Walk Down the Yellow Brick Road with Mr. Tiiiiiiin Man

Beginning Reading
Tammy Feely

Rationale:  The importance of understanding that letters match on to the sounds of spoken words (phonemes) is a hard concept for young children to grasp.  Helping children to realize and make this connection of the alphabetic principle will help them to become better spellers and readers.  This lesson will help prepare children to identify /i/ (short i).  With practice, children will become familiar and comfortable with identifying /i/ in spoken words by practicing how to make the letter symbol, as well as creating and identifying the phoneme.  By practicing how to identify /i/ in words, students will gain confidence in their alphabetic insights and capabilities.    



Letterboxes with at least six Elkonin boxes (one per student)  *Words:  it, is, big, swing, list, drink, print, sprint


Letterbox with at least six Elkonin boxes that will be able to be displayed on a projector so the teacher can demonstrate so the whole class can see

Letters – i, t, s, b, g, w, n, l, d, r, k, p  --   (pre-sort them and put them in baggies so the children will just have to pick up a pre-made baggie with all of the necessary letters in it)

Book: Tin Man Fix-It by Sheila Cushman (Educational Insights)  (one copy per student)


Primary Writing Paper

Spelling Quiz sheets for Lesson Words (one per student)

Spelling Quiz Answer Sheet (1 copy)

1.  Introduce the lesson by explaining to children that our language is like a maze, and in order to get to the end, we must figure out what roads we have to take.  SAY:  "Our language is like a maze, and to get to the end of the maze, we have to know what roads today.  One road is that we have to know what mouth movements to make for different letters, so that we can make a complete journey on to our destination (make it to the end of the maze).  Today, we are going to focus on the mouth move for /i/.  It will take some time, but with practice and a secret trick that I am going to show you, we will have this mastered in no time!"

2.   Ask the student’s if they have ever seen the movie, The Wizard of Oz.  SAY:  “You know, one of my favorite movies is The Wizard of Oz.  How many of you have seen it?  Well, today, we are going to be like the Tin Man and every time we hear the /i/ sound in a word, we are going to pump our arms just like the Tin Man did when he skipped down the yellow brick road.  Let’s practice being the Tin Man for a minute.  Remember to move just your arms every time you hear the /i/ sound.”

3.  Tell the students:  “Today, we are going to help the Tin Man skip down the yellow brick road.  He wants us to read him a sentence and he told me to remind you that every time you hear the /i/ sound, move your arms so that he can skip down the yellow brick road.  Here is our sentence:  ‘There is an icky iguana inside the igloo.'  Now that we’ve heard it once, I want everyone to practice saying it as a group slowly, three times. Alright, if you think that with this sentence, we can help the Tin Man skip down the yellow brick road because we heard the /i/ sound in this sentence, raise your hand.  You did!  That’s awesome.  Let’s all say it together but this time, I want everyone to stretch out that /i/ sound and pump our arms to help the Tin Man make it to the end of the brick road!  'There iiiiiiis an iiiiiicky iiiiiiguana iiiiiinside the iiiiigloo.'  Great job everybody!  Now, what I want to do is to say this sentence one more time and count each time you hear the /i/ sound.  How many did you hear?  5?  That is correct.  Let’s say the sentence together and as we hear that sound, I’ll write the words with the /i/ sound in it on the board.”

4.  I will now have the students do a comparison of words.  I will say two words, and  have them repeat both back as a class, and with the word that they hear the /i/ sound in, they must create the “running Tin Man” gesture.  SAY:  "Alright class, now we are going to play the comparison game.  This is how it is going to work.  I am going to say two words aloud and in one of those words is the /i/ sound that we have been practicing.  After I have said both words, I want you to repeat both of them back to me, but only pump your arms on the word that has the /i/ sound in it.  OK?  Any questions?  Well, let's begin!"

                  It or Animal

                  In or Goat

                  Push or Is

                  Sit or Bite

                  Hit or Hop

                  Plan or Kick

                  Bring or Rest   

                  List or See

                  Have or String

                  Sting or Hello

                  Grow or Shrink

                       Strict or Happy

5.  Next I will pull out the projector and demonstrate to the class how we do letterbox lessons.  SAY:  “Class, I want you all to take out your letters and your letterboxes.  I am going to demonstrate how this works.  I know we’ve done this before but I want everyone to pay close attention.  Now don’t do anything, just watch as I show you.  As you can see, I have three boxes displayed in front of me.  Each box is going to represent a sound in a word that we hear.  For example, the Tin Man wants me to spell the word ‘sit.’  The first sound I hear is /s/, so the letter s will go in the first box.  The second sound I hear is /i/, so the letter i will go in the second box.  The third sound I hear is /t/, so the letter t will go in the third box.  Now I am going to use my finger to point at each box and slowly pronounce the sound of the letters:  /s/, /i/, /t/.  Now I will do that one more time but I will say it faster, /s/ /i/ /t/ = sit.  Do you see how that works?  Each box represents a different sound of the word, and these sounds are represented by our letters so that we can see them in print!  Pretty cool huh?”

6.  Say:  “Now let’s help our friend the Tin Man get to the end of the yellow brick road.  I am going to say aloud some words and we are each going to spell them independently on our own letterboxes.  I will be walking around and if you have trouble, quietly raise your hand.  Be sure not to disturb your neighbor, because they are trying to concentrate hard on their work.  After a few minutes of each word, I am going to show what I came up with, and if you don’t have the same that I do, don’t be shy or embarrassed.  Just raise your hand and we will all go over the sounds of the word out loud as a class.”
                        *** Say each word, one at a time.  Walk around the room for a few minutes, and answer any questions, then come back and display the correct letterbox lesson on the projector.  Answer any questions the students have.  Then move on to the next word until completed.  Words:  it, is, big, swing, list, drink, print, sprint.
                                    SAY:  “Boys and girls, here is your first word.  It has two sounds so I want you to pull out two letterboxes.  I want you to listen carefully to the sounds of the word that you hear.  Do not look at anyone else’s work; this is independent!  O.K., your first word is itItIt is very cold outside.  It.”  (Wait a few minutes, walk around the room, and answer any questions.  Come back and display the word.)

7.  Now turn on the projector and display each word.  Have the students read aloud the word you spelt in the letterbox.  Words:  it, is, big, swing, list, drink, print, sprint.  SAY: “Alright boys and girls, here is the word. We have two letterboxes which means that there are two different sounds.  Can someone read me this word?”  (Call on a student.)  “Excellent job.  I heard an /i/ sound and I heard a /t/ sound, so I chose to put down the letters i and t, which spells it.  Does anyone have any questions?” (Continue doing this same procedure from steps 6 and 7 with the rest of your word list.)

8.  SAY:  “Boys and girls, you all did such a fantastic job with the letterbox lesson that I want to introduce you to a book.  Our friend that we have been talking about, Mr. Tin Man, well, he’s in this book!  Let me tell you about it.  We all love our friend, Mr. Tin Man.  He has two new friends, named Sid and Jim.  Sid accidentally ran into Mr. Tin Man, and now Mr. Tin Man is hurt!  Oh no!  To find out if he’s going to be alright, you must read Tin Man Fix-It.  Let’s all take a few moments to read this book with our neighbors.  Grab a partner.  One of you be even, and the other person be odd, and read the pages that you are (odds read odd pages, and evens read even pages).” 

9.  After everyone has finished, SAY:  “Alright, how did you guys like the book?  Did Mr. Tin-Man turn out alright?  What did you find interesting about the book?”

10.  Have the students take out their pencils and writing paper.  Say:  “I want us to all to draw a picture to Mr. Tin Man and then write a sentence about your picture.  I am going to come around and collect these so make sure you try your best!”

11.  For assessment:  I will give a spelling quiz of a few words that we used in the letterbox lesson plus a few new words with the /i/ sound.  There will be blank spaces ( _ _ _ _) for each word so that students can have some guidance with matching the correct phonemes and graphemes for words.  I will take up the quiz to see how students are doing and understanding the material. 



Cushman, Sheila.  Tin Man Fix-It.  Carson, CA:  Educational Insights.  1990.

I-I-Iggy the I-I-Iguana by Mandy Williamson. http://www.auburn.edu/rdggenie/explor/williamsonbr.html

Murry, Bruce, and Lesniak, T. “The Letterbox Lesson: A Hands-On Approach to Teaching Decoding.” The Reading Teacher. Volume 52, 1999.

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                                                    SPELLING QUIZ SHEET

NAME:  ________________________________                             DATE:  __________________________

1.   __ ___

2.  __ ___

3.  __ __ ___

4.  ___  ____ ___

5.  ___ ____ ____ ___

6.  ___ ___ ____ ___ ____

7.  ___ ___ ____ ____ ____ ____

8.  ____ ____ ____ ____ _____ ____

9.  ___ ____ ____

10.  ____ ____ ____ ___



1.   it
2.  is
3.  hit
4.  sit
5.  list
6.  string
7.  sprint
8.  splint
9.  big
10.  swim