Checking Your Breath with H

By Morgane East



An Emergent Literacy Design


Rationale: This lesson will help students recognize /h/, the phoneme represented by H. Students will learn how to recognize /h/ in spoken words by using a meaningful representation (checking their breath). They will also learn the letter symbol H and practice finding /h/ in words. Then the students will apply phonemic awareness with /h/ through individually reading words to decide if they have /h/ in them; as a whole class I will ask students questions like:

-Do you hear /h/ in hat or bat?

-Do you hear /h/ in tarp or harp?


Materials: Whiteboard, Expo marker, paper for students, and pencils




Step 1: Our written language is a secret code. The secret to cracking it is to learn all of the letters and what sounds they make. Our mouth moves as we say words. Today we are going to work on the mouth move for H, which is /h/.


Step 2: When we say /h/ we open our mouths and let breath out of the back of our throats; this is similar to when we put our hands up in front of our face and breathe into them to check our breath. Everybody practice checking your breath with the /h/ sound with your hand in front of your mouth.


Step 3: Let me demonstrate how you find /h/ in hit. I’m going to stretch the word out slowly so we can hear the /h/ in the word. Hhhh-iii-tt. Slower: hhhh-iiii-ttt. There I heard it! I felt my breath come from the back of my mouth like I was checking my breath making the /h/ sound.


Step 4: Let’s try a tongue twister (write on whiteboard). “Hal’s hungry hare has a hundred hats.” Everybody say it three times together. Now let’s say it again, and this time we are going to stretch out the /h/ sound in the words. “Hhhal’s hhhungry hhhare hhhas a hhhundred hhhats.” This time let’s separate the /h/ on the beginning of the words from the rest of the word: “/h/al’s /h/ungry /h/are /h/as a /h/undred /h/ats.”


Step 5: Now we are going to practice writing the letter that makes the /h/ sound. Can someone raise your hand and tell me what letter makes the /h/ sound? That’s right, H! Everyone get out your pencil and paper. To write a capital H we draw two lines from the hat line to the shoe line and connect them with a line from one to the other on the belt line. To write a lower case h we do a line from the hat line to the shoe line; on that line a little below the belt line we start a curve up to the belt line. When we hit the belt line we curve straight down to the shoe line. I am going to walk around to see everyone’s letters. I want you to write the capital and lower case H ten times.


Step 6: We are going to read page 8 from Wild Animals ABC by Gary Fleming. Let’s all try to think of words that begin with H. In this book each page talks about an animal whose name starts with a letter in the alphabet. We will have to read the book to find out which wild animal starts with H. As I read I want everyone to listen and if you hear me say the /h/ sound, I want you to check your breath.


Step 7: Write HAT on the board and model how to decide if it is hat or fat. The H tells me to check my breath, /h/, so this word is hhh-at, hat. HIT: hit or mit? TARP: tarp or harp? HURT: hurt or Burt? BAND: band or hand? HORN: torn or horn?


Step 8: For assessment, distribute the worksheet. Students are to complete the partial spellings and color the pictures that begin with H.



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.


Fleming, Gary. Wild Animals ABC: An Alphabet Book. New York, NY, Scholastic Inc., 2009. 26 pgs.


Lee, Laurin. “Mmm Mmm Good with M”.


Assessment worksheet:



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