Beginning Reading Design: 
CH-ch-ch-ch, CH-ch-ch-ch, CHOO-CHOO!

By:  Mari Manning

Rationale:  In order for children to learn to read and spell words, they not only need to understand that a phoneme are usually represented by 1 letter, but they need to understand that a phoneme can be represented by more than one letter, often a 2-letter combination called a digraph.  Each letter in a combination can represent a different phoneme when they are isolated (not seen together), but when the two letters are put together they represent one phoneme.  This lesson will help children recognize the consonant digraph ch=/ch/.  A consonant digraph is a two-letter combination that makes only one sound.  The correspondence ch=/ch/ is an easy and important digraph to introduce to children.  During this lesson, they will be able to recognize ch=/ch/ in spoken words and written words.  They will learn to spell and read words that contain the correspondence.  After the lesson, the children will know that the letters c and h make the sound /ch/ when they are put together in words.



1.      Introduce the lesson by explaining that a phoneme can be represented by a combination of letters as well as just one letter.  "We have been talking about mouth moves that are represented by one letter, such as o=/o/.  Today, we are going to talk about what happens when a certain combination of letters are put together.  We already know what sounds c and h make when they are alone in a word, but we are going to find out the sound they make when they are put together.  Whenever c and h are combined, they make the sound /ch/, like in chocolate and church.  Whenever two letters are put together and produce one sound, it is called a digraph.  Today, we are going to talk about the digraph ch and the sound it produces."

2.      Ask students:  "Have you ever been outside near a train track and heard a train pass by?  It goes /CH-ch-ch-ch/ /CH-ch-ch-ch/ Choo Choo!  That's the mouth move we will be looking for today in words that we hear, spell, and read.  Now, let's all pretend that we are on a big choo-choo train and make the sound /ch/ together and blow our train horn (class stands up, makes a pulling motion for the horn, and says /ch-ch-ch-ch/ together)."

3.      Let's all try a tongue twister (on chart).  "Charlie the choo-choo train chugged along to church."  Everyone say it three times together (class says it together).  Now, I'm going to read it again, only this time I want you to blow the horn on the choo-choo train each time you hear /ch/ (teacher reads sentence slowly while pointing to the words on the chart and class "blows" horn at each /ch/ by pulling a pretend string).  Very good!  Now, let's say it again, only this time let's stretch the /ch/ at the beginning of the words.  "Ch-ch-ch Charlie the ch-ch-ch choo-choo train ch-ch-ch chugged along to ch-ch-ch church." Excellent!  Now, we're going to read it one more time, but this time we are going to break the /ch/ off the word:  "/Ch/ arlie the /ch/ oo - /ch/ oo train /ch/ ugged along to /ch/ urch."  Very good!  Notice that /ch/ can also be at the end of words, like in church. 

4.      Letterbox Lesson:  "Now that we've learned to spot /ch/ in spoken words, we are going to learn to spell words that contain /ch/.  I want everyone to get out your letterboxes and fold them so that only three boxes are showing.  You will need the letters c, h, i, p, o, r, m, u, a, d, l, n, s, e, t, and k.  I am going to say a few words and I want you to separate the words into the different sounds that make them up.  For example, if I say chat, I am going to think /ch/ /a/ /t/ and place the letters in the right boxes (teacher demonstrates this on board with letterboxes and letters that stick to board).  Now remember that /ch/ is one sound made up by the letters c and h.  That is why we are going to begin with your c and h taped together so we can remember that it is only one sound although it has two letters.  Since it is one sound, it goes in one box.  Does everyone understand?  Great!  Once we get the hang of it, we will try some words with the c and h untapped to see if we remember that they go in the same box.  Let's get started.  I will say a word and I want you to spell it using the letters we have pulled out.  Remember, one sound for each box.  (Teacher says words and walks around to assist children if necessary.  3-phoneme words:  chip, chop, rich, much, and chad; 4-phoneme words:  lunch, chest, and munch; 5-phoneme word:  crunch.  After the 3-phoneme words, teacher asks children to untape their c and h to spell the 4- and 5- phoneme words).  Great job spelling!  You could even get the /ch/ when the letters were untapped!  Now, I am going to spell the words on the board for you and I want you to read them aloud to me.  For example, if I put the word ch-a-t on the board, I'm going to sound out each separate phoneme and get chat."  (Teacher continues like this using the words the children spelled in the lesson).

5.      "Okay, we are going to play a little game to practice the /ch/ sound we've been talking about.  It's called Digraph Relay.  I am going to divide the class into two equal groups, Team1 and Team 2.  (Divide class and write teams on board).  Now, I want you to stand up in two straight lines in front of your team number on the board.  (Wait for children to do this).  Here is how we are going to play.  I am going to tell each team that they have to come up with a word that begins with /ch/, such as chest.  I will give the first player a piece of chalk.  When I say Go!, the first player runs up to the board and writes a word that fits the rule underneath his team number.  When he is finished, he runs back to his team and passes the chalk on to the second player.  If you cannot think of one, you may talk to your team members for help.  But everyone must think of one word.  When everyone on the team has had a chance to go, everyone must sit down.  The team that sits down first wins.  Spell the words the best you can; they do not necessarily have to be spelled correctly.  Just try your best.  Okay, Is everyone ready?  The first team that comes up with at least 5 correct words wins!  Okay, GO!!!"  Teacher can vary game by changing the rule to words that end with ch or having teams see who can come up with the most words.

6.      Have children pick a partner and partner read Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo by Kevin Lewis and discuss the story.  Have children remain in pairs and get out primary paper and pencil while you read the story a second time, asking each pair to listen for /ch/ words and write them down on paper when they hear them.  After the story, make a class list of the /ch/ words from the story on the board.  Children can use these words in a short story about a choo-choo train and illustrate their stories to be displayed in the hall.

7.      For assessment, pass out a picture page that contains several rows of pictures with and without /ch/.  Underneath each picture will be letterboxes similar to the ones the children used during the letterbox lesson.  There will be exactly the right amount of boxes for the corresponding pictures.  If the picture contains /ch/, the children must map out its spelling using the letterboxes under the picture, remembering that /ch/ is one sound and therefore goes in one box.  If the picture does not contain /ch/, the children must draw an X over it and move on to the next picture.  When the class is finished, you can go over it together and let the students check their work.


Hill, Tamara.  Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies!

 Lewis, Kevin.  Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo.  New York:  Scholastic.  1999.

 Linse, Caroline.  20 Fun-Filled Games that Build Early Reading Skills.  New York:

Scholastic.  2001.  57.

 Murray, Bruce A. and Theresa Lesniak.  "The Letterbox Lesson:  A Hands-On Approach

for Teaching Decoding."  The Reading Teacher.  Vol. 52, No. 6.  March, 1999.  664-650.

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