Digraph Word Sorts for Teaching Reading and Writing

Definition of a Digraph

ee and ea sort

Children like to learn through games. Use digraph word sorts to pique their interest and help them learn these different sound patterns.

Before children can use digraph word sorts, they need to understand what digraphs are. A digraph is defined as two letters that make one unique sound together. Consonant digraphs include "ch," "wh," "sh," "th," "ph," "gh," etc. Vowel digraphs include combinations such as "ai," "ea," "ie," "ou," and more.

Introduce digraphs to children in isolation. Teach them the individual sound, then provide a list of words that have the digraph in them. Emphasize the digraphs by presenting them in a different color, such as red, with the rest of the word in black.

Provide children with word lists or small bound booklets that isolate a particular digraph, to help them become familiar with each sound. Make envelopes with pictures and word cards, based on the digraph. You can easily create your own by hand or through word processing documents. Find picture and word cards online for free at Carl's Corner, or through your ABC Teach membership.

Categorization Ideas for Digraph Word Sorts

Practice sorting two different digraphs that have different sounds as an exercise in further phonic recognition. Children can sort pictures based on the vowel or consonant digraph that they hear in the name of the picture. For example, sort pictures that have the /ch/ sound from ones that have the /sh/ sound. To increase the difficulty of the activity, have three different sounds.

Sort pictures by beginning and ending digraphs. For example, sort pictures that begin with the /ch/ sound in one column, and those that end with the /ch/ sound in a second column.

A more complicated type of sort would be sorting pictures based on how their name is spelled. Often, multiple digraphs are pronounced in the same or similar fashion. A long e sound can be made by "ea," "ee," or "ie." Children could sort the pictures under these headings.

The same sorting ideas can be used when using word cards, instead. This makes the children focus on the actual spellings of the words, instead of solely on the sounds.

Methods for Digraph Word Sorts

Activities for sorting digraphs can be quite versatile, and tailored to fit the needs of the particular lesson and the needs of the individual students.

  • Envelope sort. Take two of the introductory envelopes. Mix up the picture and/or word cards, and have the child sort them back into the proper envelope. Increase the difficulty by having the child sort three or more sounds, and by using similar sounds
  • Sorting mats. Make your own mats for word sorts. They can be as simple as a laminated piece of cardboard with column lines drawn on them. Choose to control the sorts by permanently placing the digraphs at the top of each column. Or, make them more flexible by providing a set of header cards to use with the sorting cards. The child has to sort the words or pictures accordingly.
  • Child-created sorts. Let the child create his own sort. He can make word cards of his own to sort. Or, he can spell his own words under the columns, using a movable alphabet.
  • Digraph games. Turn digraph sorts into a small group activity by creating Go Fish and Bingo games. The children would call out specific digraphs, instead of specific words, to play.

Resources for Digraph Word Sorts

Create your own digraph word sorts by using index cards, or free printables from favorite websites. Also, check out favorite teacher books, such as the Words Their Way series and the Full Color Word Sorts series. Have a variety on hand, to keep children entertained, and to meet the needs of individual students.

Photo Credit: Andrea Coventry, Materials by Carl's Corner