Roaring Rs

Emergent Literacy

Shawna Harris

Rationale: According to Adams (1990), letter knowledge and phonemic awareness are the best predictors of early reading success. Therefore, children in the emergent stage of literacy should work extensively with letters and phonemes to prepare them to read. This lesson will help children identify /r/, the phoneme represented by R. Students will learn to recognize /r/ in spoken words by learning a meaningful representation (roar like a lion) and the letter symbol R, practice finding /r/ in words, and apply phoneme awareness with /r/ in phonetic cue reading by distinguishing rhyming words from beginning letters.

Materials: Picture-sound card, writing chart with tongue twister written out and a blank page for letter writing, word cards [RUN, RIP, RUG, SEAL, MAKE, RAT], primary paper and pencils for students, 1 copy of Rotten Ralph, worksheets (1 per student)


1.Say: To learn to read, we need to be able to understand the sounds the letters make. Today we are going to learn about the letter R. First, we're going to listen so we can hear the sound the letter R makes. R makes the /r/ sound. We're going to learn what the letter R looks like and how to write it too!

2.[Show picture-sound card of a roaring lion with the letter R.] Here is the letter R. It looks like a letter D with legs. /r/ is the sound a lion makes when it roars. RRRoar. Can you make the roaring sound? When you make that roaring sound, do you feel what your lips are doing? They make an O-shape. Try it again. Rrrroar. Do you feel the O-shape, like a circle? Watch out for your mouth making that O-shape. It's a clue that you're making the /r/ sound! When you hear the /r/ sound, put your hands up and roar like a lion, like this. [Teacher demonstrates.]

3.Let's see if we can hear the /r/ sound in some words. Let's try the word gross. I'm going to stretch gross out really slowly, and I want you to listen for the /r/ sound. Pretend to roar when you hear it. G-rrross. Did you hear it? Let's try it again. G-rrrrrrross. [Teacher puts hands up and makes roaring face at the /r/ sound.] I heard it that time. Let's see if you can hear it in some other words. Let's try the word roar. Roar like a lion when you hear the /r/ sound. Rrroarrrr. Did you hear it twice? Let's stretch it out again. Rrrrrrroarrrrrr. [Teacher puts hands up and makes roaring face at both /r/ sounds.] 

4.Now we're going to try a tongue twister! [Teacher shows tongue twister on chart, pointing to each word as it is read.] Rob the Rhino is Ready to Run. Now, say it with me and act like you're roaring when you hear the /r/ sound. Rob the Rhino is Ready to Run. [Teacher puts hands up and makes roaring face at the /r/ sounds.] Let's stretch the /r/ sounds out now. RRRRob the RRRRhino is RRRReady to RRRRun. Now, let's break the /r/ sounds off the rest of the word, like this. /R/-ob the /R/-hino is /R/-eady to /R/-un.

5. See if you can pick out the words with the /r/ sound. [Call on students to answer and tell how they knew.] Do you hear it in walk or run? Red or blue? Bird or bug? Now I want you to act like you're roaring when you hear the /r/ sound. Do you hear it in brown? Yellow? Purple? Green? Black? Gray?

6.Now we're going to practice writing the letter R. [Students take out pencils & primary paper.] The letter R is what makes the /r/ sound. [Teacher demonstrates strokes on chart as they are explained.] To write capital letter R, start at the rooftop and draw a line all the way down to the sidewalk. Then put your pencil back at the rooftop and make a curve down to the fence. See how the top looks like the letter D? To make it an R, it needs one more leg. Start at the fence, then draw another line down to the sidewalk. This one should poke out a little, like it's kicking. Now, see if you can make 6 more Rs.

7.Now we're going to look at some words. We're going to figure out what they say. Remember, if you see an R in the word, it has the /r/ sound. [Teacher shows cards as questions are asked, starting with RUN.] Is this word RUN or FUN? Do you see the R? That means it's RUN. Let's try some more. RIP: rip or tip? RUG: bug or rug? SEAL: real or seal? MAKE: make or rake? RAT: rat or bat?

8.Now that you know how to write it, see if you can hear the sound the R makes in words. We're going to read some of Rotten Ralph. In this book, Sarah has a cat named Ralph, but he is a very bad cat. One day he gets in so much trouble that Sarah's dad kicks him out! What do you think will happen to him? Watch out for the /r/ sound while we read. When you hear it, I want you to act like you're roaring. Remember, the letter R says /r/. [Read a few pages of Rotten Ralph, with children "roaring" when they hear /r/. ]

9.Assessment: Hand out worksheet for students to match the Rs with words that start with R.  



Related Lesson:
Miss Piggie the Pig! By Meg Hall:

Worksheet from

Gantos, Jack (1980). Rotten Ralph. Rubel, Nicole, ill. Sandpiper Publishers.

Adams, M. J. (1990). Beginning to read: Thinking and learning about print. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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