What's A Digraph?

A digraph is defined by Answers.com as:

  1. "A pair of letters representing a single speech sound, such as the ph in pheasant or the ea in beat."
  2. "A single character consisting of two letters run together and representing a single sound, such as Old English æ."
Digraphs are often difficult for early readers to decipher because they can not be sounded out letter-by-letter.  It is important to teach digraphs as a specific focused lesson.  I do teach my students the word digraph as I focus on a particular digraph during a week's lesson.  I explain it as two letters who are best friends.  These best friends make one sound when they are next to each other in a word.

Examples of the most common digraphs are:
  • Ch-makes the sound /ch/ NOT /chuh/
  • Sh-makes the sound /sh/ NOT /shuh/
  • Th-makes the sound /th/ NOT /thuh/
  • Wh-makes the sound /wh/ NOT /whuh/
  • There are also many vowel digraphs, but these are more often taught as vowel pairs in school in which the following rule usually applies: 
    • "the first one does the talking, and the second does the walking."  For example, the ea in beat would say /E/ since the letter e did the "talking" and the a "walked away."
It is important to understand the difference between a digraph and a blend.  A blend is defined by Answers.com as:
  • "Blends are different (than digraphs) because they have more than one letter but you can hear their sounds and are not one single sound. It is contrary to its name of 'blend'."