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Fun Phonics


Combination Sounds, Digraphs and Bossy E

How can you help your child learn to read easily and painlessly?

In an over thirty year, multi-award winning teaching career, the most effective means I've ever found of teaching sound combinations is the free game, "Fun Phonics," supplied below.

I devised this game to make learning combination sounds fun, simply because a positive experience with reading improves any child's attitude towards it. Children don't even realise they're revising combination sounds (digraphs) because they're fully engaged and they're having so much fun.

Please check your child knows 'all' of their single sounds before starting learning digraphs.

lovely sweet and happy 6 years old daugh
J for Jellyfish
Complex Combinations (Digraphs.) Sheet 1

Surprisingly, this game produced fantastic results in just 2-3 minutes a day with all children I've taught. And this was regardless of their preexisting sound knowledge, their overall ability levels and their initial attitude to reading.


Why this game works so well is because it's cumulative, it revises past knowledge, it's super fast to play, it encourages instant recall and instant success, it's great fun and it's played with likely one of their most favourite people in the world... You!

There are two sound sheets below

Level 3:

The following two combination letter sheets below contain some of the most commonly used digraphs.

Blends page 1_edited.png
Anchor 2

Copy and print both digraph sheets.

  • Because they're the same size you can put one on top of the other and cut along the lines (It'll take two minutes.)

  • Keep sounds together in two piles: Revision Sounds and New Sounds




When you present any letters ensure they're facing the child the right way up because b, d & p can all look the same to a child learning letters for the first time.

There's no definite order to teach sounds. But for best results ensure your child knows all lower case single sounds before beginning combination sounds: digraphs.

  • ​Th, sh, ch, ck, ay and ng are commonly used, so  are great digraphs to begin with.

  •  I'd introduce just one of these sounds with another very obviously different combination like er, ee, or, oo. That means something like Day 1 introduce sounds 'th' & 'ee.' If known on Day 2 progress to 'sh' & 'oo'


N.B.  'Th' can make two sounds: th as in thin and th as in this. (Listen for the difference.)

You will likely notice that sometimes there can be a number of ways of producing the same sound. E.g.:

  •  'ee' (as in street)                   '

  • 'ea' (as in clean)

  • 'ey' (as in donkey) and

  • 'e_e' (as in scene.)

  • i-e (as in ice)

  • ie (as in pie)

  • 'igh' (as in sigh)

  • 'y' (as in why)

  • a-e (as in face)

  • ai (as in rain)

  • 'ay' (as in day)

  • o-e (as in rose)

  • oa (as in boat)

  • 'ow' (as in low)

  • 'oh' (as in oh)

  • u-e (as in use)

  • ue (as in sue)

  • 'oo' (as in moon)

Complex Combinations (Digraphs.) Sheet 2
Anchor 1
Blends Page 2 correct_edited.png

On the above sheet there are some shown as vowel-vowel: a_e, e_e, i_e, o_e, u_e.

(As in ate, scene, site, note, use, etc)

Only vowels use their proper names








  • ai as in pain,

  • ie as in pie,

  • oe as in oboe,

  • ea as in cream,

  • ue as in blue.

Another useful hint to help your child remember combination sounds (digraphs) is:


When two vowels go walking,

the first one usually does the talking

and it uses its proper name.

The Story of Bossy 'e.'


When 'e' is at the end of a word it gets really bossy.


It jumps over the letter/or letters, immediately in front of it (consonants) to get to the vowels (a,e,i,o,u.) It shakes it's finger at the vowels and tells them to use their proper names.



'a' says 'ay,' as in state, pane, face

'e' says 'ee,' as in scene, theme, eve

'i' says 'eye,' as in pile, mine, site,

'o' says 'oh' as in phone, rode, hole

and 'u' says 'you' as in mule, fuse, ute


Anchor 3

I also usually introduce capital letter recognition around the same time as I introduce "bossy e." And I start with names of people who are important to them

Instructions: How to make Fun Phonics fun


  • Revise all known single sounds (1 second per sound.)

  • Put each sound into the 'known' pile or 'revision' pile


Day 1.


1. Call out a revision sound (say z) and both players attempt to snap the sound before the other player.  Call out a different revision sound (say k) and both players attempt to snap the new sound before the other player. Repeat.

2. Introduce a new beginning blend sound like ch. Look at the different features of it. Discuss that sometimes when two letters meet they can make a whole new sound. In this case c and h make ch when you put them next to each other.


3. Repeat the game above using the new sound. (Say z, ch, z, k, ch, z, z, ch, k, k, z, ch etc) getting faster. You might even change letter positions to make it more challenging. Ham it up to make it fun.


4. The game continues until you're reasonably sure your child knows the three sounds involved.

Stop there.

Day 2

​5. Repeat the entire one minute revision flick check through all known single sounds and one digraph  previously covered. (Continue to do this on a daily basis. It'll take you one to two minutes a day.)


6. If they remember all sounds and the new blend introduce another digraph (like 'er.') (Say for example: ch, er, k, er, er, ch, er, ch, k, ch, er, ch, etc.) If they're finding it particularly easy you can introduce a second blended sound as long as it is obviously different to the others. Say: ay

7. You can repeat Step 5 and 6 over and over again over the following days and weeks, increasing the total number of blended sounds known.

Anchor 4


Because this is a very effective way of teaching children their sounds, it's easy to get carried away and want to keep adding more and more sounds before your child is ready. Please don't. Make sure your child knows each sound well, (especially the blends,) before you remove it from the snap pile to the revision pile.

Girl with Flower

If you have a friend who's child is struggling with learning to read, or if their child has a bad attitude to reading in general, share this link below. I've seen daily use of this game turn around children's attitudes and greatly improve their success.

So far we've learnt the easier and/or more frequently used digraphs. There are more complex digraphs in Level 4 to follow.

Go to the link below for more Phonics Fun

For FUN MATHS GAMES click on the links below:

Best Parenting is a high quality parenting website designed with child and family success in mind. This site provides free resources for busy parents who want the best practical advice possible on: effective child rearing strategies, easy healthy family meals, self-care tips for time-poor parents and fun learning games to help best educate children while also encouraging positive relationships within the family.

The best parenting advice regarding creating engaged learners is to make learning as much fun as possible. That's why games work best to revise new information. Children practise skills over and over in play situations, yet aren't even aware they're doing it. Best parenting provides many examples of quick and easy games to help develop both early reading and maths skills.


This site provides examples of what worked for me over decades and you are welcome to use these ideas as you see fit but you do so at your own risk. This site does not provide any guarantee that this information will work in every circumstance with every family or every child. It is your responsibility as a user of this site to ensure that you adhere to any recommended safety suggestions either implicit or explicit on this site and supervise your children while playing any games suggested. Best Parenting is not affiliated with any other groups, clubs, religious organizations or educational systems.


Best parenting takes time. The best parenting advice ever is simple: Do your best, don't give up and love your children, no matter what.

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