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Digraph Lesson Plans: "When Two Letters Go Walking" Alternatives

written by: Keren Perles • edited by: Laurie Patsalides • updated: 2/14/2012

How can you teach digraphs to beginning readers? These lesson plans on digraphs will give you a step-by-step method that really works!

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    Instruction

    Many young students remember information the best when it is presented in the form of a story. These lesson plans for digraphs take advantage of this fact by teaching students about digraphs through "letter stories."

    As the teacher, you can give each of the vowels their own personalities. For example, the letter "e" might be very excited, and the letter "a" might be very angry. To teach students what "ea" says, you can write the digraph on the board and then tell a story about excited "e" and angry "a." For example, perhaps "a" chases "e" all around the classroom because she is so upset at him, and "e" treats it as a joke, laughing like this: "Hee ee ee!" all around the room. Let children act it out to engage more kinesthetic learners. Repeat this type of instruction for each vowel digraph you teach.

    This method of instruction is much more effective than the typical "when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking" rule, since that rule is disproved for so many words, such as "chief" and "cause." Using this method, you can eventually expand on the stories to include the exceptions. For example, if you have taught "ea" using the above story, you can expand the story to include the "e" coughing with exhaustion at the end, saying "eh, eh, eh." This would explain why sometimes "ea" makes the short "e" sound, as in "head."

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    Full Class Activity

    Together with the class, make a poem containing a list of words that use the digraph that you are teaching. Because many words with the digraph rhyme with each other, this is easier than creating a typical poem. For example, you could put the words "feel," "heel," and "wheel" at the end of the lines of the poem so that the poem rhymes. This is also a way to help students differentiate between two digraphs that make the same sound, such as "ea" and "ee." Include all of the "ee" words (which are less common) in a poem, and students will remember those words as "belonging to the 'ee' poem." This will help them learn how to spell easily misspelled words.

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    Group Practice

    To complete this activity, pass out lists of words containing two or several digraphs to each group of students. Then challenge each group to make a note-cards containing pictures of some of the words. For example, one note-card might have the picture of a sheep, while another might have a picture of a pie. Groups should then swap piles and sort the note-cards into two or several piles, based on the digraph that spells the picture. For example, the picture of the sheep and the bee would be in one pile, while the pie and the die would be in another pile.

    This phonics activity gives artistic students the chance to shine, while helping all of the students practice decoding and sorting skills.

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    Assessment

    Give students short stories that contain simple words with digraphs in them. Even three short sentences, such as "The bee flies to a daisy" can be used as assessment to make sure that students know how to sound out digraphs. This type of assessment will ensure that your lesson plans on digraphs have been successful in teaching this phonics skill.

Teaching Phonics Skills to Children

Teaching phonics skills to children can be fun, but challenging. This series includes lesson plans and activities you can use in the classroom.
  1. Digraph Lesson Plans: "When Two Letters Go Walking" Alternatives
  2. Teaching Diphthongs: Activities & Ideas