Bo Knows /O/

( phonics lesson )

by Mark Mathews


This is a phonics lesson based on the alphabetic principle of corresponding phonemes to their graphemes.  The students are practicing first to distinguish vocal gestures in their minds, and then map those sounds in letterboxes.  Today’s selection of words focuses on the phoneme o_e = /O/, but there are review words with the short vowel /o/.


The step-by-step procedure listed here is a bit remedial for a long vowel lesson.  If they are on /O/ they would have done letterboxes already in my classroom.  Lets just assume I had to pick up teaching in the Spring and the children already know some long vowels.



-  oversized letterbox and letters (Velcro or felt)

-  letterbox and letters for each student

-  print-out with boxes for students to record answers

-  tongue twister labeled above oversized letterbox, “Oreos or Dominoes Nobody Knows”


Bring students to reading rug or sit them on the floor in front of you.
Setup oversized letterbox behind you, with oversized letters close at hand
[Review]  Begin to access prior knowledge by talking about sounds in words and playfully get them to respond with questions like “which words have the same sound: dog, bat, log”
[Review]  Then talk about how the sounds we make in words are mapped out when we write those words down.  Quickly quiz them orally on the alphabetic principle … “Who can tell me what letters I’m sounding out … /a/ … /b/ … /f/ … /u/ … /k/ … “
[Explain Why]  “This stuff is SOOO important.  You will use it today, tomorrow, and everyday of your life.  Reading and writing down the words we say is one of the most important things I can help you master because you will use those skills everyday for the rest of your life.”
[Explain How] [Model]  Using age appropriate language, introduce them to the letterbox activity by modeling for them with the oversized tool you have already set up.  “This is my set of letterboxes.  When I practice finding sounds in words, this is what I use.  Lets say I’m practicing the word “pool” … The first sound I hear is /p/, so that goes in the first box, and the second sound I hear is /oo/, so that goes in the second box.  Notice everyone that you can put a few letters in one box because those letters all made one sound, ok?  The last sound I hear in “pool” is /l/.  So that’s what I put in the last box.” [note: when noting these sounds for the students hold them longer than normal, try to pretend you are really practicing]
Ask the students to quietly go back to their seats and not touch their letters or letterboxes until they get more instructions.
“You will all notice each of you have your own letterbox set to work with.  Lets all do some practice before I give you some words to find on your own.”
[Simple Practice (9-14)]  “If I wanted us to map out the word “pen” what would we do first?” [call on one student to try and explain, if he/she does not just explain it yourself and move on]
“That’s right, the first sound we all hear is /p/ like in “parrot” or “popsicle”, so we put a “p” in the first box.” [note: you are modeling this with the oversized letterbox while explaining]
“What is the second sound we hear in “pen”?  [note: same process, call on one and move on]  That’s right, we hear that short /e/ sound … can you all make that sound with me? /e……/”
“Very good, you’re all ready to go except for one super special rule I’m going to give you now.  Who thinks they can sound out and spell “store” in my big letterbox? [note: offer them a star or whatever tokens you might have to someone who can get it correctly in the letterboxes.  This will get someone to try, but no one will feel cheated since they probably won’t do it correctly.
13)  “That was a good try, and I can tell you know how to SPELL the word “store”, but for our letterboxes we put that silent “e” outside the last box.  Ok?  Lets see everybody make the word “store” in their letterboxes.”
“Ok lets separate the thinkers from the … non-thinker people … I’m going to give you some words, and I want you to put the correct letters for the correct sounds in the correct boxes.”
[Assessment]  At some time during your practice, depending on how well the students are doing, you can tell them to write their letterboxes on the sheet provided.  Collect this after the lesson to try and spot problems.
Word lists:
[review /o/] dog, rob, block, frog, stomp
[ o_e = /O/] doe, core, rope, pole, smoke, close, drove, stroke
After the students have worked out their letterboxes and sheets, go back to the oversized letterbox and practice orally on a few words in the letterboxes.  Then practice reading words outside the oversized letterbox.
18)  [Whole Text]  After collecting the worksheets and asking the students to put their letterboxes away, pass out Bo and Rose to each student.  Since the book is so short, either have them read aloud in unison or read silently to themselves.  If you choose the silent road, walk around and ask students to read quietly to you aloud.  You can either pick randomly who will read to you or try and target students that were struggling in the letterbox lesson.


            1)  Cushman, Sheila.  (1990) Bo and Rose..  Educational Insights.

            2)  The Reading Genie: Letterbox Example Words

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