Oa Digraph Words and Sounds

Oa digraph examples, word lists, free worksheets and games for phonics teaching.

Oa Digraph Sounds

The ‘oa’ digraph isn’t one of the most frequently used graphemes in written English but it is found in a number of common words such as boat, coat, soap and toast.

In most words, the digraph represents the same sound that’s pronounced in the example words above, which sounds like the letter name for ‘o’.  In fact, some teachers describe this sound as ‘long o’.

This phoneme is represented by the symbol /oa/ in popular phonics programmes such as Jolly Phonics and Letters and sounds.  The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbol for the sound is əʊ or

A number of other letter combinations can also represent the /oa/ sound.  For example, ow, o, oe, o-e, ou and ough in the words slow, oval, go, toe, bone, soul and dough.

The Sounds American video below explains how to pronounce this phoneme in a variety of words:

There are a very small number of words where oa represents the /or/ (ɔ:) sound; for example, in the word broad, but this is a very rare correspondence for this digraph.

Note that when the oa letter combination is followed by the letter r, as in ‘boar’ and ‘hoard’, the 3 letters act as a trigraph and they represent a different sound.

Also, in some words, such as boa and Goa, the o and a represent separate sounds, so the two letters don’t act as a digraph in these words.

Teaching the Oa Digraph

It’s best to wait until children can recognise individual letters and say the sounds they represent accurately and fluently before teaching digraphs.

Children are also usually taught how to blend and segment simple words such as CVC words and other one-syllable words before digraphs are introduced.

The oa digraph is taught in phase 3 of the Letters and Sounds phonics programme which is broadly followed in many schools in England.  This phase starts in the second half of the first term in reception when children are aged between 4 and 5 years old.

Introduce the digraph by showing children how to decode and blend some simple examples of words from the word list below and then get them to read some words for you.

In addition to practising reading the words, they should also practise spelling them. 

If children have trouble doing this, show them how to make the words with alphabet cards.  Say the sounds as you put the cards down then shuffle the cards and ask them to make up the word again. 

When you are demonstrating spelling these words with alphabet cards, put the two digraph letters down at the same time as you say the sound just once.

See our articles on teaching digraphs and spelling with phonics for more guidance.

You can also use some online resources to provide variety.  For example, Reading Bear has several presentations that include ‘oa words’…

Presentations (b) and (c) for this sound (in the dark blue section with a picture of a toad) are the most relevant.  Presentation (d) also contains some good examples, but the words ‘oar’ and ‘roar’ are not really helpful because the sound is different in these words.  When the letter combination ‘oa’ is followed by the letter r, ‘oar’, the three letters act as a trigraph.

The Little Learner’s video below is useful to show children how to sound out and blend some simple words containing the oa digraph…

And the video below should also appeal to young children as the popular Mr Thorne teaches Geraldine the giraffe about words with the ‘oa’ digraph:

Oa Digraph Word List

We’ve split the lists into different sound categories in alphabetical order to help you locate words you might want to use with your students. 

Initially, it can help to use words that students are familiar with, but as they get more proficient, it’s good to introduce some new words to expand their vocabulary and refine their decoding skills.

Click on the following link or the image below to download a free printable pdf version of this word list.

Oa Digraph Word List image

Words containing the /oa/ sound (əʊ/) as in boat…

One-syllable words with regular spelling patterns and no other digraphs:

Bloat, boast, boat, cloak, coal, coast, coat, coax, croak, float, foal, foam, gloat, goad, goal, goat, groan, hoard, hoax, load, loaf, loam, loan, moan, moat, oaf, oak, oats, road, roam, roan, roast, stoat, soak, soap, toad, toast, woad.

One-syllable words with other digraphs or some irregular spelling patterns:

Broach, coach, coarse, cocoa, loath, loaves, oath, poach, roach, shoal, throat, whoa.

Two or more syllable words – may contain other digraphs:

Afloat, approach, bemoan, cockroach, goatee, inroad, loafer, unload, upload.

Words where the oa digraph represents alternative sounds:

Abroad, broad.

Words where ‘oa’ doesn’t act as a digraph:

Boa, Goa, Koala, Oasis.

(Also, most words where oa is followed by the letter r).

Pseudo-words Containing the oa Digraph:

Doad, Doaf, Doak, Foag, Foat, Froag, Groad, Joat, Poan, Poat, Toap, Voak.

Pseudo-words are sometimes described as non-words or nonsense words and they’re used in some phonics programmes and in the UK Phonics Screening Check

These words are designed to assess whether children are capable of decoding words that are unfamiliar to them. 

Normally, a pseudo-word will be presented next to an image of a monster or an alien, and the child is told that the word represents the creature’s name.  The examples below are from the 2017 phonics screening check.

pseudo words

You could use some of the pseudo-words in our list as practice words for a screening check or as part of a less formal assessment of a child’s decoding ability. 

Some of the words in the list might have a real meaning in some regions, groups, or sub-cultures, but they will be unfamiliar to most children so can be used alongside genuine pseudo-words.

Oa Digraph Worksheets

We’ve created the following worksheets that you to download for free.  Click on the headings or the images below to access these resources.

Find the Oa Words

Children need to decide which pictures represent words that contain the oa digraph.  They can also try to spell the words.  We’ve also created a PowerPoint version of this resource if you want to display it to a class. 

Find the oa words

Fill in the Missing Oa Words

Each of the sentences on the worksheet has a word missing that contains the ‘oa’ digraph. Children need to fill in the missing word to complete each sentence. We’ve also created a PowerPoint version of this resource if you want to display it to a class. 

Circle the Vowel Digraph oa, oe, or oi

Circle or write in the digraph that gives the correct spelling for each picture.  We’ve also created a PowerPoint version of this resource if you want to display it to a class.

circle the vowel digraph oa, oe, oi

Oa Digraph Phonics Games

The spellzone website has some free games using words containing the oa digraph.  They also have a variety of other games that require you to sign up and pay a subscription, but they do offer a free trial.

Click on the following link for the spellzone games:

The SplashLearn website also has some activities for practising blending and spelling oa words.  You have to sign up to access all the activities but it’s free to try it.

Starfall.com have some good online activities for practising spelling words with the oa digraph and other digraphs:

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