Lesson plan

Hungry for the Digraph Th

This quirky lesson will have young readers hungry to identify three and four letter words containing the digraph "th" in Eric Carle's classic The Hungry Caterpillar.
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Young learners are introduced to the digraph th with the lesson plan, Hungry for the Digraph Th. Digraphs are the combinations of two letters that make one sound. In this lesson children will listen to The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and identify the words that begin with the th sound such as the, that, and then. Ideal for kindergarteners and first graders, kids will learn to segment these words, breaking them down into their individual sounds. This will help strengthen their phonological awareness, an important skill to becoming strong readers.

Students will be able to identify and build common words beginning with the digraph "th".

(10 minutes)
  • Gather students in a common area and read The Hungry Caterpillar as you would normally read a book, pointing out the author and illustrator and making predictions.
  • After reading, inform students that there are many words within the story that begin with the consonant blend “th”.
  • Write the digraph “th” on the dry erase board or chart paper and say the sound /th/. Have the students repeat the sound.
  • Ask students if they can think of any words that begin with the /th/ sound. Call on three or four students.
(15 minutes)
  • Tell students you are going to reread the story, but this time you want them to listen for words that begin with /th/. If they hear a word, put a “thumbs up”.
  • As you read, when you come to a word with /th/, students should give you a thumbs up. If not, go back and reread the sentence and tell them to listen carefully.
  • As students begin recognizing the “th” words, list them on the board or chart paper. Some of the words will appear more than once; encourage the kids to put up their thumbs every time they hear the repeated words.
  • When done reading, read through the list together as a class, emphasizing the /th/ sound.
  • Isolate the common words, “the”, “that”, “then”, “that”, and “three”.
  • Segment these words on the board or chart paper according to the sounds heard in each word: th/e, th/a/t, th/e/n, th/a/t, th/r/ee.
(5 minutes)
  • Have students return to their desks and give them the Hungry for “th” Words worksheet.
  • Tell students they will cut out the body parts of the caterpillar and glue them to the caterpillar’s head on the separate sheet. They are to build three words from The Hungry Caterpillar using the body parts. There are five possible words, but they only need to build three words.
  • Model instructions by choosing one word to build and demonstrate by cutting and building one word.
(10 minutes)
  • Have students cut and build their own words.
  • Walk around the room to assess cutting skills and guide those that need help with cutting, gluing, and/or building the words.
  • If students are done early, they can work on the “th” graphic organizer, “th” Words, to list all the words in the story and/or come up with their own “th” words and/or complete the Word Scramble worksheet.


  • Have students work with a partner to read another story and find words with the /th/ digraph.
  • Have students list in their writing journals words that end with "th".
  • Have students look around the room for objects that begin with "th".


  • Those who struggle with fine motor skills can work with a partner. For those struggling building words, cut out the letters for each word, present them with the letters for one word at a time, and have them build one word before moving on to the next word. As they build each word, have them segment each sound. For example, have them point to each sound and say "/th/ /r/ /ee/".
  • Provide a copy of the book for student(s) to look for the words.
(5 minutes)
  • Observe students during the reading activity to assess listening skills.
  • Observe students during worksheet activities to make sure they remain on task and following directions.
  • Collect worksheets and provide feedback on each one accordingly.
  • Have students work with someone at home and look around their home for objects that come start with “th” or read a story at home and list “th” words. List the words to be shared in class the next day.
(5 minutes)
  • Have students share the words they built and the words they came up with on their own (if applicable).

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