Teaching Blends, Digraphs, Trigraphs, and Diphthongs

Are you working on teaching tricky phonics skills like digraphs, blends, trigraphs, and diphthongs? If so you're in the right place! Today I'm sharing some of my favorite, low-prep activities that make teaching these skills fun and easy! 

Use these fun and exciting activities to teach blends, digraphs, trigraphs, and dipthongs in ways your students will love.

Introducing New Phonics Skills in the Primary Classroom 

If you teach in the primary grades, you likely already know how much time is spent each year on phonics lessons. This is a HUGE part of the curriculum in first grade when students are just getting their footing with the fundamentals of literacy.  After you've moved through the basics like letter sounds, vowels, and CVC words, it's time to level up a bit with some new skills. 

Teaching digraphs, blends, trigraphs, and diphthongs can be a tad overwhelming at first, but with the right activities, your students will catch on in no time. In my classroom, I'm a big fan of using fun introductions for each of these skills. A great place to start when first introducing new skills is through songs and videos. I love Jack Hartmann for all things kid's music. He's goofy, his songs are snappy, and the kids love him! 

YouTube is filled with a ton of his quirky songs that are great for introducing skills like diphthongs, digraphs, blends, and more! 

When first beginning working with a new skill, I like to pop a video like one of these up on the screen and encourage kiddos to listen and sing along. This helps to build some excitement about what we are doing and makes learning a new skill phonics skill seem less intimidating to my firsties. After our fun video, I jump into teaching either with my whole group or in small groups. 

Teaching Blends 

First up, we always start with blends. This is a great place to start among these tricky phonics concepts since blends use a group of consonants that can all be heard. This is a simple concept for my firsties who have mastered all of their letter sounds by this time.

When it comes to teaching blends, I like to use a sorting activity like this one that focuses on ending blends. In my classroom, we use this activity as a small-group game first and then I put it out as a center activity. This helps familiarize the students with how to play so that when it's offered as a center game they can jump right in. To play, the task cards are laid on a table or in a pocket chart with the picture side facing up. Students will choose a card, say the word and sort it into the correct category. These cards come in 2 versions, one with words and one without to adjust the level of difficulty. 

This sorting activity is perfect for centers and will help you when teaching blends, digraphs, trigraphs, and dipthongs.

I love that this activity offers a way to illustrate what ending blends look and sound like and also doubles as a great way to practice spotting them. 

More Practice Activities for Blends 

In addition to the sorting game, this resource also comes with a "Four in a Row" partner game activity to continue working with ending blends. To play, kiddos with use a paperclip on the spinner to reveal an ending sound. After they spin, they find a word on the grid that uses that sound. After each turn, they cover the word with a BINGO chip, and the first student to get 4 in a row wins! This is a great game for center time. 

This Four in a Row partner game will give your students fun practice while learning blends, digraphs, trigraphs, and dipthongs.

Our ending blend resource also comes with a variety of decodable worksheets to further reinforce the ending blends we're working on. I like to assign these as independent work, homework, and early finisher activities throughout the week. 

Focusing on Digraphs 

Digraphs are a combination of two letters representing one sound. For example, the letters /ph/ in the word "phone" makes one sound. Digraphs are a great skill to teach after your kiddos have blends down. 

In my classroom, I love to mix it up with digital activities like these digital Digraphs Activities. I pop the slides up on my Smart Board and run through a few of the slides together when teaching digraphs. 

Google Slides activities like this digraphs digital activity are great for independent practice during your blends, digraphs, trigraphs, and dipthongs lessons.

I love using Google Slides activities for whole-class instruction because they are interactive and easy for everyone to see at once. They are also great for small groups and center time too though since they come with read-aloud directions. These slides also come in a Boom Card version that's great for homework and technology centers!

Using Mystery Puzzles to Practice Digraphs

Once you've spent some time introducing digraphs, practice is where the magic truly happens. Over the years, I've used several different activities to target phonics skills practice. I truly believe the key to making these skills stick is variety. First-graders don't have the longest attention span, so switching things up and remembering to keep your lessons fresh and fun will be essential in maintaining engagement. 

Mystery puzzles like these are a great no prep, print-and-go activity you can use for independent practice as your students are learning blends, digraphs, trigraphs, and dipthongs.

One of my favorite activities for practicing digraphs are these Mystery Puzzle Worksheets. I use these fun, no-prep worksheets across a variety of skills in our learning, and they are super versatile. I love that they are a "print-and-go" activity that offers some hands-on learning. 

Students get a chance to cut out the pieces, solve the puzzles, glue them down, and finally color these worksheets. The multiple steps in the process help make these a super engaging way to snag their attention as we practice digraphs. I also love that they are self-correcting. Students can tell right away if they answered incorrectly! These worksheets are a fun and easy way to practice working with tricky digraphs in a fun way. 

Teaching Tricky Trigraphs 

Next up, trigraphs! Trigraphs are a set of three letters that represent a sound or combination of sounds. For example, the letters /spr/ at the beginning of "spring".  Like blends, students can hear each of the consonant sounds.  However, they can be tricky because there is no vowel sound in there.  If asked to identify the sounds they hear, students will often leave out one of the sounds.  That's why practicing trigraphs is so important.

A favorite for teaching trigraphs in our room is this sorting center activity. This is very similar to the activity I use to teach blends, so students are usually familiar with it and eager to jump in.  To play, students will each get a recording sheet. The task cards are laid on a table or in a pocket chart. Students will choose a card, say the word and sort it into the correct category. Students write their answers down on their sheets as we go. 

A sorting center activity like this can help you teach those tricky trigraphs in your blends, digraphs, trigraphs, and dipthongs unit.

These cards come in 2 versions, one with words and one without to adjust the level of difficulty. We use the ones with words first in small groups, then again in centers before moving on to the cards without words. 

Practicing Trigraphs  

After our introduction game, it's time to practice! Center time is made for active learning and practice. We use centers every day in my classroom to offer students an opportunity to work independently and in groups on the skills we've learned. The key to making centers functional is to choose activities that are simple enough for students to work on independently. 

Get in some extra trigraph practice in small groups with these no prep, fun worksheets your students will love completing during your blends, digraphs, trigraphs, and dipthongs unit.

Because of this, I'll often reuse our sorting game from the small group lesson for centers as the kiddos are getting familiar with these words. This resource also comes with additional practice worksheets to continue working on trigraphs in centers, during seat work time, or at home. 

Teaching Diphthongs in Small Groups

We can't forget about diphthongs, which are a combination of two adjacent vowel sounds. As an example, think about the sound the letters /oi/ makes in the word "point". These always seem to be the trickiest for my firsties, and for good reason, as they can be a tad harder to spot and say. Nonetheless, I use the same teaching approach for diphthongs as well. 

Use your small group and center activities more than once for targeted practice when teaching blends, digraphs, trigraphs, and dipthongs.

We start out with a fun introduction video like this one, then move on to a small group sorting game to put our new knowledge into action. The sorting game is always a student favorite and I love to start with that first. Kiddos will choose a card, say the word, and sort it into the correct category. Then, they write the words down on their recording sheets. 

Since diphthongs are a little trickier, I like to offer even more small-group learning with the word-building activities in this resource as well. We spend a lot of time building words and hearing each of those sounds.

Practice Diphthongs with Secret Code Pages 

After small group learning, we keep the ball rolling with practice pages during center time. There are lots of fun worksheets included with the sorting games, but I also like to use these Secret Code Pages as well.  My students love these worksheets, and I love how simple they are prep! Just print and go!

Secret code pages like these keep your kiddos excited about practicing blends, digraphs, trigraphs, and dipthongs, and don't require any extra prep from you!

To use these, kiddos will write the letter of the beginning sound for each picture in their code box. After students fill in all the letters, they can solve the code and color the picture accordingly. I love these worksheets for center time, independent desk work, early finishers, and homework. They're a great way to get lots of extra practice reading those tricky diphthongs!

Using Variety In Phonics Lessons

In my classroom, I'm a big believer in mixing things up to keep my lessons fun. Using a combination of fun songs and videos, small group teaching, no-prep printables, digital activities, games, and centers are key for helping kiddos master all those phonics lessons. I hope you found some inspiration for your own phonics lessons and maybe something new to try! 

If you're looking for even more fun phonics activities, be sure to check out my store for tons of fun ideas! 

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Teaching blends, digraphs, trigraphs, and dipthongs is not only going to be fun but also super easy for you this year with these engaging resources your students will love. Whether you are looking for printable center activities, games, digital practice, or even whole group activities you can find it all here. With so many no prep, printable options to choose from you are sure to find teaching blends, digraphs, trigraphs, and dipthongs easier than you could have imagined. These activities are also great to send home for targeted practice your students can complete with their families. And, they feel more like games than homework making these a win/win in any teacher book! #thechocolateteacher #blendsdigraphstrigraphsdipthongs #teachingblends #teachingdigraphs #teachingtrigraphs #teachingdipthongs

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