Let’s have fun with digraphs

The word digraph refers to a pair of letters that make a single sound. Just as children learn the sounds made by consonants and vowels when they stand alone, children can also learn the single sound that two letters make when standing together. The easiest digraphs for children to hear and recognize are sh, ch, and th, so the first digraph worksheets I am adding to the website introduce these three consonant digraphs. Other consonant pairs that make one sound include kn, wh, ck, ng, nk, and mb. There are also digraphs that include vowels (such as er, es and ar, to name a few), but those are considered advanced digraphs.

Digraph worksheets

When introducing the first three digraph worksheets (those that feature the sh, ch and th digraphs), begin by pointing to every picture and saying its name aloud. For these worksheets, the name of the picture must be correct. For example, the chicken cannot be called a hen on the ch digraph page. As with other sound identification worksheets, say the word slowly and deliberately so that your child can clearly hear the sound in question, but avoid distorting the word by segmenting or separating the individual sounds. Next, ask your child to point to each picture and repeat the name. As your child is saying aloud each word, make sure he is clearly saying the digraph. If he has some difficulty, you may want to repeat the digraph sound in isolation (for example, just say aloud the sound made by the digraph sh) and then repeat the name of the picture so that he can listen to the correct sound as he completes the worksheet. Finally, if he hears the digraph sound in a picture, instruct him to draw a line from the digraph in the middle circle to the corresponding picture that contains the digraph.

When learning to identify the sh, ch and th digraphs, it is easiest for children to listen for these sounds when they start a word. With practice, though, they will also become adept at hearing these sounds in the ending position of words.

I find children have the greatest success learning digraphs when they are introduced to just one digraph at a time. This will allow your child to focus on that specific sound so that he can isolate it and identify it with ease. When he seems comfortable, move on to a new digraph worksheet.

Lastly, when your child is familiar with all three digraphs (sh, ch and th), you can introduce the remaining two beginning-level worksheets that will challenge your child to identify all three digraphs on a single worksheet.

Please keep in mind that hearing individual sounds in words can be challenging for young children and the ability to isolate and identify these specific sounds requires practice and growth. Often very young children are simply not ready to tackle this task and as they get older their “ear” becomes more attuned to sounds in words. In my experience, once children reach age four or five, they are typically capable of identifying at least the beginning-level digraphs, although each child certainly develops on his own schedule.

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