Sssneaky Sssnakes

Emergent Reading

By Beth Binkowski

Rationale: This lesson will help students identify /s/, the phoneme represented by S. Students will learn to recognize /s/ in spoken language by learning a meaningful representation (slithering snake) and the letter symbol S, practicing finding /s/ in words, and apply phoneme awareness with /s/ in phonetic cue reading by distinguishing rhyming words from beginning letters.

Materials: primary paper, pencils, "Sweet Susy sent Sam snickers" chart, cards with SOCK, WRONG, SIX, SEND, FAKE, SING written on them, Oh, the Places You'll Go, worksheet


1. Say: Our written language can be kind of tough to learn sometimes. The tricky part is learning what letters stand for. Our mouths make different mouth moves as we say words. Today we are going to work on spotting the mouth move /s/. We spell /s/ with the letter S. S looks like a snake slithering across the paper, and /s/ makes the same sound as when a snake hisses.

2. Let's pretend that our arms are snakes. /s/ /s/ /s/. [Wiggle arm back and forth like a snake slithering] Notice where your teeth are when you say /s/. They are touching in the front. Your tongue is touching the roof of your mouth towards the back. We blow between our teeth.

3. Let me show you how to find /s/ in the word rest. I'm going to stretch out rest in super slow motion and listen for my snake. Rrr-ee-e-st. Slower: Rrr-e-e-e-ssss-ttt. There it was! I felt my teeth touch together and blow air. I can feel the snake /s/ in rest.

4. Let's try a tongue twister [on chart]. "Sweet Susy sent Sam snickers." Everybody say it three times together. Now, say it again, and this time stretch the /s/ at the beginning of the words. "Ssssweet Ssssusy ssssent Ssssam ssssnickers." Try it again. This time separate it from the word. "/S/ weet /S/ usy /s/ ent /S/am /s/ nickers."

5. Have the students take out primary paper and a pencil. We use the letter S to spell /s/. Capital S looks like a big snake and a lowercase s looks like a baby snake. Let's write the lowercase s. Start just below the fence. Curve it back up to touch the fence. Swoop down to right below where we started and bend it back around to touch the sidewalk. Let me see everyone's s. After I give you a smiley face on your paper make nine more just like it!

6. Call on students to answer and tell how they knew. Do you hear /s/ in song or book? Weak or strong? Talk or say? Strum or beat? Blind or see? Say: Let's see if you can spot the mouth move /s/ in some words. Move your arm like a snake if you hear /s/: the, start, play, kite, sad, silly, mad, ring, song, truck.

7. Show SOCK and model how to decide if the /s/ is in sock or dock: The S tells me to slither like a snake, /s/, so this word is sss-ock, sock! You try some: SIX: six or mix? WRONG: song or wrong? SEND: send or mend? FAKE: fake or sake? SING: sing or ring?

8. Read Oh, the Places You'll Go. Say: "I am going to read a book to you.  As I am reading, I want you to move your arm like a sneaky snake would slither on the ground when you hear /s/." [read text]

8. For assessment, distribute the worksheet. Students are to color the pictures that begin with S. Call students individually to read the phonetic cue words from step 8.


Dr. Murray, Bruce, The Reading Genie, Mouth Moves and Gestures for Phonemes, 

Return to Doorways Index