What is a Digraph (vowel)?

A vowel digraph refers to the distinctive perception of one sound when two vowels are placed together in one word. e.g., ow, oa, ie, ea. For learners, vowel digraphs tend to be more challenging than consonant digraphs. This is because they must understand the two different vowel letters beside one another, usually in the middle of a word, to express only one sound.

Some vowel digraphs appear with those that are doubled letters, such as the ee in feet and oo in moon. These vowel digraphs represent a sound that’s different from the sound generated by a single instance of that letter alone, such as e in bed and o in hot. Some vowel digraphs are combinations of two distinct vowel letters that together make a single sound, such as ea in peach, ai in rain, and oa in coat. Vowel digraphs that might make more than one sound depending on the word are usually more challenging for the students. For example, the oo in book is pronounced differently from the oo in moon. Additionally, there’re several vowel digraphs that originally represent diphthongs or two vowel sounds merged into one. For example, the vowel digraph oi as in coin or ou as in pout represent a combined vowel sound that’s actually one vowel sound moving into another. Other diphthongs that lots of teachers combine with vowel digraphs are the sounds that are represented by a vowel letter along with the letter y or w, which together form a vowel sound. Some examples include the digraph oy in the word toy, ou in the word cloud, and ow in the word cow.

Teachers can use several techniques to make learning vowel digraphs easier for the students. First, they should introduce the basic vowel digraphs, such as ai, and read out the words comprising ai like brain, gain, etc. Once students are able to remember a vowel digraph, teachers can move forward with blending that digraph in other words. Using pictorial representation is a useful method to help students gain a basic understanding of those words. There’re also many videos, board books, and poster of vowel digraphs available that teachers can use. There’re some books available that are specifically written to emphasize letter sounds, particularly when they’re digraphs. They might even highlight the digraphs and their sounds using different colors in the text to help kids easily notice them. These books can help to give students context when using words that comprise vowel digraphs in real sentences.