Mushy Marshmallows

By Brantley Cole


This lesson aims to teach emergent readers how to detect the phoneme /m/ in spoken words. Students will learn to recognize /m/ in spoken words by learning a meaningful representation and the letter symbol m, practice finding /m/ in words, and apply phoneme awareness with /m/ in phonetic cue reading by distinguishing rhyming words from beginning letters.


Primary paper and pencil; drawing paper and crayons; Is Your Mama a Llama? By Deborah Guarino; chart paper and/or projector with “Mommy made me mash my marshmallows”;  marker board and expo marker and/or cards with words MOP, TOP, CAN, CAMP, BAT, BUMP, LIMP, and LATE; assessment worksheet identifying /m/:


1. Say: Our written language is a secret code. The tricky part is learning what letters stand for. Have you ever noticed that your mouth moves a different way for each letter sound you make? Today we are going to work on spotting the way the mouth moves when we make the /m/ sound. We spell /m/ with the letter M. M is the sound we make when something sounds really good to eat, like ice-cream!

2. Let’s pretend we are looking at all the freshly baked cookies and cupcakes at the bakery, /m/, /m/, /m/! (rub stomach) Do you see what your lips do when you make the /m/ sound? When we say /m/ our tongue and lips don’t move at all. We just push our lips together.

3. Let me show you how to find /m/ in the word in Amy. Watch me as I say it slowly. I want you to listen for the /m/ sound (rub stomach), and watch for my lips to press together. Now let’s see if you hear the /m/ sound in other words. What about the word camera?  What about candy?  Candy and camera may sound a little alike, but only one word has the /m/ sound.

4. Let’s try a tongue twister that uses the /m/ sound (tongue twister will be written on chart paper or displayed on a projection screen). “Mommy made me mash my marshmallows.” Let’s say it together three times. Now we will say the tongue twister around, but this time we will stretch out the /m/ at the beginning of each word. “Mmmommy mmmade mmme mmmash mmmy mmmarshmmmallowss.”  Did you hear the /m/ better that time? Now let’s try breaking off the /m/ from the rest of the word. “/m/ommy   /m/ade   /m/e   / m/ash   /m/y   /m/arsh/m/allows.”

5. [students take our primary paper and pencil]. We use the letter M to spell the /m/ sound. Capital M looks like two mountains. Let’s practice making a lowercase letter m. Start at the fence and draw a line down to the sidewalk. Now go back up and when you get almost back to the fence curve your line over and go back down to the sidewalk. The top of your hump should touch the fence. Now make one more hump just like the other and you’re done! I want everyone to follow the directions and make one m. After I look at your m I want you to practice making them until you have it down perfectly!

6. Now let’s practice listening for the /m/ sound in different words: Do you hear /m/ in aim or air? Lame or land? Can or come? Lamp or light? Let’s see if you can spot the mouth move /m/ in some other words. Rub your tummy if your hear the /m/ sound: The mean mosquito was munching on my mommy’s favorite meal.

7. We are going to read a book called Is Your Mama a Llama? By Deborah Guarino. Lloyd is a silly llama who is having fun asking all of his friends if their mamas are llamas! Let’s read to find out what kind of animal Lloyd is and if he ever finds a friend whose mama is a llama! When we finish the book, I will have the students brainstorm different people, places, or things that start with the /m/ sound. Then the students will draw one thing that starts with /m/ and will use invented spelling to tell about what they drew.

8.  Next I will show the students a series of words. I will write the words two at a time on the marker board and ask them to decide which word makes the /m/ sound: MOP: mop or top? CAMP: can or camp? BUMP: bat or bump? LIMP: limp or late?

9. For assessment I will give the students a worksheet that will require them to identify  a picture and determine whether or not it begins with /m/. The student will draw a line from the three blind mice on the left side of the page to the three pictures of words beginning with /m/ on the right side of the page. Before they begin matching sounds to pictures, I will have them use invented spelling to label each of the pictures on the right side of the page. While students are working I will call students up individually to go back through some of the previous activities so that I can assess each student’s individual ability to recognize the letter M and the /m/ sound.



Assessment worksheet:

 Byrne, B., & Fielding-Barnsley, R. (1990). Acquiring the alphabetic principle: A case for ” teaching recognition of phoneme identity. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 805-812.l

Model Lesson: “Brush Your Teeth with F”  by Bruce Murray.

Guarino, Deborah (1989). Is Your Mama a Llama? Scholastic Inc. New York, NY.

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