Charging Down the Track with CH

Emergent Literacy Lesson Design

By: Courtney Leyde

Rationale: This lesson in designed to allow children to easily learn the relationship between the grapheme ch and the phoneme /ch/. The digraph ch is common in words and learning that two letters make this sound is crucial to building up students’ vocabulary. The students will practice making the /ch/ sound while using their arms to “chug” like a choo-choo train and will practice finding the /ch/ sound in words by listening and observing mouth movements.



·         Large picture of train

·         Poster of the grapheme (CH and ch)

·         Tongue Tickler chart

·         Book: Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo by Kevin Lewis, illustrated by Daniel Kirk

·         Primary paper

·         Pencils

·         Note cards for phonetic cue reading (CH words: chair, chug, chew, chilly, beach, much)

·         Worksheets for practice/assessment



1. Say: “Learning to read is like learning to understand a secret code. To do this, we have to learn which letters make which sounds. Today we’re going to learn about ch. Ch is in a lot of words we use every day so we need to know what it looks like and what sound it makes. First of all, it’s important to realize that even though there are two letters, C and H, they go together to make one sound, /ch/. The /ch/ sound sounds like a train.”


2. Say: “Let’s move our arms like we’re train wheels chugging down a track /ch/ /ch/ /ch/.” Model with your arms bent and rotating, moving like wheels turning. Say “Notice how your mouth moves when you say /ch/? Your teeth are together, but your lips are apart. When we say /ch/, our tongues press against the roof of our mouths and we blow air out.” Model saying /ch/ a few more times as the students practice saying it and noticing how their mouths move.


3. Say: “Let me show you how to find the train sound /ch/ in words. I’ll try it with chase. I’m going to stretch out the word chase and listen for the /ch/ train sound. I’ll also try to feel if my teeth come together and my lips come apart. Cccchhhh-aaaaaa-sssss-e. I felt the /ch/ sound at the very beginning, when my teeth were together and I blew air out. I can feel the train sound in the word “chase”.


4. Say: “Let’s practice the /ch/ train sound with a funny tongue tickler. I’ll say it first and you’ll listen. ‘Charlie the choo-choo train chases the chocolate train.’ Now let’s say it together. Now we’re going to say it again and stretch out the /ch/ sound each time. ‘Ccchhharlie the ccchhhoo-ccchhhoo train ccchhhases the ccchhhocolate train.’ Great!”


5. Say: “Next, we will practice determining if a word has the ch sound. I’ll say a word and then call on a student to tell me if the word has the /ch/ sound in it and how you knew.” Questions to ask: “Do you hear /ch/ in much or few; chair or desk; lake or beach?”  Single words to ask: “Do you hear /ch/ in ranch, feed, choose, pen, brush, cash?” (Have the students get out primary paper and a pencil.)

6. Say: “To write the /ch/ sound, we use the letters ch. To write the letter c, we start just below the fence, curve back and around but stop before you get all the way back up to where you started. Make sure you leave a gap or you have the letter o! To write the letter h, we start at the rooftop, go straight down, and then make one hump. Now we have ch. Now, practice making ch’s.”


7. Say: “Let’s look at this book, Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo. It’s a story about a little toy freight train who works hard all day long. Can you guess what sound he makes?” Read the story, drawing out the /ch/ sound and making train gesture each time.”


8. Practice Phonetic Cue Reading with the class using note cards with the words written on them.

                    a. Model- Hold up chair; say “The ch at the beginning tells me it makes the train /ch/ sound when I say it so it says ‘chair’.”

                    b. chug; “Slug or chug?”

                    c. chew; “Chew or few?”

                    d. chilly; “Frilly or chilly?”

                    e: beach; “Bench or beach?”

                    f: much; “Much or mut?”


9. For assessment, distribute the following worksheet that has objects with the train /ch/ sound in them. CH Practice.pdf



Backer, Katie. Chugging with CH.

Lewis, Kevin. Chugga Chugga Choo Choo. New York, Hyperion Books, 1990, 32 pp.





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