Banging the Bongos with Baby Beluga

Emergency Literacy Lesson

Lauren Owens


Rationale: This lesson aims to teach emergent literacy learners how to detect the phoneme /b/ in spoken words. They will do this by learning a meaningful representation (beating a drum) and the letter symbol b, practicing finding /b/ in words, and applying phonemic awareness with /b/ in phonetic cue reading by distinguishing rhyming words from beginning letters.


Materials: Tongue Tickler written on poster; Writing paper and pencil (for kids); board for teacher to write practice letters on for modeling; Baby Beluga by Raffi; "Baby Beluga" song on tape/CD; tape/CD player; chart paper; card with words on them (see step 10); assessment worksheet (see



1. Say: Today we are going to learn about the letter B. Can anybody tell me the sound that the letter B makes? (/b/). Great! The letter b is part of the alphabet, which is a secret code. That's awesome that you already know that the letter B makes the sound /b/. The hardest part of breaking the "code" is remembering what letters make what sound!  So remind me…what sound does the letter B make? (/b/). Good memory! Today we are going to learn about a lot of words that have the /b/ sound in them.


2. Say: Have you ever played on a drum before? (let children answer.) Well, today we are going to pretend to play on a bongo drum. Watch me while I show you how to pretend to play the bongo drums. (Demonstrate playing drum by beating on lap and saying /b/, /b/, /b/). Can you do that with me? (allow students to beat on laps and say /b/, /b/, /b/).


3. Say: It sounds like there's quite a band of drummers in here! Did you notice that when you drummed, you said the /b/ sound over and over again? Let's do it again, and listen to the sound you are making with your lips. (Repeat drum motion). Did you hear that /b/ sound? When you make the /b/ sound with your lips, your lips start out together like this (put lips together) and then they open quickly and a quick puff of air comes out, like this (demonstrate).  In order to hear it though, you have to turn your voice box on as you are puffing air out. Let's try beating on our bongos again! (/b/, /b/, /b/). Great!


4. Say: Let me show you how I'd check for the /b/ sound, like the sound we made when we played our bongo drum, in the word bat. /b/…/b/a/…/b/a/t/./ Baaaaat. Bat. I hear that /b/ sound at the beginning of the word bat, so I'm going to pretend to play my bongo drum. (Demonstrate.) Let's try the word dog. /d/…/d/o/…./d/o/g/. Doooog. Dog.  Nope, I can't play my bongo drum that time because the word dog doesn't have the /b/ sound in it. Bats and dogs are both animals, so let's see if we can try this together with another animal. Remember, you're listening for the /b/ sound…and if you hear it, play your bongo drum! Let's try… cat. /c/…/c/a/…/c/a/t/. caaaat. Cat. No drums? I agree. I don't hear the /b/ sound in cat either. Let's try one more animal. What about… bug. /b/u/g/. buuug. Bug. Great, I see some people playing their bongos! I hear the /b/ sound in bug too.


5. Say: Now we're going to read a silly sentence called a "tongue tickler" together. [Get out Tongue tickler written on poster.] Listen to me first. "The big brown bear bragged about his brother Bobby". (Point to words as you read, even though kids can't read the words.)Everybody say it together three times with me. (Read  three times, encouraging participation.) Great! Now we're going to read it together really slowly, and this time we're going to say the /b/ sound louder than the other sounds. Ready? Let's go! "The Big Brown Bear Bragged aBout his Brother BoBBy". [Note: the reason we are doing this (and not dragging the sound out) is because the /b/ sound can't easily be dragged out without it being mistaken for the /u/ sound, ex: big dragged out would be /buuuuu/ig/.] Great job! Now we're going to say the silly sentence one more time, but this time we're going to separate the /b/ sound from the rest of the sentence. Ready? Let's go! "The /b/ig /b/rown /b/ear /b/ragged a/b/out his /b/rother /b/o/b/y/.


6. Say: Great! Now go back to your seats, and get out a piece of writing paper and a pencil. We are going to practice writing the letter B, the letter with the sound /b/ that we have been practicing. Capital B starts at the rooftop, and goes all the way to the sidewalk. Then put your pencil back up to the rooftop. Make a half circle down to the fence, and then another half circle down to the sidewalk. [Teacher will demonstrate for class.] Write a capital B five times on your paper. [wait for class to do so, helping.] Now we're going to practice a lowercase B. This one will start out like the uppercase B. You will draw a line from the rooftop straight down to the sidewalk. But instead of going back up to the top, you will draw a circle that goes from the fence to the sidewalk, but that is connected to the line. It is very important that the line and circle are connected! [demonstrate writing some b's for the class.] Now it's your turn to write five lowercase b's! [wait for class to do so, helping].


7. Transition everyone back to the rug for group time. Say: Now we're going to practice hearing the /b/ sound in words, like we did earlier. Ask:

          -Do you hear /b/ in big or large?

          -Do you hear /b/ in truck or bus?

          -Do you hear /b/ in child or baby?

Great! Sometimes it's hard to hear the /b/ sound in words, but if you listen really carefully, it makes it a little easier. Now I'm going to say a bunch of names of animals. When you hear animals that have the sound /b/ in them, pretend to play your bongos! Here's an example: bear. (wait for response). Great! A bear is an animal with the sound /b/ in it. Let's try another one:









8. Say: Now I'm going to read you a fun book, and then we're going to learn a song about the book. The book is called Baby Beluga, by Raffi. Do you hear the /b/ sound in baby? What about in beluga? Great! I want you to listen up for those /b/ sounds while I read this book. This book is about a little whale named Baby Beluga. He loves to swim, especially with his mama. He splashes and dives all day with his friends. He even sings! After a long busy day, baby Beluga goes to bed. Do you think he'll have another fun day when the sun comes up? You'll have to listen to find out if Baby Beluga is that much fun EVERY day! [Read book]. (After book, talk about words that started with /b/. Listen to recording of Baby Beluga, and encourage students to play their bongos every time they hear the /b/ sound.) Great! Baby Beluga is kind of a silly name for a whale, isn't it? If you were to name a whale something that started with the /b/ sound, what would it be? (Brainstorm on a piece of chart paper).


9. Send students back to their seats, and distribute assessment worksheet ( Students will color pictures of things that start with the /b/ sound, and then as a class will fill in the letters on the worksheet together. Call students back individually for phonetic cue reading assessment (see step 10).


10.[Work with students individuals on this.]  Say: Okay, now I'm going to show you some words and you will tell me which word it is. Here's an example. (Show card with word bat in it.) Now, I'm going to try to figure out if this is the word bat or cat. I see the letter b in this word, and I know the letter b makes that /b/ sound like a bongo drum, so this must be the word bat! Let's try a few together. (Try this exercise with the following words):

          -box- is this box or rox?

          -hand- is this band or hand?

          -back- is this back or rack?

          -gut- is this but or gut?



Murray, Bruce. "Mouth Moves and Gestures for Phonemes".


Vanhooser, Holly. -"'B' is the Best".


"What Begins with B?" assessment.


Wolff, Ashley. (1990). Baby Beluga. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc.


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