Dipthong Activities

Hands on activities to teach the four dipthongs: th, sh, ch, wh

Dipthong Activities

Teach Motions for the 4 Consonant Dipthongs

There are a couple of advantages of teaching hand/mouth motions for these four common dipthongs:

a) Movement strengthens memory
b) It providers the teacher with a simple, quick, effective reminder in the months and years to come:


TH dipthong activity

Here's the dipthong students mispronounce the most. It is not uncommon for first graders and under to make the "f" sound instead of "th." They will say "fank you" instead of "thank you." Frequently you will hear "wif" instead of "with."

Give them the "thumbs up" signal with your own thumb in front of your lips and the tip of your tongue in the "th" position. Have them do the same. With exaggerated pronunciation demonstrate the difference in tongue placement between the words "thumb" and "fum." (Besides phonic instructions, this will be a simple reminder when you hear them say "wif" or "baf" or "fanksgiving."


SH dipthong activity

The finger in front of the lips is a natural motion for the "sh" sound.

You can introduce this dipthong with the word "shush." It's a fun word with our favorite dipthong at the beginning and the end.


CH dipthong activity

Make a "c" shape with your left hand and a chopping motion with your right hand.

Emphasize the tongue placement with "tr" and "ch" in comparison. (Train vs chain.)


WH dipthong activity

The WH is the hardest of the dipthongs, and has the hardest words.

Important Info

While we tend to pronounce WH words the same as words beginning with an initial W, but originally they were NOT pronounced the same. Emphasizing the original pronunciation can help with spelling.

How was WH pronounced?

In Ancient Greek, the H sound preceded certain vowels with a rough breathing symbol (which looked like a backwards apostrophe). The H was not a letter that was spelled out, but they began those words with an "H" sound that was breathed out like a wind. That carried over into our WH words. The word BEGINS with an H sound before AND after the W sound. So the word "when" would actually be pronounced "hwhen."

So??? Who cares about that little detail? Your student might. They aren't expected to change their modern pronunciation back to a medieval one, but if when learning to write "whale" and "wail" they actually take a moment and have a little fun saying hwhale, it will make spelling a little easier.

So, do you want to go over all that with your kindergarten and first graders? I think you can live out the rough breathing mark of the Ancient Greeks, but you might mention that your great-greandparents grandparents said the H first, it will help them with this tricky dipthong.


So let's make the WH motion. Put your three fingers up (like you are making a W or the 3 fingers of a three year old boasting their last birthday) in front of your mouth. While saying "hwhisper" draw out the H sound before the W, and move your three fingers away as if you were blowing on them.

This little 0.6 second motion will be a spelling aid in the months/years to come as they are working on those wonky words (what, when, where, who) etc.

Rush to the Chair

(You did notice we used two dipthongs in that name, right?

Day One: Put two, three or four of the dipthongs with the pictures above on a different chair. You say a word, the student(s) go to the correct chair.

Day Two: Only put the diphtong without the picture of the motion. Again announce a word with a dipthong, and the student(s) go to the correct chair.

Of course, you can mix it up by dropping marbles into cups with the dipthong card in front of it, or numerous other similar activities.


Finally, dictate spelling words with the dipthongs and the student encodes (ie, spells) the word on paper or elsewhere. (Chalkboard, sand, vinyl tablet, write and wipe surface, etc.)

List of Words With Dipthongs





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