The Fish say “Shhh”

Beginning Reading Design
By: Lauren Beno


Just as students need to learn how to recognize each vowel sound, they also need to learn the concepts of vowel and consonant digraphs to become fluent readers. Children who are beginner readers need to understand that two letters joined together can represent one sound. This is known as a digraph. The digraph that we will be focusing on in this lesson contain the letters “s” and “h” which together make a /sh/ sound. This lesson will help students identify the /sh/ sound in words. The students will learn to recognize the /sh/ sound in spoken words through the use of meaningful representations such as the mouth moves, hand gestures, and tongue twisters. With these exercises, I hope that the students will be confident and expressive when reading and decoding words containing this sound.


1. Pencils and Primary Paper
2. Crayons
3. Lower case letters for each student (a, b, c, e, f, h, i, l, l, o, p, r, s, t, u, w) in a zip-lock bag
4. Letter box squares for each student
5. Book (One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish Blue, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss) enough copies for each pair of students.
6. Marker board with markers
7. Tongue Twister  copies for students.
8. Sh worksheet with pictures; however, it must include pictures that include
    the sh digraph and others that do not. Ex: ship, bag, fan, shell, sheep,
    fish, shoes, and cap for the matching game.


1.  Students need to understand that every letter has its own mouth move and makes a particular sound. Explain to students that, “Today we are going to talk about a special phoneme.  We already know the sounds s and h make when they are by themselves, but today we are going to find out the sound that they make when they are together.  Whenever s and h are together, they make the special sound /sh/, like in shark and fish. The /sh/ sound can be tricky but with some practice you will be able to spot all kinds of words that make the /sh/ sound.”

            2.  Have you ever heard a mother say /sh/ because a baby was sleeping? That’s the mouth move we make when we say these words. Now I want you to put your finger to your lip and say sh. What do you feel?  You feel air. We say /sh/ when we want someone to be quiet because they are too loud.

 3.  Let’s begin by saying a tongue twister: “Shelly shops for fish food, shells, and ships.”  (This will be displayed on chart paper in the front of the class). Who can tell me what sound they heard the most? They will say /sh/. “Great! Now class I want everyone to say the tongue twister with me three times. Now let’s say it again, but this time I want you to drag out the /sh/ in the words while making the hand gesture. Shhhhelly shhhhops for fishhhhhh food, shhhhhells, and shhhhhips. Awesome!

 4. Now we are going to use individual letters and Elkonin boxes to spell words with the /sh/ digraph. When we spell words using our letterboxes we need to remember that only one sound can go into each box. “Who can tell me how many boxes I need for the word she?” Two that is right! “Who can tell me the two sounds?” They will say /sh/ and /E/. 

5.  Lets say that you want to spell the word “shop”. Well it has three sounds which were /sh/, /o/, and /p/ (Model this for students on the marker board). In the first box we will put the /sh/ sound which would be the letters s and h. In the second box we will put the /o/ sound which would be the letter “o”. In the third box we will put the /p/ sound which would be the letter p”.  Great job class! Now I am going to say several words with the /sh/ digraph in them and I want you to try to spell them using your letters and letterboxes.

            6. The students will spell words using individual letters and letterboxes.  “Everyone take your bag of letters and your letter boxes and lay them flat on your desk. I want you to turn over your letters so that you can read each letter.” The following are a list of words that the teacher will call out to the students:

3 phonemes: shell, fish, cash, shop, wish, bash

4 phonemes: brush, flush, trash

5 phonemes: splash

Letters needed:     a, b, c, e, f, h, i, l, l, o, p, r, s, t, u, w 

7. I want you to raise your hand if you know the answer to my riddle. Each answer has the “shdigraph and makes the /sh/ sound.

1.      I am thinking of animal that lives in the sea.
     Answer: Fish
     I am thinking of something a genie can grant.

     Answer: Wish
    I am thinking of something you can find at the beach in the sand.
     Answer: Shell
    I am thinking of something you wear on your feet.
     Answer: Shoe

            8. Pass out copies of the book One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish to each pair of students as well as a piece of primary paper and a pencil. "Do yall like fish? well this book i s all about fish of every differerent color, shape, age, size, and talent. It's a fun book to read and it has our "sh" sound in mahy words. For our next activity, I am going to divide you into pairs.  Take turns reading a page from the book to each other.  After you finish reading the book, write down all the words that have sh and make the /sh/ sound when you come across these words.”

9. Each student will be a given a worksheet with various pictures on it that has the “sh” digraph and makes the /sh/ sound. . Some pictures will not have the digraph “sh” and won’t have the /sh/ sound. There will be a row of pictures and a row of words , the students will then have to match the words witht he pictures , this will allow me to see if they have an understanding  of the "sh" diagraph.



  1. Shhhhh the Baby is Sleeping by Lindsey Graves


  1. Shhhhh Here and There by Landon McKean


  1. Book:  Geisel, Theodor Seuss.  One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. 

Random House Publishers, 1960.

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