice and allows you to tailor your instruction accordingly. These sorting worksheets are the perfect way to assess your students’ digraph knowledge.

digraph words sorting worksheets

Model and Encourage Reading Aloud
Read aloud to your students and encourage them to do the same. Point out digraphs as you encounter them in stories and discuss their sounds. This practice helps reinforce their learning and builds their confidence.

Teaching digraph words is an essential component of early literacy instruction. By using a variety of engaging and multi-sensory strategies, you can help your students master these important phonetic elements. Whether through visual aids, interactive activities, or technology, making the learning process fun and effective will set your students on the path to reading success. With consistent practice and reinforcement, your students will become confident readers, ready to tackle more complex words and texts.

If you are looking for more ways to teach phonics skills explicitly I have some resources below:

Share it:

You might also like...

​.custom-link { cursor: pointer !important; }