Digraphs Vs. Blends: Tips For Teaching Students The Difference

Let’s talk about digraphs and blends! These can be pretty tricky for new readers. The difference between the two is subtle and could easily confuse them. So how do we teach them in a way that is effective and easy to remember for little learners?

Let’s start with the basics! Here are some common questions teachers have about digraphs and blends. 

1. “What is the difference between blends and digraphs?”

A BLEND is when each sound of two or more consonants can be heard as they are blended together. For example, /pl/ as in play. You say (and teach) /pl/ but the /p/ and /l/ can be heard as separate phonemes. Each letter within the blend is pronounced individually, but quickly, so they blend together.

A DIGRAPH is when two consonants together make a single sound. For example, if you tell someone to be quiet by saying “shhhhhh”, you say it as one sound. You don’t say /s/ /h/.

2. What are the most common blends and what order should I teach them?

BLENDS

The most common beginning consonant blends include: bl, br, cl, cr, dr, fr, tr, fl, gl, gr, pl, pr, sl, sm, sp and st.

Click to download a FREE Beginning Blends Poster

There is a great deal of variance as to which blends to teach first. Even many basal reading programs disagree. Yet, it is thought that the following is a good guideline of which to teach first: gr, pl, bl, st, br, sp, tr, cl, fl, sl, fr, sn, thr, cr, dr, sm. HOWEVER, this differs with the level of students you teach and the most important thing to remember is to teach intentionally!

There are also ending consonant blends in words such as fast.

digraphs vs blends pin image

Click to download a FREE poster for Ending Blends Poster

Some blends contain three consonants (clusters) such as str,spl, spr, shr, scr, squ, str. It is thought that these clusters along with nk and sk should be taught later rather than at the beginning.

3. What are the most common digraphs and what order should I teach them?

DIGRAPHS

We like to call the most common consonant digraphs the “h” brothers. The most common are sh, ch, th, and wh but there also is ph. The most common to teach first are the “Big 4”! Many reading programs introduce blends before the digraphs. 

The main thing to remember is you need to teach whatever your district says! This goes for blends (clusters) AND digraphs.

Click to download a FREE Digraph Poster. 

4. What is the correct spelling and pronunciation of DIGRAPH? 

It is spelled d-i- g-r-a-p-h and pronounced dī- graf. There is no “a” as in d-i-a-g-r-a-p-h. It is not pronounced dī-uh-graf.

In conclusion, learning digraphs and blends are important in learning to read. Go by your district, your campus, or your reading program to guide you with when and how to introduce them. We all have our opinions but we must go by the guidelines our employers give us.

Click HERE for a FREE digraph resource with activities and worksheets aimed at 1st-2nd graders and upper Kindergarten students.

If you like these digraph freebies, you’ll love the bundle! 

It’s a 329-page bundle for the digraphs ck, kn, ph, wr, sh, ch, wh, th with activities, center activities, and worksheets. The bundle is more than 20% off with a FREE assessment pack. The assessment pack is only available as part of the bundle deal. I don’t think you will need anything else for the entire year to teach digraphs. 

digraphs activity

It has everything, from small group work to games to centers. Games make great small group activities and give you the chance to do formative assessments as you monitor and guide the children during the game!

digraphs activity

Find the hidden word pages make great centers.  Before laminating the picture, cut off the bottom  recording sheet.  You can copy two recording sheets per 8.5×11 sheet of paper to put at the center with the laminated picture and a few magnifying glasses.  Kids LOVE using the magnifying glasses to play “word detectives.”

digraphs

This huge bundle of resources was created in collaboration with  Teacher’s Toolkit, The Fun Factory, and Practice Makes Perfect.  We put our over 80 years (gasp) of combined experience together to come up with activities that will engage, excite, and challenge your students.  

Do you have any tricks for teaching digraphs? Let me know in the comments!

digraphs

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