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How to Teach Trigraphs: Strategies and Resources for Effective Phonics Instruction

Updated: Jul 7, 2023

Unveiling effective strategies for teaching trigraphs in phonics. Explore practical activities, comprehensive trigraph lists, and our targeted Trigraph and End Trigraph Phonics Passages. Gain insights on supporting students who struggle with reading and spelling trigraphs for improved literacy.

Support your students with a meaningful approach.

If you're an educator, you know the pivotal role phonics plays in teaching children to read and write. One aspect of phonics that often poses a challenge is the concept of trigraphs. Today, we will share some effective strategies for teaching trigraphs and introduce invaluable resources to aid you in this task.

Last year, I was assisting a student who had considerable difficulties with reading. One of the major hurdles he encountered was when he had to read words with multiple continuous letters, specifically when he couldn't partition the word into manageable sections. He was particularly perplexed by trigraphs, particularly those beginning with consonants, such as 'str', 'scr', 'spr'.

To help him overcome this, we dove into what trigraphs are, explaining that when these three letters are grouped together, they create a single sound. A trigraph is a set of three letters that together make one sound. We tackled the initial trigraphs first, and then moved on to the end trigraphs.

What are trigraphs?

Trigraphs are groups of three letters that come together to make a single sound. Common trigraphs include combinations like 'scr', 'spl', 'str' in words like 'scratch', 'splash', 'string' and end trigraphs like 'ear', 'air', 'ure' in words like 'hear', 'hair', 'cure'. These can often stump young readers, but with the right approach and resources, students can master these with ease.

What are the different types of trigraphs?

Understanding the different types of trigraphs can significantly enhance your phonics instruction. Trigraphs are categorized mainly into two groups - initial and end trigraphs. Initial trigraphs, such as 'scr' in "scratch", 'spl' in "splash", and 'str' in "string", appear at the beginning of words. These often represent consonant sounds. On the other hand, end trigraphs, like 'ear' in "hear", 'air' in "hair", and 'ure' in "cure", occur at the end of words, typically representing vowel sounds. Recognizing and differentiating these two types of trigraphs is essential for students as it aids them in decoding words more effectively and boosts their reading proficiency.

Here is a handy list for your reference:


A list of beginning trigraphs.


A list of end trigraphs

How do I teach trigraphs explicitly or for intervention?

Here are some key strategies and activities to assist you:

  1. Break Down Words: Begin by breaking down words into their component sounds. This helps students recognize and recall trigraph patterns.

  2. Repeat and Reinforce: Regular practice and repetition are critical. Incorporate daily exercises to help students get comfortable with different trigraphs.

  3. Use Visual Aids: Charts or flashcards can be a great way to visualize and remember trigraphs.

  4. Apply in Context: Teach using examples in sentences for practical application. This helps students understand how trigraphs function within the framework of language.

  5. Interactive Learning: Engage students with games and interactive activities involving trigraphs to make learning enjoyable.

  6. Reading Passages: Use reading passages specifically tailored for trigraphs. They provide students a context to apply their understanding, thus reinforcing their learning.

The Trigraph Phonics Passages features fun and engaging stories that use various common trigraphs. Perfect for students from the 1st to 4th grade, it also includes comprehension and phonics activity sheets, ensuring students grasp the concept effectively.

Example of the Trigraph Stories product from Sherbert Learning. Passages to teach trigraphs and phonics

Similarly, the End Trigraph Phonics Passages is designed to help students who struggle with end trigraphs. It offers quirky stories and follow-up activities for each end trigraph, creating an ideal platform for both learning and revision.

Mastering trigraphs can be a game-changer for literacy development. Using dedicated resources like our Trigraph Phonics Passages not only makes the process more manageable but also more enjoyable for your students.

As you prepare to teach trigraphs, remember that every student learns at their own pace. With patience, practice, and the right resources, you can make trigraphs less daunting for your students, paving the way for their academic success.


Trigraph Stories: Teaching resource for primary elementary teachers to teach phonics and trigraphs

End Trigraph Stories - passages and activities to support teaching trigraphs. Phonics and Reading program resource

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