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5 Creative Ways to Teach Diphthongs

Phonics, Science of Reading

Written by: Mary Kate Bolinder

There are few phonics words that will elicit more giggles in the classroom than diphthongs. But what exactly is a diphthong, and why is it important for students to learn? Keep reading for resources and strategies to teach this essential phonics skill.

What are diphthongs?

Let’s dig into the word diphthong. Diphthong is Greek in origin and means “having two sounds.” The prefix “di” means double. Dipthongs can be two different vowels or a vowel-consonant team. Modern English spelling patterns have been influenced by many languages over time. To learn more about the origin of common spelling patterns, check out this informative post.

Examples of diphthongs:

  • au as in author
  • aw as in hawk
  • ew as in flew
  • oi as in oil
  • ou as in soup
  • ow as in cow
  • ow as in snow
  • oy as in boy
  • ue as is true

Find a diphthongs chart here.

Diphthongs are not to be confused with vowel teams, in which two vowels work together to make one sound (usually the long or short vowel sound of one of the vowels).

anchor chart to teach the difference between vowel teams and diphthongs

If your students need a bit of review with vowel teams, check out this post on introducing vowel teams with our sound wall.

An easy way for students to remember the meaning of the word diphthong is to think of it like this: diphthong is an unusual word. A diphthong is a group of letters that makes an unusual sound that is not like either of the letters on their own. The letters can only make this sound when they work together!

5 Ways to use Decodable Passages to Teach Diphthongs

A way to work on phonics skills plus comprehension, is through the use of decodable passages. Being Science of Reading aligned, these passages are the perfect supplement to your curriculum. Here are five engaging and purposeful ways to use these passages to deepen your students’ diphthong skills.

1-Word Lists

This idea comes from a teacher in our Lucky 2nd Grade Teacher Facebook group. After introducing a new diphthong with sound wall cards and/or phonics posters, Working as a group, have students identify the letters and the sound they make together. Then, before handing out the passage itself, hand out only the passage word list. Students will work together in pairs to practice reading the diphthong word list to each other before the timer runs out.

2-Phonics Focused Close Reading

Our Decodable Phonics Passages are perfect for small-group instruction and reinforcement with diphthongs. Students will read the passage, identify words that match the diphthong or spelling pattern, write sound words, and answer comprehension questions. This activity can also be done independently.

Book Nook decodable phonics passage to practice reading diphthong spelling patterns in text
All Access member? Download FREE here.

3-Write A Diphthong Story

After the close read, have students write their own story using the same diphthongs from the passage. (Or, have them create their own diphthongs list.) This project practices phonics, grammar and writing skills.

4-Differentiated Word Study

Use the words from the two passage levels as weekly spelling or phonics quiz words. Assign the 1st or 2nd grade diphthongs to students/reading groups to best meet their needs. This really cements the sound of the week, plus they have seen the words used in sentences (from the passage) and will understand their meanings.

5-Create a Quiz

Once students have read their decodable passage a few times, have them write a 3-5 question comprehension quiz on the passage. They can then have a peer complete the quiz. This causes deeper comprehension thinking!

1st & 2nd Grade Diphthong Decodable Passages

Other Diphthong Resources

popular lucky little learners resources for teaching diphthongs
All Access member? Download Diphthongs resources FREE here.

As students get a little more comfortable with their diphthong practice, try these resources in your classroom to continue learning:

The Diphthong Song

For some extra fun, check out this video to get up and moving. You will have this song stuck in your head all day!

Phonics Day By Day: After students have been introduced to a new diphthong, have them demonstrate their understanding using our daily phonics spiral review. These worksheets provide support and reinforcement of phonics skills through quick and engaging activities. You can find Phonics Day by Day for Diphthongs here.

phonics day by day sheet to practice diphthongs in a quick way every day
All Access member? Download FREE here.

Phonics Centers for Diphthongs

Popsicle Puzzles: Students will chill out as they identify the correct diphthong for each popsicle picture.

Build a Train: Choo choo! Diphthong train coming through! Students will choose a diphthong “engine,” and pair it with the matching picture cards to create a train.

Shopping for Toys: a hands-on phonics center where students pick a sentence, find the word that contains a diphthongs OI and OY then find puzzle pieces that match.

For more diphthong phonics centers, check out our phonics center bundle here.

Diphthong Word Ladders

phonics ladders to practice a variety of diphthongs
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These word ladders are so versatile. They can be used for while group, small group, one-on-one, independent work, or group centers. See what all the buzz is about with these diphthong word ladders.

Sound Wall

a classroom sound wall can be a helpful tool for displaying spelling patterns and mouth positions
All Access member? Download FREE here.

Anchor student learning by adding a classsroom sound wall that covers not only diphthongs, but all phonics sounds.

Phonics Toothy

Toothy is a teacher and student favorite. Practice diphthongs with this well-loved review format, and see who can fill Toothy’s mouth first! With printable and digital formats, Toothy is sure to bring a smile to your face!

We hope these diphthong resources are helpful to you! Which activity will you try first?

How to Teach other 2nd Grade Phonics Concepts

Ready to teach another phonics skill? We’ve got a post for that! Browse through our rich selection of previously written phonics posts.

1 Comment

  1. Kaelee

    I’ve never heard that ow as in flow is a dipthong! I’ve been told that it’s a sound of long o. The mouth doesn’t move to two positions either like a traditional dipthong. Otherwise I found this helpful!! Thank you!


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