“S, s, sssssss” Says the Snake!

Emergent Literacy

Carley Leavitt


Rationale: This lesson will help children identify /s/, the phoneme represented by S. Students will learn to recognize /s/ in spoken words by learning a meaningful representation and the letter symbol S, practice finding /s/ in words, and learn to write the lowercase and uppercase s/S.


Materials: Primary paper and pencil; picture chart with embedded letter and tongue tickler: "Sally saw a silly snake slithering down the street"; drawing paper and crayons; The Berenstain Bears’ Seashore Treasure; word cards with SAD, SAY, SEED, SING, SEAT, SHINE; assessment worksheet identifying pictures with /s/ (URL link below).




1.     Letters tell us to move our mouth a certain way to say words. Today we're going to work on the letter /s/.  We spell /s/ with letter S. [show picture-sound card].  S looks like a squiggly snake.

2.     Not only does /s/ look like a snake but it also sounds like what snakes say: ssssssss! Let's pretend to be a snake,  /s/, /s/, /s/. [Pantomime slithering your arm like a snake.] Watch me say snake, when you say, “snake” your lips move apart and your tongue hisses. Can you hiss like a snake?

3.     Let me show you how to find /s/ in the word smile.  I'm going to stretch smile out very slowly and listen for ssssss.  Sss-mm-i-i-i-lll.  Slower: S-mm-i-i-i-lll There it was!  I felt my lips move apart and my tongue ssss. I can hear myself say /s/ in smile.

4.     I will now write a tongue twister on the board for the children: Sally saw a silly snake slithering down the street.  Everybody say it three times together and slither your hand each time you hear /s/. Then we will all say it together. Now, I will demonstrate drawing out the s=/s/ sound. Now I will say the tongue twister by myself and I want each of you to listen carefully: SSSSSally ssssaw a ssssilly sssssnake ssssslithering down the ssssstreet. Did you all notice that I drew out the s sound just like ssss? Can you say it now? Remember to draw out the S sound like I did! Try it again, and this time break it off the word: “S/ally /s/aw a /s/illy /s/nake /s/lithering down the /s/treet

5.     [Have children take out their primary paper and pencil] We use the letter S to spell /s/. For capital S, first form a c up in the air between the rooftop and the fence, then swing back. 
For lowercase s, form a tiny c up in the air, and then swing back. Lets practice!

6.     Call on students to answer and tell how they knew: Do you hear /s/ in less or more? face or nose?  Snow or happy? Dish or bowl? Sink or Water? Say: Let's see if you can spot the mouth move /s/ in some words. Slither your hand when you hear /s/: fish, safe, horse, rose, ship, cookies, sweet, house, kisses

7.     Say: "Let's look at one of my favorite books to practice our /s/.  Book talk: The entire bear family goes to the beach. When they drive up to the house they decide they want to go swimming. As Papa Bear is putting on his swimsuit he discovers a treasure map. Will the bears find the treasure? Read the book, drawing out /s/.  Tell children to slither their arms whenever they hear /s/.  Write down the words that start with a /s/. Ask them to draw the treasure (sea shells) on their paper and then have them write the word seashell below their picture (with invented spelling).

8.     Show SAD and model how to decide if it is sad or mad: The S tells me to slither my hand and pull my lips apart, /s/, so this word is sss-ad, sad.  You try some: SAY: say or day? SEED: deed or seed? SING: sing or ding? SEAT: seat or meat? SHINE: dine or shine?

9.     Assessment: For assessment, distribute the worksheet.  Students are to complete the partial spellings by adding s and color the pictures that begin with S. Call students individually to read the phonetic cue words from step #8.





 Hall, Mallory. Silly Sally.                      



Lecture Notes from CTRD 3710


Assessment Worksheet:



Berenstain, Stan, and Jan Berenstain. The Berenstain Bears' Seashore Treasure. New York: HarperCollins, 2005. Print.


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