Music on the Mountain

Emergent Literacy Design

Catherine Anne Moulton





Rationale: One of the most important factors in whether or not a child will be a successful reader depends on if they know the alphabetic principle. Children must be able to identify both the phoneme and grapheme for all 26 letters of the alphabet.  This particular lesson is designed to help children learn the phoneme /m/ and its grapheme M or m. Students will be given a meaningful representation (music on the mountain) along with the letter symbol, will be taught the vocal gesture for creating /m/, and will practice finding /m/ in both spoken and written words.




1) Letter M written on whiteboard

2) Chart with "My Mother Makes Me Muffins in the Morning"

3) Picture of child thinking

4) Picture of Mountain

5) Primary Paper

6) Worksheet for each student with the pictures of a muffin, ball, money, cat, monkey, shoe, moon, mouse, tiger, and man

7) Cut-out of a mountain for each student

8) Note cards with the words map, mint, rake, soon, mask

9) Pencil

10) Glue

11) I Can Draw text: Klein, Adria. I Can Draw. San Diego: Dominie Press. 1996.




1. As you know, to be able to read and write we have to play "detectives" and figure out our language's secret code. We have done this with a few letters, already. Today we are going to investigate the letter M, and we will learn that M says /m/.  We will learn what our mouth does to say /m/, and we will learn how to find that sound in words.


2. When I think of the /m/ sound, I think of the sound someone makes when they think really hard about something. Look at this picture (picture of boy thinking). It looks like he is thinking about something, doesn't it? Let's all make the gesture he is making and say the sound "mmmmmmmm" like we are thinking about something too. Good job!


3. The letter that makes this sound is M. It is easy to remember that M makes the thinking sound because M looks like a mountain and we do our best thinking in places where we have peace and quiet, like up on a mountain. I have a picture of an M-shaped mountain and I'm going to put the picture of the boy thinking on top of it, like he is thinking on top of the mountain. Let's all close our eyes and pretend to go to our quiet place up on the mountain to think. "mmmmmmm."


4. I'm going to show you how to find /m/ when it is hidden inside a word. Let's try the word "Sam." I'm going to stretch the word out as much as I can, like I'm stretching out a piece of bubble gum. Listen to me stretch the word and watch my fingers stretch the piece of gum. "Ssssssaaaaaammmmmm."


Now I am going to do the same thing and see if my mouth makes the shape for /m/ where my lips close up really tight and roll in a little bit- the thinking sound. "SsssaaaaammmmmMMM" There it is! I found the /m/ in Sam! This means there is an M in this word.


5. Now let's say this tongue twister: Repeat after me. My Mother Makes Me Muffins in the Morning. Say it again 2 more times together. This time when we say it, let's listen for the thinking /m/ sound. When we hear it, we'll make the gesture like the boy in the picture and stretch it out. Now let's try breaking the /m/ sound off the word like this: /m/y  /m/other  /m/akes   /m/e   /m/ uffins  in the /m/orning. Good job! You're being great detectives and finding the /m/ sound in words!


6. {Instruct class to get out their primary paper and a pencil}


We use M to write the sound /m/. As we discussed, M looks like a mountain. Capital M is a big mountain, and lower-case M is a small mountain. Let's practice writing this letter, but first watch me write it on the board. Lower-case m starts at fence, goes down the sidewalk, bounces back up to the fence, around, and down to the sidewalk again to make one hump, and then does the same thing again to make a second hump (bounces back up to the fence, around, and down to the sidewalk.)  Now you try a lower-case m.  I will come check your M, and once I have put a smiley face beside it, I want you to write 5 more just like it!


7. Now that we know how to look for the mountain shape in written words and listen for the thinking sound in spoken words, I want you to help me identify some words. I'll show you a word and you tell me what word it is. Remember: If we see the mountain, we know to make the /m/ sound like we are thinking on the mountain. Raise your hand if you know the answer.


Is this Map or Sap?              


Is this Tint or Mint?             


Is this Rake or Make?          


Is this Moon or Soon?         


Is this Task or Mask?           


8. We're going to play detective again. This time, you tell me which word the /m/ sound is hiding in.  Raise your hand when you know the answer. Do you hear /m/ in:


Food or Meal


Man or Boy


Sink or Swim


Arm or Leg


Hot or Warm


9. Now we are going to practice adding the /m/ sound to words. I will say a word, and then I will ask you to add /m/ to the beginning of the word. For example, if the word were "it," you would say "/m/ it . . . .MIT." Raise your hand if you know the answer.


At-            MAT


Ink-           MINK


Ache-          MAKE


Eel-              MEAL


An-              MAN


10. I will read the first three pages of the predictable book, I Can Draw, until the pattern is detectable, then I will ask the students to predict the following pages and raise their hand for the answers. Book Talk: "Look at the cover of this book. Can you tell what it is going to be about? Let's read to see what this child will draw!"


Assessment: I will give to each student a worksheet and a cut-out mountain. The worksheet will have 10 pictures on it {muffin, ball, money, cat, monkey, shoe, moon, mouse, tiger, and man}. They will be asked to color the 6 pictures that begin with the letter M. Once they have colored them, they will cut them out and glue them to their mountain.





Mountain Picture:


Jupiter images. Child Thinking.


Murray, Bruce. Reading Genie.




Klein, Adria.  I Can Draw.  San Diego: Dmonie Press, 1996.


Taylor, Hanna. Thinking on the Mountain.


Return to the Caravans index.