Rev Your Motor with M

Emergent Literacy Design

By Rachel Thompson

Rationale: This lesson will help children identify /m/, the phoneme represented by M. Students will learn to recognize /m/ in spoken words by learning a meaningful representation (sound of a motor) 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.

Materials: Primary paper and pencil; chart with "Motorcycle motors make Mary mad"; drawing paper and crayons; word cards with MAKE, MEET, PORK, FIND, MET, MY; assessment worksheet identifying pictures with /m/.


 1. Say: Our written language is a secret code. The tricky part is learning what letters stand for- the mouth moves we make as we say words. Today we're going to work on spotting the mouth move /m/. We spell /m/ with letter M. M looks like a bird, and /m/ sounds like the noise a motor makes.

2. Let's pretend to make the noise a motor makes, /m/, /m/, /m/. [Pantomime turning a key to start an engine and make motor sound] Notice your lips are closed. When we say /m/, the noise is coming from the back of our throat.

3. Let me show you how to find /m/ in the word tame. I'm going to stretch tame out in super slow motion and listen for my motor sound. Ttt-a-a-ame. Slower: Ttt-a-a-a-mmmm-e There it is! I felt my lips close and heard the sound from the back of my throat. I can hear the motor /m/ in tame.

4. Let's try a tongue twister [on chart]. "Motorcycle motors make Mary mad." Everybody say it three times together. Now say it again, and this time, stretch the /m/ at the beginning of the words. "Mmmotorcycle mmmotors mmmake Mmmary mmmad." Try it again, and this time break it off the word: "/m/ otorcycle /m/ otors /m/ ake  /M/ ary /m/ ad."

5. [Have students take out primary paper and pencil.] We use letter M to spell /m/. Capital M looks like a bird. Let's write the lowercase letter m. Start on the fence and go down to the sidewalk, curve around back up to the fence and back down to the sidewalk, and repeat one more time ending on the sidewalk. I want to see everybody's m. After I put a smile on it, I want you to make nine more just like it. 

6. Call on students to answer and tell how they knew: Do you hear /m/ in work or met? Finger or team? My or no? Erin or Sam? Sad or mad? Say: Let's see if you can spot the mouth move /m/ in some words. Turn the key to start the motor if you spot the mouth move /m/ in some words. Start the motor if you hear /m/: The, family, mad, to, and, mom, Sam, make.

7. Say: "Let's look at an alphabet book. Dr. Seuss tells us about a funny creature whose name starts with M. Can you guess?" Draw out /m/. Ask children if they can think of other words with /m/. Ask them to make up a silly creature name like Moo-moo-mow. Then have each student write their silly name with invented spelling and draw a picture of their silly creature. Display their work.

8. Show MAD and model how to decide if it is mad or sad: The M tells me to make a sound like a motor, /m/, so this word is mmm-ad, mad. You try some: MAKE: make or fake? MEET: feet or meet? PORK: fork or pork? FIND: mind or find?

9. For assessment, distribute the worksheet. Students are to complete the partial spellings and color the pictures that begin with M. Call students individually to read the phonetic cure words.


Auburn University Reading Genie, Pearson Matthews (Adventures)

Five Little Monkeys Reading in Bed. Eileen Christelow. Scholastic 2007.

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