This unit focuses on digraphs. See which digraphs it focuses on, find out who this unit is aimed at and what problems they might be facing. Consider teaching the sessions using two teaching strategies from Letters and Sounds.

Focus digraphs

Phase 3 focuses on these digraphs:

Graphemes Sample words
ch chip
sh shop
th thin/then
ng ring
ai rain
ee feet
igh night
oa boat
oo boot/look
ar farm
or for
ur hurt
ow cow
oi coin
ear dear
air fair
ure sure
er corner
ir girl

Who is this for?

The majority of children at Key Stage 2 will have a secure understanding of the alphabetic code and its application to reading and writing, and will be able to blend and segment consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words, for example c-a-t or m-a-n.

This unit is for the children who need to consolidate and extend their knowledge of digraphs, for example sh, igh, and secure their understanding of the concept that a phoneme can be represented by two or more letters.

There may also be children who are not as aware of more common combinations such as 'sh', 'ch', and 'th', and who have not encountered more digraphs in their reading like most Key Stage 2 children. These children will need this information to be made more explicit and require additional practice in segmenting and blending.

There may be children whose knowledge of vowel digraphs in particular is variable. You can use Unit 3 to establish their knowledge of different ways to represent each of the long vowel phonemes.

Common problems

This unit is designed to help children who:

  • are confident segmenting and blending three-phoneme words that contain single letters, but do not treat digraphs as a single unit and try to decode every single letter in a word when reading, for example n-i-g-h-t
  • represent a phoneme with only one letter, for example rig/ring, sop/shop
  • understand that a phoneme is represented by two or more letters but write them in the incorrect order, for example prak/park, brid/bird.

Children at this stage need aural, oral and visual activities to support them in grasping this concept.

Delivering the sessions

In a Year 3 or 4 class there may be:

  • a large group of children who need discrete daily 15-minute sessions to consolidate their understanding of digraphs and in applying this knowledge to blending and segmenting for reading or writing
  • individual children who understand the concept but who need support to learn specific digraphs – such children may only need a few focused sessions.

In Years 5 and 6 it is likely that a much smaller group of children or individual one-to-one input is needed. In all cases the sessions will need to be in addition to the class literacy session and include application of the learning to reading and writing.

Teaching strategies

Unit 3 makes use of two strategies used in Letters and Sounds: 'Phoneme frame' and 'Sound buttons'. These strategies visually demonstrate the two letters making one sound and supports segmenting for spelling and blending for reading. If children are not familiar with these strategies, you can revise them in Segmenting VC and CVC words and Blending VC and CVC words in Letters and Sounds.