A Fun Way to Introduce /ch/ and /sh/ to Kids

In the Spotlight this week, we are featuring the voiceless sound /ch/, which is difficult for many language learners who do not have /ch/ and /sh/ in their native language (e.g., Spanish or Thai). Fortunately, /ch/ and /sh/ are fun sounds for young kids to make, even though they may be difficult.

Before you teach your students some words with these sounds, teach them how to make these sounds in isolation. Remember that imitating new sounds is the best way to get kids to produce them. Here is a fun and active activity that combines the /ch/ and /sh/ sounds.

Shushing the Train

Divide the class into two groups. If possible, separate the students so that they don’t know what the other group is doing.

A. Tell the first group that they are going to be a train. Demonstrate how a train sounds: ch-ch-ch-ch-ch. Tell the students that they are going to chug around the classroom (or hallway/playground) making the sound. Some students will be able to imitate you, but others will need more help. Start by telling them to pucker their lips as if they are going to kiss a teddy bear.

To pronounce the /ch/ sound:
1. Part and extend your lips outward as if getting ready to kiss someone.
2. Place your tongue loosely just behind the bumpy part on the roof of your mouth.
3. Quickly release one puff of air and stop it with your tongue.

B. The students in the second group are going to be the villagers. Teach them how to hold a pointer finger up to their lips while saying the sound /sh/. If they don’t already know, explain that this is how to say Be quiet! Again, some kids will get the sound right away by copying you, and others will need some instruction. (To make the activity more fun, don’t tell them who or what they are going to be shushing.)

To pronounce the /sh/ sound:
1. Part and extend your lips outward as if getting ready to kiss someone.
2. Place your tongue loosely just behind the bumpy part on the roof of your mouth.
3. Release the air through your teeth and hold the sound.

If your students have difficulty, have them practice contrasting /s/ with /sh/.

C. Now, put the villagers on one side of the classroom (or hall/playground), and tell them to make their sound (and do the action) when their classmates come in. Send in the train, and tell the students to chug as loudly as they can! They can hold onto each other like a train. The villagers will use their new sound to tell the train to be quiet.

Now, switch the groups so that the students get a chance to practice the other sound. For the first group, you can use the train again to practice /ch/, or if you want to try something different, teach the kids how to sneeze (a-choo). The second group will again use the /sh/ sound to tell the first group to be silent (whether they are sneezing or chugging). To add another action, tell the shushing kids to pretend they are rocking a baby.

Your students may have difficulty understanding the difference between the sounds /ch/ and /sh/. Show them that it is impossible to hold the /ch/ sound for a few seconds, while it is easy to hold the /sh/ sound for a long time. Challenge them to try. How long can they hold the /sh/ sound?

Follow Up

After your students have mastered the /ch/ and /sh/ sounds, you can have some fun with minimal pairs. Here are some words and sentences to practice together. (Or ask the kids to try to make sentences.)

Initial Sounds
(chair / share) Share the chair!
(chew / shoe) Don’t chew your shoe!
(chin / shin) Touch your chin to your shin.

Ending Sounds
(which or witch / wish)  Which wish do you have? / What did the witch wish for?
(watch / wash) Don’t wash your watch.
(catch / cash)  Catch some cash.

Related Lesson

Find this week’s Spotlight lesson in the Phonics Cafe – Book 3.


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Tara Benwell

Tara Benwell is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in materials and articles for the ELT industry. She is the media director and head writer for ESL-Library, and a contributor to its sister site Sprout English. Tara is the author of an iPad storybook series for kids called Happy Campers Books. Her debut novel, The Proper Order of Things is available on Amazon and in the iBookstore.

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