Ss, Sss, Sneaky Snake



Emergent Literacy

Kasey Shepherd



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 (wiggle hand from side to side like a snake) and the letter symbol S, practice finding /s/ in words, and apply phoneme awareness with /s/ in phonetic cue reading by distinguishing rhyming words from beginning letters.

Materials: Primary paper and pencil; picture chart with embedded letter and tongue tickler: "Sally Saw a Sneaky Snake"; drawing paper and crayons; Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson; word cards with SAP, SIX, SICK, SOUP, SACK, and SLOP; assessment worksheet identifying pictures with /s/ (URL link below)


1. Say: Words we write are like a secret code. The tricky part is learning what the letters stand for. They tell us to move our mouth a certain way to say words. Today we're going to work on spotting the mouth move /s/. We spell /s/ with letter S. [show picture-sound card]. S looks like a snake, and /s/ sounds like the noise a snake makes (/Sss/).

2. Let's pretend to be a snake, /s/, /s/, /s/. [Make snake sound and wiggle hand side to side like a snake.] Notice where your lips are? (small open lips). When we say /s/, we let the tip of our tongue touch above your top teeth. Then make a snake sound.

3. Let me show you how to find /s/ in the word twist. I'm going to stretch twist out very slowly and listen for Ss, Sss, Sss. Tt-ww-i-i-i-sss-t. Slower: T-ww-i-i-i-sss-t There it was! I felt my tip of my tongue touch above my top teeth. I can hear myself say /s/ in twist.

4. Let's try a tongue tickler [on chart]. "Sally Saw a Sneaky Snake." Say it three times together and wiggle your hand like a snake each time you hear /s/. Now say it again, and this time, stretch the /s/ at the beginning of the words as I point to them. " Ssssally sssaw a sssneaky sssnake." Try it again, and this time break it off the word: “/S/ally /s/aw a /s/neaky /s/nake.”

5. [Have students take out primary paper and pencil]. We use letter S to spell /s/. Capital S looks like a big daddy snake, but lowercase s looks like a baby snake. Let's write the lowercase letter s. Form a tiny c up in the air, then swing back. After I put a smile on your paper, I want you to make five more just like it. Let’s write the capital letter S. First form a c up in the air between the rooftop and the fence, then swing back. After I put a smile on your paper, I want you to make five more just like it.

6. Do you hear /s/ in soap or more? town or said? mad or sit? soon or home? sold or dent? Say: Let's see if you can spot the mouth move /s/ in some words. Wiggle your hand like a snake when you hear /s/:fast, horse, sold, vest, past, boss, lost, mask.

7. Read the book Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson.

Booktalk: One by one, different animals and birds find their way into Bear's cozy cave. They make different kinds of snacks and treats to keep themselves from being in the cold. But even after they make all of their yummy snacks, bear continues to snore! Let’s read and find out what happens when bear wakes up to a cave full of uninvited friends.

Tell children to wiggle their hand from side to side like a snake when they hear /s/. Have each student draw a picture of a snake and write a message using invented spelling about the snake.

8. Show SAP and model how to decide if it is sap or map: The S tells me to wiggle my hand like a snake and put my tongue to the top of my teeth, /s/, so this word is sss-aa-p, sap. Now you try some: SIX: six or fix? SICK: sick or tick? SOUP: loop or soup? SACK: pack or sack? SLOP: slop or plop?

9. For assessment, distribute the following worksheet. Students are to draw a line to the words beginning with S and color the pictures that begin with S.


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

Murray, Bruce. Brush your Teeth with F.

Wilson, Karma. (2002). Bear Snores On. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Assessment Worksheet:


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