Motor Boat, Motor Boat

Emergent Literacy

By: Emily Barberini


Rationale:  Children need to be aware that spoken words have phonemes which are the sounds of the letters.  This will help them in reading and writing.  They also need to understand the relationship between these sounds and the letters that represent them.  Letter recognition is one of the two best predictors of beginning reading success (Adams 36).   In this lesson students will learn to identify d = /d/ in written and spoken words and will gain experience with this letter through guided practice.


∙   Primary paper and pencil

∙   Chart with the tongue twister: “Daniel the dog digs a ditch deep in the sand.”   

∙   Bag (paper grocery store bag will be sufficient)

∙   Picture cards of the following words: duck, dog, cat, dime, pig, hand, hat, dress, candle, ball, bear, diamond, fish, sword, clock, radio, pot [one         for each child in the classroom to be put into the bag]

∙   “Dawdle Duckling” by Toni Buzzeo - Published by: Dial Books for Young Readers

∙   Picture page with: bag, sand, phone, towel, bread, dollar, calendar, strawberry, desk, and dog


1.         Each of the words we say and write are made up of the twenty-six letters found in the alphabet.  Each letter making its own sound.  Our mouths move in different ways to form each sound.  Today we are going to be learning the mouth movement for /d/.  Let’s all practice moving our mouths as we say “ddddd”  Very good!  Sometimes the /d/ will be hidden in words, but pay close attention and I know you will be able to find it!

2.         Ask students: Have you ever heard a car or boat motor that is trying to start, but just can’t?  The motor seems to be saying “ddddduh.”  Think about what your mouth does when you make that noise.  The tip of your tongue barely touches the roof of your mouth, right behind your top teeth and then your mouth opens a little bit and your tongue just POPS down!  Watch me say it: (model) "ddddduh".  Now it’s your turn!  Let’s all try and start our motors together, “dddduh.”

3.         “Now, let’s try a fun tongue twister!” [on chart]  Read through the tongue twister once before explaining the activity to the students.  “As we read through the tongue twister this time I want you to listen for the /d/ sound, every time you hear the /d/ sound I want you to pretend to start your motors.  Dddaniel the dddog dddigs a ddditch dddeep in the sanddd.”   Repeat reading through the tongue twisters several times until all of the students are starting their motors at the correct times.  Also, have students break the /d/ apart from the word as they read it through once or twice.  “/D/ aniel the /d/ og  /d/ igs a /d/ itch /d/eep in the san /d/.”  Great job!

4.         [Take out primary paper and pencil]  “Now that we know what the letter d sounds like we are going to learn and practice how to write the letter d on paper.  I want everyone to watch as I show you how to write the letter d.  Then we will all practice.  Start by reviewing how to make the little c which will be used to make the little d.  To make our little c, start a little below the fence, come up and touch the fence then around and touch the sidewalk and then come up a little above the sidewalk.  First little c, then little d.  I want you all to practice making the letter d on your paper.  I am going to walk around and look at all the wonderful letters you are making!”  Teacher will walk around the room offering extra guidance to struggling students.  After each child has mastered the letter d, proceed to the next part of the lesson.

5.         [Children sitting in their seats at desks your tables]  “Now we are going to play a game.  I have cards with different pictures on them in my bag.  I am going to come around and each of you will draw a card. Read the card silently to yourself.  Be careful not to tell us what your word is yet.  If your card has the /d/ sound in its name raise your hand, if your card does not have the /d/ sound in its name put your head down on your desk.  When everyone has drawn a card and determined if it has the /d/ sound in it we will go around the room and share our cards with each other. 

Could be altered to be a more active game:  [Teacher would bring children to the floor in a semi-circle around the teacher] “Now we are going to play a game.  I have cards with different pictures on them.  When it is your turn, I want you to draw a card.   Read the card silently to yourself.  Be careful not to tell us what your word is yet.   When everyone has drawn a card, I will count to three.  On the count of three I want you to go to this side of the room [point to left] if your card has the /d/ sound in it and this side of the room [point to right] if your card does not have the /d/ sound. We will then read them aloud as a class.”  Cards will be set out like memory where they are upside down so that the student cannot pick a word on purpose.  Once the students all get to a side of the room have them go through and read their cards aloud.  Make sure that the class agrees with each student’s decision and have them move accordingly.

            For a little more review, go through a simple list of a few pairs of words for the students to determine which word the /d/ sound is found in.  “Now I am going to give you a few pairs of words and I want you to tell me which of the two words you hear the /d/ sound in.  For example, do you hear the /d/ sound in dog or cat? ddd-ooo- ggg. dog.  ccc-aaa-ttt. cat.  [Wait for student response] Very good!  The /d/ sound is in dog!  Now here are your words, listen carefully:

                        dark or light?

                        foot or hand?

                        dime or penny?

6.         Read “Dawdle Duckling” by Toni Buzzeo.  Have students raise their hands as they hear the /d/ sound while you read the story aloud. 

7.         Assessment:  Give students the picture page handout with various pictures.  The pictures will be of words that do have the d = /d/ correspondences, as well as, pictures that do not.  Have students write the letter d under each picture that has the /d/ sound in it.  Writing the letter will allow the teacher to check for mastery of the written letter, and writing the letter under only pictures that have the /d/ in them will allow the teacher to check for mastery of the d = /d/ correspondence.



Adams, Marilyn Jager. Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning About Print. 1990.

Adams, Whitney.  Duh! It’s D!

Eldredge, J. Lloyd.  Teach Decoding; Why and HowUpper Saddle River, NJ. (2005). pg. 60-82.

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