In kindergarten, students learn that the letters “ch” together sound like a “choo-choo train”. The technical term for two letters creating one sound is digraph. There are consonant digraphs and vowel digraphs. Although typically taught in primary grades (K-2), digraphs are an essential phonics concept for readers of all ages.
Consonant digraphs refer to a joint set of consonants that form one sound. Common consonant digraphs include “sh”, “ch”, and “th”. Some digraphs are found at both the beginning and the end of a word. Others are strictly initial consonant digraphs, like “kn”, or final consonant digraphs, like “-ck”. The concept of consonant digraphs is often introduced in kindergarten and later expanded upon in first and second grade.
Consonant Digraphs Examples
|Digraph||Initial or Final Digraph||Example Words|
|“ch-”||initial||choice, cheese, chick, chair, chain, child|
|“kn-”||initial||knight, knot, know, knife, knit, knock|
|“ph-”||initial||phone, photo, phonics, phrase, physician, pharmacy|
|“sh-”||initial||shoe, shout, shark, ship, sheep, shout|
|“th-”||initial||thumb, throat, thing, three, thin, throw|
|“wh-”||initial||whale, while, whole, what, when, where|
|“wr-”||initial||wreck, wrench, wreath, wrist, wrong, wring|
|“-ch”||final||which, rich, such, much, pinch, lunch|
|“-ck”||final||luck, tick, quick, tack, pluck, sick|
|“-sh”||final||wish, dish, flash, rush, push, brush|
|“-ss”||final||chess, dress, mess, miss, bliss, class|
|“-tch”||final||hatch, watch,fetch, glitch, witch, clutch|
VocabularySpellingCity provides consonant digraph word lists to use during the language arts block. Teachers can assign students interactive phonics games, like Which Initial Sound? and Which Final Sound?, to practice digraph sounds. In these games, students get to experience words in written, visual, and auditory form. This helps them make connections between sounds and letters, strengthening their phonological skills.
Vowel digraphs are two vowels that when placed together generate one sound. This includes double vowels like the long “oo” in “moon” or short “oo” in “foot”. Other vowel digraphs are formed by two different vowels like “ai” in “rain” or “oa” in “boat”. Usually in a vowel digraph, a long vowel sound is formed. As mentioned above, this rule is simply put as “when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking (although there are exceptions, such as “said” and “shoe”).
Vowel Digraphs Examples
|“ai”||pail, rain, stain, gain, frail, chain|
|“ay”||stay, play, away, hay, day, say|
|“ee”||feet, sheet, sheep, week, peek, meet|
|“ea”||speak, cheat, neat, weak, read, beach|
|“ea”||bread, head, thread, spread, lead, tread|
|“ie”||field, shield, chief, thief, piece, movie|
|“ie”||pie, tie, lie, cried, tried, flies|
|“oa”||boat, toad, road, loan, goal, goat|
|“oe”||toe, poet, foe, oboe, woe, goes|
|“ue”||glue, rescue, clue, argue, fuel, blue|
|“ui”||fruit, juice, suit, cruise, bruise, recruit|
|“oo”||book, foot, look, took, shook, cookie|
VocabularySpellingCity offers vowel digraph word lists to supplement phonics instruction. Word lists can be paired with over 40 learning games and activities for independent word study. Sound It Out! displays vowel digraphs as one phoneme (sound), which allows students to practice the relationship between phonemes (sounds) and graphemes (letters).