The Doctor is In!


Beginning Reading Lesson Design

Kari Beth Freeman

To learn to read and spell words, students must not only learn that letters are symbols that stand for phonemes, or vocal gestures, but also use their knowledge of those letter sound relationships to decode and recognize words. According to Adams (1990), students need to be able to decode unfamiliar words in order to become a skillful reader. Therefore, this lesson will teach children the letter sound relationship o=/o/ and help them recognize words containing this correspondence. The students will be able read and spell words including the short o sound by giving them a hand gesture as well as meaningful name to help them remember this letter sound correspondence.


-Large picture illustrating the doctor /o/ sound

-Chalkboard/chalk or white board/markers

-Overhead projector (or a felt letterbox display for modeling the letterbox lesson.)

-1 dry erase board (with primary paper lines) and marker for every student

-primary paper and pencil

-poster with /o/ words on it: top, mom, dot, nod, doll, dog

-poster with “Oliver had an operation in October, and Oscar gave him an octopus,” written on it.

-letter boxes: 1 row of two for each student, and 1 row of six for each student

-Teacher size letter boxes: 1 row of two, and 1 row of six

-Student letters: c, d, f, g, k, l(2), m, n, o, p, r, s, t in baggies for each student

-Teacher size letters: d, o, t

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

-Computer with Internet Access

-Assessment worksheet (1 for every student) - Students will decode pseudo words- fop, soll, mot, gob, doz, nog, slom, crost, brong, and stond.


1. Introduce the lesson by explaining, “Letters are not only written a certain way, but they also make certain sounds when we speak.  When we read, we notice that letters stand for different mouth moves. When we know what mouth move each letter makes, we can become better readers.  Today, we are going to learn the mouth move for the letter o.  By knowing what sound the letter o makes in words, we can begin to read words with the letter o. The letter o makes the /o/ sound. You will be surprised how many words will be able to read that have the /o/ sound!”

2.  “Has anyone had a check-up at a doctor’s office? What are some things he says?  When I go, he always tells me to ‘open wide and say /o/ when he looks down my throat!’ This is the mouth move we use to say the sound /o/.” (Model the /o/ sound and the way the mouth opens wide to make the sound). “Let’s all open wide and say /o/ together. Great job! Turn to your partner and take turns being the doctor. Tell your partner to ‘open wide and say /o/!’ Great job!  I’m going to say some words, and I want you to listen for the open wide /o/ sound.  Listen for the /o/ sound in the word mop. I’m going to slow down how I say the word to listen for the /o/ sound:  mmmmmmmm   mmmmoooooo- there it is! mmmoooop. Did everyone hear the open wide /o/ sound? Good.  Now it’s your turn to break apart the word. Let’s find the /o/ sound in these words (written on the board)- top, mom, nod, doll. “/tooooop/” “/moooooom/” “/noooood/”, etc. (Provide scaffolds if needed) Do you hear /o/ in momdad?   blob or clap? on or in? bed or hop?”

3.  Let’s practice the open wide /o/ sound with a tongue twister (written on the chalk/dry erase board). Teacher: point to the words as the students say them out loud. “Oliver had an operation in October, and Oscar gave him an octopus.” Let’s say the tongue twister three times together. Good! Now, let’s see if we can stretch out the /o/ sound using our open wide /o/ sound. “Ooooooliver had an ooooooperation in Ooooooctober, and Ooooooscar gave him an oooooctopus.” One more time. Great job with the open wide /o/ sound!

4. “Now I think that everyone knows how to make the letter o, but lets write several together on our (primary) paper.  Start just below the fence. First little c, then close it up! Good, now make three more on your paper for practice. Great job! I will walk around and make sure everyone made their letter o correctly before moving on.

5. Next, I will model how to spell words using teacher-size letterboxes on the overhead projector. “We are going to practice spelling words that have the open wide /o/ sound in them.  (Make a row of three letter boxes.) These boxes represent how many sounds are in the words.  How many letterboxes would we need for the word “on”? Good, two. Now, I am going to spell a word with three sounds.  How many letterboxes will I need for this word? Exactly, three! I am going to break apart this word to figure out what letters I should use to spell the word dot.  /ddddd/- I know that the letter d makes the /d/ sound, so I will put the letter d in the first letterbox. /dddddd/oooo/- There is our open wide /o/ sound! I know what letter stands for that sound! I will put the letter o in the second letter box.  What is the third sound in this word? /d/ooooo/ttt/. Oh, that must be the letter t, because that stands for the /t/ sound. My word is /d/o/t/. dot! Now its your turn to spell some words in your letterboxes.”

6. I will pass out the individual letterboxes and baggies with the letters c, d, f, g, k, l (2), m, n, o, p, r, s, t to each student. If the children’s ability levels in the class differ drastically, this lesson can be done in small homogenous groups.  Otherwise, this can be a whole group activity. I will then have the students spell several words in a letterbox lesson. This is a non-competitive activity that allows students to become more proficient at correctly identifying the particular letter sound correspondence without fear or failure. “Take your letters out of the baggies and turn them so that the lowercase side is showing. Good.  You need to get the letterbox row that only has two boxes. If our word only uses two boxes, what does that tell us about the sounds in the word? Good, it will have two sounds! Your first word is on. ‘Someone turn the light on!’ (As the students are spelling their words, walk around to monitor their successes and give assistance if needed.) Great job! Clear the board. Now you need to fold your row of six letter boxes so that you only see three boxes. (Walk around to make sure the students have done this.) The next word is not. You may not talk out in class. Doll-My sister has a favorite doll. Pot-My mom cooks chicken in a pot. Lock-Don’t forget to lock your door. Sock-I lost a sock yesterday. Moth-A moth flies at nighttime. Now we need four letterboxes.  Frog-I have a pet frog. Pond-I have ducks in my pond. Are you ready for our monster word?  Get out five letterboxes for this word! Frost-In the winter, frost covers the ground. Great job!”

7. “You all did a very good job spelling those words! Now, I am going to do the work for you. I am going to show you how to read these words that you just spelled.  I am going to read the word lock. /llllll/  /ooooo/ - I know that the letter c with the letter k makes the /k/ sound.  So my word is /l/o/k/. Lock! I will spell the words on the board, and I want you to read them out loud. Ready.” Spell the words: on, not, doll, pot, lock, frog, sock, moth, pond, frost.

8. The students will now write a message on their primary paper about what they would do with a million dollars.

9. “Great spelling and reading today! Now, I am going to give you each a book called In the Big Top.  I want everyone to read this book while I come around and listen how excellent you all read! Before I pass out this book, I am going to tell you a little bit about it.  A family wants to go to the circus.  Have you ever been to a circus? They bring a lot of things to the circus with them, but they only have one little car to get them there!  Tod gets in the car first.  Then Roz hops in. Then Rob hops in. Then the dog hops in! Will anymore people fit into the car? Will they ever get to the circus? Let’s read and find out!” I will pass out the books, walk around to monitor the students while they read, and assist students while they read when they have trouble with a word. After their first reading, we will talk about some things they noticed in the story (that deals with the plot).  I will then have them read the book twice more to look for certain aspects to the story, as well as give them lots of practice in decoding the words in the book.

10. I will have the students play an interactive computer game on the PBS Kids website to monitor their progress of reading and recognizing words with the short o sound.  The students will enjoy practicing their skills with this fun game.  It will also give me an idea of which students were successful, and which need more work.


-For a formal assessment, I will have the kids read with me one-on-one.  I will give them a sheet that lists ten pseudo words (fop, soll, mot, gob, doz, nog, slom, crost, brong, and stond) with the short o sound.  They must read me the words with complete accuracy to get credit. Their score will be taken out of 100, with each word read correctly worth 10 points.


-In the Big Top..  Educational Insights.

-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.

-PBS Kids (2005) WGBH/Sirius Thinking. BTL TMs WGBH. Interactive computer game to practice reading words with short o.

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