A digraph is a combination of two letters that make a single sound like sh in shell or fish.
Digraph sounds are different to the individual sounds of the letters. They cannot be sounded out, which hinders reading fluency.
Digraphs can be made up of vowels or consonants and are taught as part of phonics programs in Kindergarten, Reception, Preps and First Grade.
They are not found just at the beginning of words, they can also be in the middle or make the final sound in words too.
Learning to recognise digraphs will help young readers to develop fluency in reading.
Difference Between Digraphs and Blends
Digraphs and blends can easily be confused because both digraphs and blends consist of two letters to make a sound.
But there is a BIG difference between a digraph and blend…
A digraph contains two consonants and only makes one sound such as sh, /sh/. (ch, wh, th, ck)
A blend contains two consonants but they each make their own sound, such as /s/ and /l/, /sl/ (st, fl, sk, gr, sw, ect.)
Put simply each sound can be heard in a blend, but you cannot hear both letters in a digraph. No matter the type of Phonics Program you use, e.g. Letters and Sounds, Dianna Rigg, Jolly Phonics, Soundwaves, Thrass, children should be shown that the same sound can be represented in a different way. For example, pay, aim gray, all have the /ai/ sound but they use a different digraph.
Here’s some examples of Consonant digraphs and vowel digraphs…
Consonant digraphs are typically found at the beginning (initial) and end of words (final)
- Initial “ch-” chair, cheese, child
- Final “-ch” lunch, pinch, rich
- Final “-ck” luck, sick, tuck
- Initial “kn-” knight, knife, knot
- Initial “ph-” phone, phonics, phrase
- Initial “sh-” shape, ship, shoe
- Final “-sh” brush, dish, flash
- Final “-ss” bliss, chess, mess
- Initial “th-” think, three, thumb
- Final “-th” bath, earth. with
- Initial “wh-” whale, what, why
- Initial “wr-” wreck, wrist, writing
Vowel digraphs are typically found in the middle of words. (medial) They are made by two letters with at least one being a vowel.
- “ai” gain, main, stain
- “ay” day, play, stay
- “ea” beach, read, speak
- “ee” feet, peek, sheet
- “ie” brief, chief, thief
- “ie” cried, pie, tied
- “oa” boat, goat, road
- “oe” aloe, toe, woe
- “oe” canoe, horseshoe, snowshoe
- “oo” book, cook, shook
- “oo” zoo, boom, noon
- “ue” argue, blue, rescue
- “ui” cruise, fruit, recruit
We have organised the digraph activities into initial and final digraph sounds, but feel free to mix things up according to your school plans!