Sh Digraph Words and Sounds

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

Sh Digraph Sounds

The ‘sh’ digraph is a common grapheme in written English that’s used in a variety of high-frequency words such as she, fish and wish.

Sh always represents the same sound in words and this phoneme is represented by the symbol /sh/ in popular phonics programmes such as Jolly Phonics and Letters and sounds.  The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbol for the sound is ʃ.

Several other letter combinations can represent the same sound as the sh digraph, for example, ‘s’, ‘ss’, ‘ti’, ‘ci’, ‘ch’ and ‘ce’ in the words sugar, tissue, station, racial, chef and ocean.

Many languages don’t have words with the ʃ sound so some non-native English speakers might be unfamiliar with it.  The Sounds American video below provides useful guidance on the pronunciation of the phoneme with examples:

Teaching the Sh Digraph

Since the digraph is quite common in children’s literature, it makes sense to teach it quite early in a phonics programme.

However, it’s best to wait until children can recognise individual letters and say the sounds they represent accurately and fluently.  

It’s also helpful if children are able to blend and segment simple words such as CVC words and other one-syllable words before digraphs are taught.

The sh 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 s and h 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 some presentations that include ‘sh words’ which you can access from this link and this one.

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

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

Sh 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.

Sh Digraph Word ListOne-syllable words with regular spelling patterns and no other digraphs:

Ash, bash, blush, bosh, brash, brush, bush, bushy, cash, clash, cosh, crash, crush, dash, dish, dosh, fish, flash, flesh, flush, fresh, gash, gosh, gush, harsh, hash, hush, josh, lash, leash, lush, marsh, mash, mesh, mush, nosh, pash, plush, posh, push, rash, rush, sash, sham, shed, shell, shim, shin, ship, shop, shot, shred, shrub, shrug, trash, wish.

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

Gnash, quash, she, shy, shack, Shah, shaw, shea, sheep, shock, shrew, shuck.

Two or more syllable words – may contain other digraphs or some irregular spelling patterns:

Abash, abolish, airship, ambush, anguish, ashamed, ashen, ashes, ashore, atishoo, awash, banish, bashful, bishop, blemish, cashew, finish, hairbrush, mushroom, radish, rubbish, shampoo, shepherd, sheriff, shovel.

Pseudo-words Containing the sh Digraph:

Ankush, Bish, Fash, Flosh, Plash, Mosh, Resh, Sesh, Shad, Shay, Shen, Shew.

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.

Sh 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 Sh Words

Children need to decide which pictures represent words that contain the sh 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 Sh Words


Fill in the Missing Sh Words

Each of the sentences on the worksheet has a word missing that contains the ‘ck’ 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. 

Fill in the missing sh words


Circle the Initial Digraph th, ch, sh

Circle or highlight the digraph that represents the beginning sound for each picture.  

Circle the initial digraph ch, sh, th


Circle the Correct Digraph – ck, ch, th, sh

Children have to choose the correct digraph to complete the spelling of each word. 

Circle the correct digraph ch, ck, sh, th


Circle the Correct Digraph – th, ch, sh, ph

Children have to choose the correct digraph to complete the spelling of each word. 

Circle the correct digraph th, ch, sh, ph

Sh Digraph Phonics Games Online

The spellzone website has some free games using words containing the sh 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 sh words.  You have to sign up to access all the activities but it’s free to try it.

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