Ch-ch-ch-ch, ch-ch-ch-ch... Choo! Choo!

Beginning Reading
Heather Lewis



In order for students to become skillful readers, they need to understand the alphabetic principle: the sequence of graphemes in each word is like a map instructing the reader which vocal gestures to make, or, more simply, the idea that graphemes represent phonemes in spoken words. One of the most challenging concepts of this principle is that the correspondences do not always follow a one-to-one ratio; sometimes two or more letter symbols work together to represent one vocal gesture, which is called a digraph. Digraphs appear all the time throughout all bodies of text, and it is crucial for students to recognize these digraphs immediately when reading so that they can read fluently and devote more effort to comprehension. With this lesson students will be able to recognize, read, and write words that contain the digraph correspondence ch = /ch/ through learning a meaningful and memorable representation, practicing spelling and reading words containing /ch/, and reading a book that emphasizes ch = /ch/.





1. Say: "I want each of you to be fantastic readers, and all great readers have to learn the special reading code! Would you like to know what the code is? I will tell you! In all the words that you see written everywhere, like in books, on signs, or in magazines, the letters in the words tell us how to move our mouth and what sound to make!"

2. Say: "Today we are going to learn one of the special sounds that is part of the code to help us read! (Hold up picture of train with ch.) Who can tell me the names of these letters? Right! They are the letters c and h. Let's practice writing the letters ch together. (Pass out primary paper and pencils.) First watch me. (Model on poster board with primary lines.) To write a little c, put your pencil a little below the fence, go up and touch the fence, then around and up. To write a little h, put your pencil on the rooftop, come down to the sidewalk, and hump over, touching the fence on your way. Now let's try it together! (Repeat directions while modeling.) Great! Now make four more ch's on your own."

3. Say: "Now that we know what ch looks like, let's find out what sound they tell us to say! When you see c and h together, they say /ch/. Can you say /ch/ with me? /Ch/! Great! Now I'm going to pretend to be something that helps us get from one place to another, and I want you to guess what I am pretending to be. Ready? Ch-ch-ch-ch, ch-ch-ch-ch, CHOO, CHOO! What am I? (Wait for response.) Right! I am a choo-choo train. Let's pretend to be choo choo trains together, except this time, let's move our arms like this (model the motion a train might make with your arms) while we say it! Ready? Ch-ch-ch-ch, ch-ch-ch-ch, CHOO, CHOO!"

4.Say: "Let's do a tongue twister with the /ch/ sound! Listen to me first. Charlie chomps on chicken while playing checkers. Now say it with me: Charlie chomps on chicken while playing checkers. Great! Let's say it once more, except this time, let's break off the /ch/ sound and make the choo-choo train motion with our arms when we hear the /ch/ sound: Ch-arlie ch-omps on ch-icken while playing ch-eckers."

5. Say: "Now I am going to show you how to use our new /ch/ sound to spell some words! (Use the colored felt train boxes [3] and the felt letters with felt board.) Let's see, I want to spell the word chip. Hmm... ch-i-p. I hear three sounds, so I am going to make my train have three train cars. Ch-ch-ch... /ch/! That's the train sound! I know I need c and h together to make /ch/! I am going to put those in the first train box because they only make one sound. Ch-i-i-i... /i/... that's an i! Chi-p-p-p... /p/... that's a p! Chip... c-h-i-p...chip! That is how you spell chip!"

6. Say: "Let's see if you can spell some words with the /ch/ sound! (Pass out letterboxes and the pre-selected letters.) Lay your letterboxes and letters out in front of you. (Wait until everyone is ready.) Alright, you need three letterboxes. Let's spell the word chat. Walk around the room to check on the students' progress. If a student spells a word incorrectly, pronounce the word that they have written, and remind them of the word you asked them to spell. If the child is still unable to get the word, provide them with the correct spelling. Wait to move on to the next word until everyone has the word spelled correctly on their letterboxes. Repeat the process with the following list of words: 3 phoneme words - chin, cat, rich; 4 phoneme words - chest, hand, lunch; and 5 phoneme word - crunch.

7.Say: "Since each of you did such a great job spelling the words, not it is my turn to do the hard work. I'm going to spell the words for you (using the felt board and felt letters but no train letterboxes), and you get to read them to me! First, let me show you how I would read this word (put the letters c, h, i, and p on the felt board to spell chip.) Hmmm...  I see c and h together and I know that when c and h are together they say /ch/! Ch-ch-ch-i-i-i... chi-p-p-p... chip! That word is chip! Now you try!" (Repeat the procedure with the list of words from the letterbox lesson.)

8.Say: "Now we are going to read a very special book. It is called Chips for the Chicks. In this story, Jess and Ben are eating some chips for lunch, when the bag of chips falls, and Lad the dog takes them! What do you think is going to happen to the chips and to Lad? Let's read the book and find out!" Pass out a copy of the book to each child and give them time to read the story. Walk around the room to monitor the student's while they are reading.

9. To assess the students, ask each student individually to read the following set of pseudowords: fich, chab, chom, guch, and chep (written individually on index cards).



Roddam, M. Ch, ch, chocolate. Retrieved March 10, 2007, from:

Murray, G. Chips for the chicks. (2006). Retrieved March 10, 2007, from:

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