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Split Digraphs: Year 1 Activities

split digraph
Unsure of what a split digraph is? Or how to teach it? You’ve come to the right place! Keep reading for more information and activities for your classroom.

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Split Digraphs

The way students learn phonics is crucial for their development. Students who work on phonics are more likely to have a better understanding of reading, writing, and speaking English.


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What are split digraphs?

To be able to read properly, students are now taught using phonics. Phonics are the sounds that make up a word. By learning the sounds of letters and putting them together – students can grasp what each word is going to sound like. With phonics, we can distinguish certain patterns to make a sound. We know that a digraph is a sound made by a combination of letters. Therefore, a split digraph is a digraph that is split – normally by a consonant.

There are 5 types of split digraphs:

a-e – Tale, have, gave, ate…

e-e – Eve, concrete, theme…

i-e – Bike, slide, nine, hive…

o-e – Vote, pose, nose, note…

u-e – Cute, flute, prune, tune…

Examples of split digraphs:

O_e – Tone

A_e –  Age

A_e – Bake

I_e – Wise

I_e –  Hide

A_e – Plane

U_e – Flute

O_e – Hope

E_e – Concrete

U_e – Cube

Teachers might start introducing split digraphs to students by isolating the split (EG: a_e) to teach students the sound. They will then include words with splits and see whether the students have understood what a split digraph is. 

However, before students are introduced to split digraphs there are other things they must be aware of, and they are:

  • The alphabet
  • The sounds of letters
  • The blending of letters
  • Segmenting words
  • Digraphs
  • Clusters

The magic "e"

Although many teachers have stopped using this method, as they believe the ‘e’ is not magic, but instead, a working part of a word. The magic ‘e’ method is a fun and engaging way to introduce split digraphs to young students. It simply shows, that by adding the letter ‘e’ at the end of some words, you can change their sound. For example:

Fat – Fate

Rip – ripe

Sit – site

Hug – huge

Quit – quite

Car – care

Slid – Slide

Why are they important?

From the start, school students will have come across various texts holding many split digraphs. However, they may not have noticed them. That is why it is great to start early!

With phonics, students learn the sound of each letter, and how if you combine them with other letters, the sound changes. This information helps students identify words to see patterns and to spell quicker. Knowing phonetic terminology and the method behind them allows students to learn how to read properly because they will be able to notice the patterns that make certain sounds. Slit digraphs also aid the practice of pronunciation, communication and spelling correctly.  


These activities are also examples of how split digraphs are taught to year one students in UK primary schools.

Mini whiteboards

The use of individual whiteboards reinforces the ‘can do’ attitude, by simply having a go, and if incorrect, you can quickly erase it and try again.

This game is simple and super helpful for implementing your year one spelling list. Simply say words aloud and ask students to spell them on their whiteboard. Also, get them to underline where they think the split is.

Detective agency

Somehow, your students have woken up in a different reality, and instead of going to school, they are going to work! Your students are now detectives, and their job is to find the split digraphs that are hidden in a coded letter.

Sounds fun right? This great activity is sure to get your students excited about their lesson. Prepare a few pieces of paper with small simple sentences, allow students to “de-code” your letter by finding all the split digraphs.

To make this activity easier, why not underline the words that contain split digraphs to give your students a head start.


Emile has prepared some worksheets for your classroom. Worksheets are a great practice to explore different concepts, especially split digraphs. Using worksheets is an effective tool that encourages effort and focus, thus helping students engage with the work provided.

Makeup words using one of the five splits.

This one is quite silly, but it is perfect for a warm-up exercise.

On the board, write down the five types of split digraphs:

A _ e

E _ e

I _ e

O _ e

U _ e

Come up with words together as a group. This way, students can get used to the sounds made by the split digraphs. The words don’t have to make sense, the point is to get students practising the sounds the split digraphs make.

If your school is in the North of England, why not get your free access to Phonics with Emile.

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