Hot Rod 

Dana Harbin

Lesson for teaching decoding with short vowels




Rationale: Students must become fluent readers in order to maximize their comprehension skills. To become fluent reader’s students must first learn to become accurate decoders. One of the most essential skills needed in decoding is the ability to decode vowels since there is a vowel present in every word. Since long vowels are commonly made up of more than one letter short vowels are best taught first. This lesson focuses on the o=/o/ sound which will enable students to gain a better understanding of the short o sound and be better able to decode it.


Materials: In the Big Top  (Class set)

                 Class set of Elkonin letter boxes

                 Class set of letters including (p, o, d, r, ck, sh, s, m, r, f, g, b, l, b)

                 Poster with tongue twister written on it (laminated) Ollie the Octopus often

     drives the hot rod to the opera

                 Primary paper




  1. Introduce the lesson by telling students that today we will continue to work of our vowel sounds which will help us become better readers. Remember how last week we studied i=/i/. Well let's see how much you all remember. As I read this sentence pretend like you are scratching your itches every time you hear i=/i/. Igburt and Innie were itching all over. Great!! Now, today we will work on the short vowel sound /o/.
  2. Have any of you ever been to the doctor? What does the doctor make you say when he wants to look in your throat? That's right he makes you say ooooooo. Can all of you open your mouth wide like the doctor is looking in it and say oooooo. Good. Now I want all of you to repeat this tongue twister after me. Ollie the Octopus often drives the hot rod to the opera. Now it is your turn. Very good. Now this time we will really stretch the /o/ sound out. Excellent. Now I am going to call on my good listeners who want to learn to read to come and help me with something. Call a couple of students up and give them the opportunity to underline one of the words that has the /o/ sound in it.
  1. Now we will move on to our letterbox lesson.  Can everyone get out their letterboxes. Very good. Now I am going to spell the word fob. Let’s see I hear fff-ooo-bbb that’s three sounds so I must need three boxes. F-f-f that means f goes in the first box. O-o-o that means /o/ goes in the second box and b-b-b means b goes in the third box. (write the word on the board after you have spelled it) Now I want all of you to get three boxes ready and spell the word pod for me. (continue on using the words rock-3, shock-3, smock-4,  drop-4, frog-4, and blob-4). After you have spelled the word in your letterboxes write them on your primary paper. As the students spell the words teacher will be walking around assessing and helping as needed.
  2. Now I want each of you to grab your partner and take turns reading In the Big Top. As your partner reads I want you to make a tally mark for every time you hear your partner say the /o/ sound. After you both have read, compare to make sure that you both said the /o/ sound the same number of times.
  3. After everyone has had the opportunity to read the book I will ask each child to read a few pages  of In the Big Top and I will do a running record on them to assess their understanding and ability to use of o=/o/.



Murray, B. A. & Lesniak, T. (1999). The Letterbox Lesson: A hands on approach for teaching decoding. The Reading Teacher, 52, 644-650.

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