Phonics: Teaching Kids to Read Words with Sh and Th

A precious gift from one of my students.  🙂
 

Phonics!  It’s the dreaded word:  PHONICS!  It’s not an easy thing to teach.  We spend gobs of time trying to teach the children that each letter carries one sound, and then the next thing you know, we are telling them that those same letters sometimes will make different sounds!  So this week, I am going to tell you how I have been teaching my class how to read words with the “sh” and the “th” sound in them.  We have been working on our these phonics skills for a long time, practicing every day.  The trick is to get the kids to recognize these letters as a UNIT when they see them together, and not to attempt to sound each letter out individually.

I print out the pages that I need from the download
and then put them in page protectors in a binder.
 


AND, by the way, Volume One of the Sounds Fun workbook is finally FINISHED!  (As I mentioned last week, the download is immediately available, and the printed version of the book should be coming in a couple of weeks.)  The delay was not the content of the book, it was the illustrations!  At the beginning of last summer, I started the process of illustrating the pictures needed for the workbook.  But it soon became apparent that it would take me at least one week per unit to complete them all, and this would mean that I would not complete all of the units over the course of the summer because I cannot draw them fast enough.  I also cannot draw many of the pictures WELL enough!  So we decided that we would have to hire another illustrator to get this project completed.  We found a great one, but we are not her only clients, so it has been a long process.  She also had to stop illustrating the Sounds Fun Phonics books twice to draw both of the Wiggles books, too!  And while we were glad to have the Wiggles books, we were sorry to have delayed the phonics book.  The second volume of the phonics book will be done in about another month.  I know, I know- you can’t wait, but here’s a sample of the TH section of the workbook for you to try out as my free download for the week! (And here is a sample of the ar sounds pattern from the Phonics Workbook Vol 2!)

This is my Sounds Fun binder from the inside.
 

Here are the general steps I have been following in order to get my students to read words with the “sh” and “th” sounds in them.  If you have been following my blog for a while, then you will already be familiar with the first few steps, since they have been happening over the past few months.

1.  Introduce the Sounds Fun cards, including the ones with the “sh” and the “th.”
The children make the motions and say the sounds when they see the character with the letters on the cards.  I first introduced the cards, sounds, and movements in late November, in response to a     question that a child asked about why a word was spelled with an “s” and an “h.”  This is usually what happens with my phonics cards; I wait for the children to express and interest and ask questions.  From that point on, I begin to teach them, and we keep going with it as much as they are able to comprehend and for as long as they are interested.  (Keep in mind that I teach Kindergarten, so much of this that I have introduced has been “extra” and not required in my district’s curriculum, at least up to this point.  In my district, Kindergartners are required to read certain high frequency words that begin with an “sh” and a “th,” but are not required to pass tests showing that they know these phonics sounds.  So they can be taught these words as sight words only, or we can teach them via phonics, or both.  I usually try both methods, and if one doesn’t work well with a child, then he or she can always try another.

Sounds Fun Phonics DVD’s!
 

2.  Sing the songs that go along with the phonics sounds I am trying to teach.
I first started singing the “Sh Song” from the Sounds Fun Phonics CD in SEPTEMBER!  That’s because I was using it as a song to get the children to quiet down, rather than a song to teach phonics, LOL!  But at the same time, I also showed them the “Quiet Girl” card that has the little girl with her finger in front of her mouth in the “shush” position, and told them that an “s” and an “h” put together make the /sh/ sound.  Since we have sung that song many, MANY times, just trying to get them to be quiet, I think this really helped them internalize the concept quite well!  The kids all seem to know that the “s” with the “h” after it make the /sh/ sound!

We have been reading the Sounds Fun cards and matching them to their flash cards whole group.
 

3.  In January, we started sounding out “sh” and “th” words daily whole group.
I have been using the same routine that I have been writing about in my blog in the past two posts, in which EVERYONE must put their hands up to get ready to sound out the words with the motions.  We use the Sounds Fun Phonics motions whenever we get to the “sh” and “th” sounds.  Otherwise, we use Zoo-Phonics motions.  But as long as I have everyone moving along with me, then NOBODY can be just sitting there, picking at their shoe laces or buttons, etc.  No daydreaming allowed!  If anyone puts their hands down and starts daydreaming again, I spot it immediately and insist that they put their hands up and keep going.  Otherwise, they have to do it with me or my aide privately during recess or playtime.

In after school tutoring, my struggling students worked ONLY on the required words on this small pocket chart.  As you can see, the flashcards for some of the words reflect the lyrics of the song!  So the the “they” flashcard shows a boy that wants some girls to “go away now,” just like the song from Sing and Spell Vol. 1, etc.
Valentine's Day Phonics Sort with Sounds Fun Cards from HeidiSongs.com!
 

4.  Read and match the words to the flash cards .
I had the whole class try to sound out even more CVC words from the workbook with the flashcards provided in the workbook.  I tried very hard to include words that would be as easy to read as I could find in the beginning units, for “sh,” “th,” and “ch.” In any case, all the kids have to do is TRY to begin each word with a /sh/ or /th/ sound, and then I’ll help them from there.  It’s just a matter of getting started with the correct sound.

For most of the words, it’s simply a matter of finding the words that begin with a “th” and circling them.  Then they copy the word below it.
 

5. Circle the words with the “sh” and “th” phonics patterns.
Now, with the completed workbook, we are finding words with the “sh” and “th” spelling patterns on the worksheet pages and circling them.  THEN the children can complete the workbook pages.  Having the children highlight the “th” and the “sh” sounds that they see on the pages will also help them, I know.
At first glance, it seems like some of the pages might be too hard.  But then if you really look at the example in the picture, you’ll see that there is only one “th” word to choose from of the two words given!  So all the children have to do is find the ONE word that starts with an “th.”  Then they have to circle it, and copy it.  So some of the pages can be done at this time of year with the average Kindergartner, as long as they have someone to go to when they need help.  My high students enjoyed being able to go on to the harder worksheets that I placed in dry erase sleeves when they were finished with their work.

We put the extra pages in page protectors and dry erase sleeves so that they could try a few of them without the pressure of HAVING to complete every single thing!
 

6.  Listen for the “sh” sound in other books that we are reading, and then look for the “sh” spelling patterns on the pages- especially in big books.
This is a great activity to help children learn that this spelling pattern pops up everywhere, in real writing and in the real world!

The worksheets with spaces to draw pictures are always a hit!
 

7.  My best advice is to have children look for these phonics patterns FIRST, (before they begin reading), and perhaps mark them lightly with a pencil, if possible.
This should help remind them that the word is coming and assist in comprehension and fluency while the child is reading.  Just make sure that it is the CHILD that does the marking of the letters, not an adult!  They need to do it themselves to help them remember.

Do you have any other ideas on how to teach this? 
I would love to hear them!  Leave a comment below!

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Heidi Butkus

About Heidi Butkus

Heidi Butkus has been teaching in California public schools since 1985. She has somehow managed to stay in Kindergarten all of those years, with the exception of five years in first grade, and also taught a parent participation preschool for a short while! Combining a strong knowledge of brain research with practical experience, Heidi has created a wealth of fun and engaging teaching techniques that work well with diverse populations. She has presented at conferences nationwide, and is the owner and founder of HeidiSongs.com. Heidi has also created fourteen original CD's and DVD's for teaching beginning reading and math skills, three musical plays designed especially for young performers, and has written some picture books and many other teaching resources. Heidi's multimedia workshops are filled with fun and motivational educational activities that have been classroom tested and revised for effectiveness with all types of learners.
  1. I don't have any advice to share yet, but I am so happy to have my 1st Sounds Fun workbook! 🙂 Thanks for your tips on how to use the worksheets. I can't wait to start using them.

    -Cher

  2. I was wondering if the book and the quick download are exactly alike?….i have used the other book that i bought from you on a weekly basis and the kids love it… and so do I. I especially liked the pages where they had to read a sentence with the target word and also write the word too. This gives them much needed practice and i find that it gives the kids a bit of encouragement that they can actually read something that makes sense to them.
    thanks for the great ideas and all the sharing. you have made me a better teacher!
    laura

  3. The other things I do are first we use mirrors and look at what our lips, tongue and mouth are doing with the different sounds.We say and stretch many words. Then we physically graph by sorting th, ch, sh things with the plastic items from the Lakeshore tubs on the big plastic "shower curtain" like graph. Another time we graph laminated cards on the graph and I hand the graph up. I can't wait to try your cd and these written sheets to improve this section of teaching.
    Heidi your stuff is right on the mark and is making a great difference in my classroom. I can't thank you enough for sharing and improving teaching everywhere! The kids LOVE your music and the words are slow enough that THEY can do it. :)Washington State Rural Kindergarten Teacher

  4. I tell my kinders about "naughty H". He makes T stick out his tongue and say /th/. (This also helps w/the kiddos who make the /f/ sound for th. Naughty H also makes S say /sh/ and C say /ch/ (we make choo-choo sounds for this.) They think it's hysterical for Naughty H to stand behind these other letters and make them do silly things! Try it!

  5. Hi there…I'm considering purchasing your the Heidisongs ultimate package…Will the SoundsFun workbook be included in that? Either printed or electronic?

  6. To Stacey:
    Yes, it will be included, but since it is so new, be sure to email a note about wanting it included when you order, okay?
    Right now, since it is so new, it wouldn't be on our existing disks, that's all! We would just need to send you a freshly burned disk with all of the downloads. You can email [email protected] and he will take care of it for you.
    Thanks!
    Heidi

  7. Great ideas. It’s so much fun to watch their faces light up when they get it right. Then, when they recognize those same sounds/letter is books and can use them they get all giggly. I love it!

  8. I love your Sounds Fun Phonics. Oddly enough, I ended up introducing “ing the King” first because my kids were using it in writing. I’ve been introducing them as my kiddos seem to use them. We use the “th” one and act it out as we count 30s. No more “ferdys” lol. I hang the posters up on a bulletin board as we introduce them and the kids use them all the time.

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