Say Aaah!
Emergent Literacy Lesson Design
By: Mariel D. Hall


Rationale:  Children must recognize phonemes before they can match graphemes (letters) to phonemes (sounds).  To learn to read and spell words, children need to know that letters stand for phonemes and spellings map out phonemes in spoken words.  Short vowels are probably the toughest phonemes to identify.  This lesson will focus on identifying /o/ (short o).  Children will learn to recognize /o/ sounds in spoken and written words, and then practice finding /o/ in words.

Primary paper and pencil
Chart with tongue twister: "Officer Oliver often observes the odd octopus in October" Drawing paper and crayons
Doc in the Fog (Educational insight)
Picture page (drawn by teacher) with box, bag, dog, sock, cat, shirt, frog, top

1. Introduce the lesson by explaining that writing is a secret code.  The tricky part is learning the sounds that letters symbolize.  Today we are going to practice the mouth move /o/.  At first /o/ may sound hidden in words, but as you practice it will be easier to find /o/ in many words.

2. Ask students: Has the doctor ever told you to open wide and say aaah?  Have the students pretend to be patients and say /o/, stretching it out.  Tell the students that /o/ is the sound of short o and that is what we will work on today.

3. Let's try a tongue twister with short o, (on chart) "Officer Oliver often observes the odd octopus in October."  I will say it first and then we will repeat it together.  Nice job!

 This time, say it again, stretching out the /o/ sound you hear, saying it loudly.  Great job!

4. (Have the students take out their primary paper and pencils).  We can use the letter o to spell /o/.  Let's write it.  First, start at the fence line; curve around to the sidewalk without lifting your pencil, then curve back up to touch the fence line.  Now you try to write it.  When you have written an o, raise your hand.  Once I have put a smile in your o, I want you to make a row of six or more o’s just like it.  When you see the letter o all by itself in a word, that's the signal to say /o/.

5. Model how to recognize the sound /o/ in words.  I am going to say a word and decide if the word contains the /o/ sound by stretching out the spoken word and placing my mouth in the /o/ position (e. g. when the doctor asks you to open up and say aaah).  For example, when I stretch out the word hot (/h/ /o/ /t/), I can hear the /o/ sound and my mouth is in the /o/ position.  But, when I stretch out the word lap (/l/ /a/ /p/), I do not hear the /o/ sound and my mouth is not in the /o/ position.  So, I hear /o/ in hot and I do not hear /o/ in lap.  Call on students to answer questions and tell how they knew: Do you hear /o/ in crop or grass?  Box or bag?  Frog or fish?  Soft or hard?  Clock or sun?  Let’s see if you can spot the mouth move in some words.  Say /o/ if you hear /o/ or say nah if you do not.  (Give words one by one).  Officer, Oliver, often, observes, the, odd, octopus, in, October.

6. Sing a song to the tune of Skip to My Lou, but change the words as follows: Who has a word that has an /o/?  Has, has, has an /o/?  Who has a word that has an /o/?  Skip to My Lou, my darling!  Children come up with words that answer the song.  For example, in response, Frog is a word that has an /o/.  Has, has, has an /o/.  Frog is a word that has an /o/.  Skip to My Lou, my darling!  Sing the song four times using words with /o/ suggested by the students.  Sample words are box, frog, lock, and dog.

7. Read Doc in the Fog and talk about the story.  Read it again and have the students raise their hand when they hear the sound /o/.  List their words on the board.  The students will draw a picture of one of the words written on the board and then write a message about it using invented spellings.  Display the children’s work.

8. For assessment, distribute the picture page and have them name each picture.  Ask each student to circle the pictures whose names have the sound /o/ in them.

1. Eldredge, J. Lloyd.  (1995).  Teach Decoding Why and How.  Pearson Education, Inc. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. pp. 64-75. 
2. Meredith Coblentz, Olly Octopus Says Ahhh. (2001).

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