A quick guide explaining what digraphs are along with plenty of ideas and printable resources for teaching digraphs in the first years at school.

Teaching phonics you are introduced to terms you probably haven't heard before and as a parent trying to support your child at home, the whole thing can just be confusing. 

Phonograms, digraphs, graphemes, blends, morphemes, trigraphs, dipthongs...

What are digraphs? Aren't they just blends? How are blends different? In this post, we try to explain the what digraphs are and provide you with some teaching ideas and resources to help teach them to young children.
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What are Digraphs and How to Teach Them - find out what digraphs are and grab some ready to print resources for teaching consonant and vowel digraphs -activities for the classroom or homeschool. Teaching ideas for use included for each activity. Great for Daily 5 Word Work or literacy centres | you clever monkey


A digraph is two letters which work together to make a single sound like sh in shell or fish. A digraph can be made up of vowels or consonants. 

Most consonant digraphs are taught in Reception (first year at school) while the vowel consonants are taught more in Year 1.


A consonant blend is when two consonants are blended together but when you stretch out the word, each sound can still be heard. Blends might be the first sounds in a word or the last.
The most common blends are - bl, br, cl, cr, dr, fl, fr, gl, gr, pl, pr, sc, sl, sm, sp, st and tr but there are also some three letter blends like splat, spring and street.


Consonant digraphs are those speech sounds made by groups of two consonants to make a single sound. Examples of consonant digraphs are -

/ck/ as in sock
/ch/ as in beach
/ph/ as in phone
/sh/ as in shop
/th/ as in thick or then
/wh/ as in whale

Digraph Sorting Pack - perfect addition to your literacy centers when learning about digraphs | you clever monkey


Digraph EDITABLE Wall Posters | you clever monkey


Vowel digraphs are made by two letters with at least one being a vowel like /ea in leaf or /oy/ in boy.

Vowel digraphs such as /ae/, /ie/, /oe/, /ee/, /ue/ can also be split by a consonant like in /oe/ in love or /ie/ in bike.

When taught, depending on the phonics program used ( think Jolly Phonics, Letters and Sounds, Soundwaves, Thrass), it's beneficial to show children that the same sound can be represented different ways. A grapheme is a written symbol (ie letter) that represents a sound. This might be a single letter or could be 2, 3 or even 4 letters said together.
For example, the words pay, aim, grey all have the same /ai/ sound but they use a different digraph in each word. Using visuals can help young children start to make sense of this. There are some rules for some digraphs like /ay/ is only found at the end of English words but for other spelling, children will have to rely on their memories and practice. 

Digraph Clip Cards | you clever monkey
Children are offer more competent readers before they are spellers so I always ask my students to 'read' their work as a reader to see if they can pick up any mistakes themselves. Even if they can't fix it, it helps show me what sounds we still need to work on in class.
One classroom tool I love for teaching digraphs are these magnetic letters designed for the Jolly Phonics program as they include the digraphs as one piece providing a useful visual for this age group to help them see the letters working together to make one sound.

Teaching digraphs can be fun and most children are ready to learn them once they have looked at the more common alphabet letter sounds but like everything you introduce, reintroduce and then practice and practice the concept some more.

Playing games are a perfect way to practice and build vocabulary.

Connect Four Word Work Game - Digraphs CH PH SH TH WH + Trigraph TCH | you clever monkey

I'm a big fan of hands-on activities for this age group so whilst they need constant exposure to digraphs to be able to learn them, I try to use activities that are multi-sensory.

These clip cards are a good example. They help children become more familiar with sounds but build fine motor strength while building their vocabularies as well. 

Digraph Clip Cards - CH SH TH | you clever monkey

We use activities like these for some whole class work as well as our small groups for our Daily 5 literacy centres