Icky Stinky Fingers!

Beginning Reading Lesson Design
Abby Williams



In order for beginning readers to become successful in reading and writing, they must first understand and recognize that each letter in the alphabet represents a different sound. By learning about phonemes and letter correspondences, beginning readers can become fluent readers.  Short vowels are often difficult for students to identify and therefore, this lesson will focus on the vowel correspondence i = /i/. The students will learn the /i/ correspondence through a meaningful representation. They will also learn to spell and read words with the /i/ sound through a letterbox lesson and reading a new book with /i/ words.


Chart with Tongue Twister, “Isabelle the Indian went insane inside the igloo”
Primary Paper and pencils
Elkonin Boxes for each student (up to 5 boxes)
Plastic letters for each student (i, t, p, w, n, f, b, g, a, l, b, e, d, s, c, h, r, n, k)
Oversized Letterbox and letters for modeling
Picture of ‘Icky Sticky’ (girl with glue on her hands)
Book, Liz Is Six (one for each student)
Pseudoword Test (gib, sif, rin)


1.) Begin the lesson by explaining to the students that they are going to learn about the letter i and the sound it makes. “We hear the /i/ sound in a lot of spoken words and see the vowel i in a lot of written words. It’s a very iiiimportant letter to learn! Today we are going to learn how to spell and read words that have the /i/ sound.

2.) Ask students: Have you ever gotten something really sticky on your hands, like gum or glue? Show students picture of girl with glue on her hands. When we have this icky sticky stuff on our hands we hold out our hands like this and say, “iiiiiii!!!” When we make the /i/ sound our mouth is open and our tongue is slightly lowered. Can you all hold your hands out like you have something sticky on them and make the /i/ sound just like I did? Great job!

3.) Now let’s try a tongue twister with the /i/ sound. “Isabelle the Indian went insane inside the igloo”. (Exaggerate the /i/ sound in each word). Now let’s practice. Can everyone say that with me three times together? Now this time while we read the tongue twister, every time you hear the /i/ sound, try to stretch the /i/ sound and do the hand gesture we practiced (Iiiiiisabelle the Iiiindian….). Great job everyone!

4.) Now let’s practice finding the /i/ sound in some spoken words. Do you hear /i/ in pig or dog? run or hit? lift or drop? skin or hair? small or big?

5.) Next do a group letterbox lesson with /i/ words and throw in a couple short e and short a words for review. (tip, win, fit, big, pal, bed, slid, chip, best, drink, split). Hand out Elkonin boxes and instruct students to turn their letters to the lowercase side. Be sure to listen so that you can hear how many boxes you will use for each word.  Tell students, “Now I’m going to show you how to spell a word using the Elkonin boxes. Each of the boxes represents a separate sound in the word. For example, I want to spell the word fin, like a fin on a fish. There are three separate sounds in fin: fffff, iiiii, nnnn. If there are three sounds there will be three boxes, one for each sound. Now watch how I spell it using 3 boxes for the 3 different sounds (exaggerate each sound separately and model how each sound corresponds to putting the specific letter(s) in each box). Now I’m going to show you how to read a short i word.” Model how to read the word rip by using body-coda blending. “The letter i says /i/. That sound is in the middle of the word. At the beginning of the word the letter r says /r/ and the ending letter p says /p/. Put it together…rip”.

6.) After modeling how to spell and read the /i/ words, begin the letterbox lesson with the students. Start with the three phoneme words and move up to the five phoneme words. As students are working, walk around the room observing their work. If a student misspells a word, pronounce the word as they have spelled it and see if they can correct it themselves. After each word is spelled by all students move on to the next.

7.) After all of the words have been spelled by the students with the boxes, take up the boxes. Have students read the words as I spell the words for them. Listen as children respond to make sure they are able to correctly read each word. If a student is having trouble, encourage them to use body-coda blending.

8.) Next hand out short i books, Liz is Six (one per student). To grab their attention, ask students, “Have you ever played baseball with a pig? Well in this story a girl named Liz has a birthday and gets a baseball mitt. She and her friends decide to play a game of baseball and her friend pig is up to bat first. Will pig get a good hit? You’ll have to read to find out!” Have each student read the story aloud to a partner using their quiet voices. (Have one partner read and then switch). Walk around and observe students as they are reading.

9.) Have students write a message about their favorite animal. Before they begin, model to students how to write a message by providing them with an example. They can work on their message while students are being called up individually for assessment.

10.) Assessment: Give each student a pseudoword test with /i/ words Ask them to read the following ‘silly words’: gib, sif, rin, hin, wid.


Murray, B. A., & Lesniak, T. (1999). “The letterbox lesson: A hands-on approach for
            teaching decoding.” The Reading Teacher, volume 52, no. 6, 644-650.

Kohtala, Mareena. “Icky Sticky” http://www.auburn.edu/rdggenie/connect/kohtalabr.html

Phonics Readers Short Vowels: Liz Is Six. (1990). Carson, CA (USA), St Albans,
            Herts. (UK): Educational Insights.

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