Ollie the Otter


Beginning Reading Lesson Design

Elizabeth Moats




            This lesson is designed to aid children in recognizing the /o/ sound in written and spoken words.  Students should be able to recognize the short vowel sounds before going on to more difficult correspondences.  In order to become a skillful reader, students must be able to recognize correspondences in words.  Students will get practice spelling and reading the o = /o/ correspondence in the letter box lesson.

            (Objective): The students will learn to recognize and spell the short o sound in written words by participating in the letterbox lesson.  They will practice the vowel first, body – coda strategy with difficult words.  They will practice spelling short o words in the letter box lesson.



 Poster with "Ollie the Otter and Oliver the Ox say /o/ at the doctor’s office!" written on it.

 Primary paper and pencil for each student.

 Poster with primary paper lines labeled rooftop, fence, sidewalk, and ditch.  Have

     a poster with lowercase o written several times with arrows indicating how to print it.

 In the Big Top. Educational Insights. 1990. (enough copies for each student)

 4  Elkonin boxes for each student

letter manipulatives for each student (b, c, d, f, g, h, k, l, n, o, s, t, r, p, x)




1.  Begin the lesson by discussing the importance of knowing how to recognize short vowel sounds in words.  Explain that one important step in learning how to read fluently and spell is learning to recognize short vowel sounds like /o/ in written words. 

(Dialogue) "Do you know that we use the sound /o/ in many words that we read and say everyday?  Let's name a few: box,  pot, chop, and dock are all words that have the /o/ sound in them.  How about when you go to the doctor and he says, 'Open wide and say….'(let students fill in the blank).  That's right! You have to say /o/.  [Have students review the mouth moves involved in saying short o. ]  Let's practice our 'say /o/' sound and pay attention to the mouth moves we make when we say /o/". (Students practice making the /o/ sound.)


2.  "Let's say some words that have our /o/ sound in them.  [Point to the tongue twister poster] Try saying, "Ollie the Otter and Oliver the Ox say /o/ at the doctor's office!".  Let's say it again, but this time let's stretch out the /o/ sound in each word, just like I am saying Oooooollie or Oooootter.  (Class says tongue twister while stretching /o/ out in each word, repeat several times.)  Now I am going to stretch some of these words out.  See if you can figure out what word I am saying.  /o/ - /x/.  Right!  I said Ox.  Now try this one, /o/– /l/- /E/.  Great listening!  That spells Ollie"!


3.  "We are going to do a letterbox lesson today.  I am going to give everyone 4 boxes each.  These boxes represent each sound that we hear in a word. (Teacher has drawn 3 elkonin boxes on the board)  Now look at the board and see how I use my boxes to spell the word chop.  When I say the word chop, I have only one mouth move for the letters c and h.  They go together to make the /ch/ sound.  This means that I write ch in the first box.  Then I listen for the /o/ and the /p/ sounds.  They make one mouth move each, so I put them in their own boxes.  See, I spelled the word chop!  Now you will get your letters.  Make sure the lowercase sides are facing up.  When I call out the words, you will use these letters to spell them in your boxes".


4.  I will call out the following words and number of boxes needed for each: 2 – [ox, on], 

     3 – [top, dock, pod, shop, sock], 4 – [crop, stock, stop , frog].  I will walk around and see if students are spelling the words correctly.


5.  "Now we will read the words that we just spelled.  I will write a word on the board, and you read it.  If you come to a word you can’t read, there is one way that might help you.  Watch as I show you.  (write the word crop on the board)  I am having trouble reading this word so I will use my fingers to cover up the ch and the p.  I can only see the o, and I know it sounds like, /o/.  Now I uncover the ch and try to read it along with the o.  Let's see, /ch/ - /o/…./cho/.  Now all that is left is to uncover the p.  Now I will add the /cho/ to the /p/, /ch/ - /o/ - /p/…./chop/!  I worked through the word and I read chop.  Now you try some". ( I will have students read the words I write on the board.)


6.  "Now let's take out our paper and pencil and review how to write the letter o.  Look at the poster and see how I write the letter o.  Start at the fence, make a little c, and close it up.  Now practice that on your paper.  Finish up the line with lowercase o's".


7.  "In a minute we will read a story about a circus.  Underneath your o's write a sentence using a word with the /o/ sound to describe what you might see at the circus".


8.  Give each student a copy of In the Big Top.  Ask them to flip through the pages and see how many /o/ words they can identify.  Then, have students silently read the book.  Remind students to stop after difficult words and ask students to use their vowel first, body – coda strategy that they learned.  Before reading the story tell the students that this book is about the circus, and ask them if they have ever been to the circus or the zoo.


9.  For assessment have each student come up and read 4 pages of In the Big Top individually.  Complete a running record of each student's reading.  Use this to calculate the difficulty level of this text for the students.  This will help me understand how well they got the o = /o/ correspondence.



Murray, B. A. and T. Lesniak.  The Letterbox Lesson:  A Hands – On Approach for Teaching Decoding.  The Reading Teacher.  1999.  644-649.

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