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All About the /sh/ Sound

Different Spellings for the /sh/ Sound

The teaching of phonics sounds/spellings can be largely categorized into a simple code and a complex code. The simple code is fairly simple and straightforward where one letter represents just one sound. For example, letter B makes the /b/ sound. The complex code is where letter(s) can make multiple sounds, and multiple spellings making the same sound. For example, CH makes the /ch/, /sh/, and /k/ sounds (chop, chef, school). The /sh/ sound has multiple spellings including "sh", "ch", "ti", "ci", and "si/ssi". (Note: slashes / / denote the sound made.)

Complicated huh? You bet. There are many other examples, but I won't list them all here. We're going to discuss the /sh/ sound and it's different spellings here.

You will likely confuse a young child if you tried teaching all of these at the same time. There's no simple way of going about it, so what I typically do is I teach the spellings that have higher frequency of occurrence in words. For the /sh/ sound, I would start teaching the "SH" spelling. If I have an older G1 or G2 student, and if I'm comfortable with their ability/progress, then I may make them aware that "CH" can also make the /sh/ sound, and sometimes - not often - I will introduce the additional spellings of "ti", "ci", and "ssi".

I find it much better to wait until a student has a solid grasp of the "SH" spelling for the /sh/ sound before introducing the others, and I also find it easier to teach the additional spellings to students as they come across them during reading sessions.

The nice thing about the "ti", "ci", and "si/ssi" spellings is that you'll notice that they tend to have similar endings. I'll give some examples below:


The "ti" spelling for the /sh/ sound typically end with:


The "ci" spelling for the /sh/ sound typically end with:



"si" and "ssi" spellings will end with "sion" or "ssion".

Another interesting thing to note in these endings is that the vowels in these are typically a schwa. What's a schwa? Well, that's another topic that we'll have to explore some other time.

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