Digraphs are letter pairs that together make a single sound. There are three “biggies” to watch for: “sh,” “ch,” and “th.” As experienced readers, adults take these combinations for granted, but for early readers, they can be pretty frustrating. After all, kids only just learned the sound of “s” and “h.” It can seem downright unfair to them that these letters make an entirely different sound when they're together!
Fortunately, you can help, and make it fun, too! Here's an activity that gives your child some good practice hunting for digraphs around the house, then turns them into a fun game the whole family can play.
What You Need:
- Digital camera and printer or stack of old magazines
- 2 sheets of paper
- 8–10 index cards
What You Do:
- Review the following consonant digraphs and their associated sounds with your child:
- sh: /sh/ as in shell
- ch: /ch/ as in chair
- th: /th/ unvoiced, as in thin
- th: /th/ voiced, as in then
- Look for objects around the house that begin or end with these digraph sounds. Have your child use the digital camera to take photographs of the items. If you don't have a digital camera, you can cut out photos of these objects from old magazines. Some suggestions: shaker, fish, brush, shell, shoe, sheets, polish, dish, shovel, chocolate chips, chopper, cherries, watch, chain, thumb, thimble, three, bath, mouth, teeth, cheese, chair, couch, etc.
- Assist your child in printing these pictures, cutting them out, and arranging them so that there are 9 pictures (three rows of three) on a piece of paper. Repeat on another piece of paper, but using a different set of pictures.
- Cut the index cards into fourths. Use a marker to write a digraph on each small card. You'll want at least 9 cards for each digraph. Mix the cards, stack them in a pile, and turn them face down.
- Now it's time to play! To begin, pick up the top card and read the featured digraph. Have your child look at the pictures on his Digraph Bingo board and try to find one that features the same digraph sound. If he finds a match (and there may be more than one to choose from), he covers that picture on his bingo board with the card. He may only cover one picture per turn. If he cannot find a match, he should put the card on the bottom of the pile, and it's the next players turn.
- Play continues until one of the players completely covers his playing board.
Liana Mahoney is a National Board Certified elementary teacher, currently teaching a first and second grade loop. She is also a certified Reading Specialist, with teaching experience as a former high school English teacher, and early grades Remedial Reading instructor.