How to Teach Digraphs
In a Right-Brain-Friendly Way
The Digraph Skit
We’ve got two options when it comes to teaching a child to recognize SH, CH, TH, and WH. We can either point to SH and say, “This says Shhhh,” OR we can engage the entire child-- mind, emotions, and body-- in an activity that will make learning digraphs unforgettable.
My rule of thumb in teaching is to never ever just tell a child what something means that is represented by symbols (letters and numbers) and expect him to just remember it. If I do that, the child is allowed to be almost completely passive and uninvolved, and the results will be minimal.
Following is an activity that ensures the child's engagement in every possible way. Let’s act out digraphs! You will need five children each time you act out the skit. In my classroom, we did it several times so that every child got to have a turn. Gather your first group of children and assign each a sound: S, C, T, W, and H. Have each child say the sound their letter normally makes: Miss S would say “S-s-s-s,” for example. You could have each child wear a piece of paper with their sound written on it with a magic marker as a visual reminder to the rest of the children who are watching the skit. The children will see the symbol as they hear the sounds, reinforcing sound and symbol connections.
Act out this story
“Once there was a little town with friendly people who lived in little houses on a long curving street lined with big trees. In the first house lived Miss S. Next door to her lived Miss C, and on the other side of Miss C was Miss T and finally Miss W.” Have the children with those sounds stand in a line as though inside their houses.
“One day a dashing man strolled into town. His name was Mr. H. He was very friendly and immediately set out to get acquainted with everyone. First he walked up to Miss S’s door and knocked. Miss S came to the door (child will come forward saying “S-s-s-s” while Mr. H says his breathy “hhhhh” sound) and Mr. H asked her to come out for a walk. As the two set out for their walk, the funniest thing happened! Instead of each saying their normal sounds, they lost their heads and started making a brand new sound together! ‘SH, SH, SH’ was what they said.”
“After their walk was over, Mr. H knocked on Miss C’s door. Miss C came to the door saying, “CK, ck, ck” but the minute she and Mr. H started for their walk, they lost their heads and started saying something brand new together! “CH, ch, ch” was what they said!” Continue the same way with Miss T and Miss W until each child has played his or her part.
Add body motions
Deepen the learning by adding the corresponding body motion. For SH, have the children put their index fingers to their lips as if they are shushing someone. For CH, have them form the C shape with their hands as though making the shape of a potato chip. For TH have them extend their arms straight out to make their bodies into a T. For WH, they will make the W shape with their arms out and bent at the elbows.
The results? A fun, active, memorable learning experience. For a free set of downloadable cards that show the digraphs embedded in images, click HERE.
Sarah K Major
Sarah's absolute belief in every child’s ability to learn, and her passion to empower the child by supporting his/her own unique giftedness have fueled her life’s work and provided a new pathway for children to succeed academically.