Amber DeBlanc
Beginning Reading Lesson Design


Say “Aaaah”

Rationale:  To learn to read and spell words, students must learn that letters are symbols that stand for phonemes and that letter-sound relationships should be used to decode and recognize words. Decoding various correspondences in words is crucial in becoming a skillful and fluent reader. It is important to first master the short vowel sounds before moving on to more complex ones.  In this lesson, the students will learn the o = /o/ correspondence, or the short o.  The students will be able to recognize the short letter o and associate it with the phoneme /o/ in written and spoken words.  They will learn to associate the letter o with the sound that you make when you go to the doctor and get your throat checked, when you open wide and say “Aaaah”. 



Picture of doctor checking girls throat.

Elkonin Boxes (letterboxes) and with set of lowercase letters for each child (m, o, p, c, a, n, b, l, b, r, i, t, s, f)

Poster of large letterboxes and the letters l, o, and g to demonstrate with

Poster of Tongue Twister – Oliver had an operation in October

Decodable book: Cushman, Sheila. In the Big Top. (1990). Educational Insights. Carson, California. (one for every student)

Flashcards containing pictures of words with and without the o = /o/ phoneme for every child, such as a log, pot, mop, man, can, frosty the snowman, octopus, and crab

Primary writing paper and pencil for each student, second

Worksheet and pencils for each student with pictures of words with and without the /o/ phoneme.  


Pass out all materials. 

“Today we are going to learn the new vowel letter o and one of the sounds it makes.  When the letter o is by itself and no other vowels are around it, it makes a short o sound. Show students the picture of the doctor checking the girl’s mouth.  Look at this picture.  It reminds me of when I go to the doctor and he checks my mouth or my throat.  He always tells me to say “aaaah.”  This is the same sound the letter o makes.  It says /o/ (teacher demonstrates)To make the special /o/ sound, we open our mouths wide and pretend the doctor is checking our throat.  Say the sound the letter o makes with me.

Now let’s see if we can hear the /o/ sound in a fun tongue twister!  Listen carefully. (Teacher points to each word on the Tongue twister poster as she says it.   Model reading the tongue twister to the students. “Oliver had an operation in October.” 

Now let’s all say it together. “Oliver had an operation in October.”  Very nice.

“Ok, whenever we say the /o/ sound, let’s stretch it out like we are at the doctor getting our throat checked.  Let me show you how to stretch the /o/ sound out.   Ooooliver had an ooooperation in Ooooctober.”  

Now let’s all stretch the /o/ sound out in together. “Ooooliver had an ooooperation in Ooooctober.”  You guys are so smart!

Do you hear the /o/ sound in mop or map?  Lad or log?  Crick or crock?  Rock or rack?  Great Job!

Now that we know how the letter o sounds, let’s try writing the letter o. Let me show you how to write the letter o. Start just below the fence. First little c, then close it up!  Now let’s write one together on our paper.  Remember to start just below the fence. First little c, then close it up!  Great. 

Now let’s get out our letterboxes and try to find the letter o in some words.  We are going to use some words we already know using different vowels and we’re going to use some new words with our new /o/ sound. 

Everybody, watch me do one first.  (teacher uses the large poster letter boxes and Velcro letters to demonstrate).  The first word I am going to spell is log.  (teacher gets out 3 letter boxes/ one for each sound.) /l/ /o/ /g/.  I hear three sounds in this word.  The first sound it /l/, so I will put the letter l in the first box.  The next sound is /o/.  That’s the doctor sound!  I will put the letter o in the second box.  The last sound I hear is /g/, so I will put a g in the last box.  Oh, a log.  Like the kind of log you build a fire with!

Now I will call out some words.  When you hear the word, I want you to put the letters of the sound you hear in the letter boxes.  I will tell you how many sounds are in the word for a clue wo you know how many letterboxes to use.  The teacher will call out the following words (mop, can, blob, crab, blimp, stomp, and frost).

Now I want you to read the book, In the Big Top, which is on your desk.  Let’s all read with our quiet voices and I’ll come around and listen to you read.  This book is about a big family that is going to the circus and they all have to get there in one tiny little car.  I wonder if they will all fit!  Let’s read to find out!  You all did great finding that /o/ sound in our letterbox words.  Let’s see how many you can spot in the book.


I will evaluate the students’ progress at the end of the lesson by holding up a series of flashcards that have pictures of words with and without the o = /o/ phoneme, such as a log, pot, mop, man, can, frosty the snowman, octopus, and crab.  I will ask the students to raise their hands if they see a picture with the /o/ sound in it.  I will also hand out a separate worksheet with pictures that have things with and without the /o/ phoneme in them.  I will have the children circle the pictures that have the /o/ phoneme in them.  We will also have students match words to the pictures on the worksheets.


Cushman, Sheila. (1990). Decodable book:  In the Big Top.  Educational Insights.  Carson City, CA

Kerns, Megan.  “Open wide and say aaah.”

  Murray, Bruce. Teaching Letter Recognition.


  Murray, Bruce A. and Theresa Lesniak (1999). “Teaching Reading. The Letterbox lesson: A hands-on approach for teaching decoding.” The Reading Teacher. Vol. 52, No.6. pp.644-650.


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