Teaching Vowel Digraphs with Poems for Elementary Students

Finding Poems

Finding poems with vowel diagraphs is easier than you may think. In addition to the many classic and contemporary poems to use to teach students lessons on digraphs, there are online resources for referencing or for scaffolding learning.

For instance, the BBC has a site, Words and Pictures, that gives poems for each digraph that are read online with online tests that students can take to assess their grasp of the concept being taught. Use this site to scaffold language arts class during computer time.

What Is a Digraph

What is a vowel digraph? A vowel digraph is two letters with a single vowel sound. The common vowel digraphs in American English are – EE, EA, OA, AY, AI, UE, EY, OO, OW, and IE.

Words such as deep, clean, boat, may, paint, true, key, moon, show and tied are examples of digraphs. It is important to understand that they differ from diphthongs, which have two vowels that create to sounds, such as deer and pain. These are easily confused because often the second vowel sound is soft or only appears with certain regional accents.

Ideas for Teaching

Poems that rhyme will help to reinforce the learning of the sounds of the vowel digraph. For instance, the children's classic Mother Goose Rhymes such as the Hey, Diddle, Diddle, or There Was a Crooked Man work well.

Here the poems have the digraphs underlined –

Hey! diddle, diddle,

The cat and the fiddle,

The cow jumped over the moon;

The little dog laughed

To see such sport,

And the dish ran away with the spoon.

There was a crooked man, and he went a crooked mile,

And found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile,

He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse,

And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

Note that the "oo" makes different sounds in the two poems.

Poems from around the world can be used for a digraph hunt. Find several poems for children from international authors. This not only fulfills the requirements to teach vowel digraphs, but also, international poetry. Here is a sample of a poem (Excerpt from Pablo Neruda's, A Lemon) for an international poetry word search.

Out of lemon flowers


on the moonlight, love's

lashed and insatiable


sodden with fragrance,

the lemon tree's yellow


the lemons

move down

from the tree's planetarium

Ask students to circle each word with a vowel digraph. Then, for extra fun, have them take those words and create their own poem.

Word Lists and Nonsense Poems

Introduce a vowel digraph at the beginning of the week with one or two words. Create an interactive word list board. (Click here for an brief list to begin your board.) Have students add words with the digraphs throughout the week. At the end of the week, ask them to create sentences using the words they found, putting them together to make a nonsense poem. For example – for the digraph "EE" there are the following words: feel, free, green, tree, seeds, Greek, wheel, three, feet. These words can create the following sentences: Three Greek trees grew from seeds. Freewheeling, the feet of a giant green toad landed on the trees. Feeling pretty sad, the green toad planted more seeds. This in turn can become this nonsense poem:

Three Greek trees

grew from seeds.

Freewheeling, the feet of a giant

green toad landed on the trees.

Feeling pretty sad,

the green toad planted

more seeds.

Nonsense poems are fun because they don't have to make sense. They, also, don't have to rhyme.

Word Poems

Another idea for scaffolding learning of digraph is to have students create name poems, also known as an acrostic. Students can take their favorite word from the vowel digraph word list to create the poem. Ask them to try to use other words from the list in their poem. For example – using the word "moon" –


Made of cheese, some say

Once a great mystery

Often seen full and clear

Near enough to touch, it seems

Final Thoughts

Using poems with vowel digraphs can be a fun way to teach phonics lessons. Children love rhyme, which reinforces the sounds of the words. Being silly by creating nonsense poems, also, stimulates learning without children even knowing. Poetry and phonics make great teaching partners.


  • 40 Wonderful Blend & Digraph Poems by Dana Haddad and Shelley Grant
  • www.bbc.co.uk/schools
  • Photo by author