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dipthong song
Credit: How Do I Teach this Kid to Read?

“A diphthong is a sound made by combining two vowels, specifically when it starts as one vowel sound and goes to another, like the oy sound in oil.

Diphthong comes from the Greek word diphthongos which means “having two sounds.” Notice the di- for “double.” So diphthongs are double vowel sounds in words like late, ride, or pout. If two vowels in a row are the same, as in boot or beer, then it’s not a diphthong.” (1)

Diphthongs are a component of decoding skills involved in teaching children to read.  “Decoding is the ability to apply knowledge of letter-sound relationships, including knowledge of letter patterns, to correctly pronounce written words.” (2)

For children who are struggling with decoding skills and particularly struggling with identifying the diphthongs within words, The Diphthong Song may come in handy.

What is The Diphthong Song?

The Diphthong Song is a literacy song that Kimberly A. Henry, author of How Do I Teach This Kid to Read?: Teaching Literacy Skills to Young Children with Autism, from Phonics to Fluency, created to help students remember sounds associated with letter combinations.

The Diphthong Song is sung to the tune of “Jingle Bells”.  It is a perfect tool for auditory learners who are transitioning from single phonetic sounds to combination sounds. A very familiar holiday tune, many children can easily focus on the words of the diphthong song and what it teaches.

Why Does the Diphthong Song Work?

The Diphthong Song really worked while I was tutoring a struggling third-grader who is at a kindergarten reading level. That student was having a difficult time shifting from sounding out single letters of the alphabet to understanding the concept of sounds made from combinations of letters.

For example, sounding out “sh-i-p”, not “s-h-i-p”.

After singing “S-H, S-H, S-H says /sh/. Shirt and ship and sheep and shoes. S-H says /sh/” to the tune of Jingle Bells, the student struggled less with reading target words containing “sh”. (Visit the image above provided by Future Horizons)

Most exciting, the student was eager to return the following week with a series of “sh” words to replace the ones we had sung.  We used the printout from the CD which accompanies the book, How Do I Teach This Kid to Read?

Music proved to be a powerful learning tool for this student.  The Diphthong Song helped make the jump to sounding out diphthongs successful.  I believe this tool would be a benefit for any auditory learner.

Two Extension Ideas

Fine Motor Practice

After singing along with the words and picture cues provided on the printout of The Diphthong Song, add some fine motor practice for reluctant writers who still like to draw, like my tutoring student.

On small cards, ask the child to sketch pictures of other words that include the target diphthong.

Then, alternate these word picture cards for the ones on the print out when singing verses of The Diphthong Song.

File Folder Game

Make a file folder game using The Diphthong Song print out.

Print two copies of the sheet.

Glue one onto a file folder as a control sheet.

Cut the word cards out of the second sheet, not only creating each picture card, but cutting the word from the accompanying picture on each card.

Have student try to match each.

Use The Diphthong Song in combination with the other useful activities for phonemic awareness, vocabulary, comprehension and fluency.


(1) Diphthong.” N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Jan. 2016.

(2) Word Decoding and Phonics.” Reading Rockets. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Jan. 2016.

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Martianne is a homeschooling mom with over 20 years of experience in education, youth work and dramatic arts both in the United States and abroad. With certifications as a Middle School Generalist and English 8-12 teacher, plus a drawer full of certificates from a wide variety of professional development workshops and graduate courses, she brings a comprehensive "traditional" background to her present-day creative pursuits. Visit Martianne at Training Happy Hearts.