It is very important, as Kindergarten teachers, that we prepare our students for first grade. In order to do that, we need to be aware of our first grade standards. One of the standards we should really prepare our students for is the Reading Foundational Skills Standard 1.3.a- where students should know the common sound-spelling correspondences for consonant digraphs. Now, this cited standard may not technically be a Kindergarten standard, but it is something we must introduce and help students understand because it really helps strengthen their reading and writing.
This is a whole group lesson that will be taught through direct instruction while students are seated on the carpet.
"Today, we are going to learn about something fancy! We are going to be learning about digraphs. I know that's a tough word, but listen to me say it slowly, "digraphs." (wait time)
"Let's say this together: Today, we are going to learn about digraphs."
(Students will join teacher in saying, "Today, we are going to learn about digraphs.")
"Yes! Good. Now, let me tell you what a digraph is.... A digraph is one sound that is made by more than one letter." (wait time) "Let me say that again. A digraph is one sound that is made by more than one letter. Can you say that with me, please?"
(Students will say, " A digraph is one sound that is made by more than one letter.")
"Yes! A digraph is ONE sound that is made by more than one letter. Please tell that to a partner."
(Students will share the definition with a partner.)
"Good job! Now that we know what a digraph is, I would like to show you some of them!"
At this point, I show my students this great, informative and fun video on digraphs! We watch the video one time and simply look and listen. After that, we watch the video once more and I have students, "sing along." I like to have the students watch the video twice because it helps instill the ideas in their heads, while also allowing them to make digraphs fun through singing!
"Alright, so some of the digraphs that we saw are
CH, /ch/, like in chicken (wait time)
SH, /sh/, like in sheep (wait time)
TH, /th/, like at the end of bath (wait time)
WH, /wh/, like in whale (wait time)
and PH, /ph/, like in phone (wait time)"
"Let's go over our new digraphs together!"
"CH... that says /ch/... can you say that, please?" (Students will repeat CH... that says /ch/.)
"SH... that says /sh/... can you say that, please?" (Students will repeat SH... that says /sh/.)
"TH... that says /th/... can you say that, please?" (Students will repeat TH... that says /th/.)
"WH... that says /wh/... can you say that, please?" (Students will repeat WH... that says /wh/.)
"PH... that says /ph/... can you say that, please?" (Students will repeat PH... that says /ph/.)
"Wow, great practice! Good job, everyone! Now, each day, we will be working with digraphs, so I want you to try to remember that a digraph is when more than one letter makes...... how many sounds?" (Students should say, "one sound.")
"Yes, we see a digraph when we see more than one letter that only makes one sound. We will be on the lookout for these digraphs in our learning each day; jeep your eyes and ears open!"
After we close the main lesson, I let students go back to their seats. I ask them to pick a topic and write a sentence.
The topics my students can choose from are: chickens, sheep, baths, whales or phones
I give my students about five minutes to write their sentences. Then, I ask them to trade their paper with someone else. I tell students to take a moment (about two minutes) to practice reading their partner's sentence.
"When you are confident, and you can read your partner's sentence out loud, please read it to yourself, slowly but fluently. As you do that, I want you to listen for either /ch/, /sh/, /th/, /wh/ or /ph/. When you find out where the digraph is in your partner's sentence, circle it!"
(I hang up my reference chart to remind students what we are looking for in this lesson, and to remind students what we are learning about throughout the week.)
After students do this, they return their papers back to their owners. The owner then checks to make sure their partner did indeed find the digraph.
Then, I encourage students to compare and contrast- did you use the same digraph?
I like to let students talk to each other so they can get a fresh perspective on digraphs! I also like to let them reach each other's work because it helps them practice reading for meaning. After this exercise, students are prepared to begin looking for digraphs in texts!
When we work on digraphs, I like to focus on one per day. Of course, it is beneficial to review all of the digraphs; however, I like to really spend time with just one, so we get more exposure and a deeper understanding of each!
*In the past, I have broken this lesson into different pieces over multiple days. I like to change this lesson around to fit my schedule, as well as my students' attention span! So, anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes can be spent on this lesson!
In order to practice daily, I like to begin the lesson by reading a book! There aren't too many books about digraphs, but I got this really cool set (with blends and digraphs) from Really Good Stuff that has helpful (and cute) little booklets! This set works perfectly for daily practice with digraphs!
Each day, I like to follow this lesson format (between 20-25 minutes- approx. times listed):
Access Prior Knowledge about digraphs in general. -3 minutes
Read the book connected to our specific digraph for the day. - 4 minutes
Make a reference chart (from student ideas) with words including that specific digraph. - 7 minutes
Have students participate in accountable talk and create sentences including our digraph. - 2 minutes
Have students choose a few sentences to write including our digraph. - 7 minutes
I like to format my daily digraph lessons in this manner because I can hit each step that the kids need in order to deeply understand the concept.
Accessing prior knowledge prepares students for the lesson.
Reading a book gives students the new information.
Making the reference chart involves the students and holds them responsible for learning.
Participating in accountable talk encourages real-life connections.
Writing is something I can use to assess understanding!
I can really assess this portion of the lesson in the following ways:
1- I listen to student ideas and responses when making the reference chart.
2- I listen to students' conversations when participating in accountable talk.
3- I take students' writing and check to see that it includes our specific digraph.
When we work on the reference chart, I can really probe students for extra words, variations of words that they provide or an idea on how to use their word in a sentence.
When I listen to students' conversations, I like to see who is really contributing to the conversation and who may be needing guidance from their peers.
When I check students' writing, I want to make sure that students, 1) used our specific digraph, and 2) used the digraph in a word where the sentence is formatted appropriately.
In the end, this simple 30 minute exercise (that can be broken into chunks over different days) really provides students with a great foundation for each digraph!
In the past, when I have broken up this lesson, I have formatted it this way:
Access Prior Knowledge about digraphs in general. - day 1
Read the book connected to our specific digraph for the day. - day 1
Make a reference chart (from student ideas) with words including that specific digraph. - day 2
Have students participate in accountable talk and create sentences including our digraph. - day 3
Have students choose a few sentences to write including our digraph. - day 3 or 4
As always, I listen to students' responses. Also, I like to take students' writing and check to make sure they did indeed use and find their digraph. If I am concerned, I will walk around and monitor and adjust the assignment for students- I want to make sure everyone has a chance at successfully learning about digraphs (if that means simply writing one word, that is okay).
In the end, I can really assess the learning from this lesson as time goes on. When we look for digraphs in books or in our Morning Message, I can see who is successfully remembering the ones we learned. Also, I like to check students' writing for proper use of digraphs as well.
This is only an initial exposure, but a lot of students actually master this skill pretty well at this point- it was just a final "a-ha moment" where students finally heard each piece needed to make the specific digraph sounds!
I also like to show my students this fun little video about digraphs; it shows the letter pairs ch, sh, th and wh and connects them to a word. *The only thing about this video is that I have to correct the sound production. SH does not say "shuh," it says, "sh" (just air comes out, no voice). I simply tell my students, "It is hard to hear these sounds on the video when you say them correctly, but we know how to say our sounds!"
Additionally, I like to have my students work with digraphs in centers. This is a great skill to have students practice because it reminds them of common sounds they will come across when reading and writing!