Brandi Ferguson

March 14, 2002

Beginning Reading


Rationale : Before students can learn to read, they must be able to recognize phonemes in each word. Sometimes two letters can join together to make one sound, these are called digraphs. The digraph /th/ can be hard for students to understand because of the two letters, "t" and "h" forming only one sound, /th/. This lesson is designed to help students recognize  th=/th/ by being exposed to spelling, reading, writing, and listening to words that contain the / th/ sound in them.

Materials: "Moth and Frog Race," published by Steck -Vaughn Company, large butcher paper (resembling a lake with 38 Velcro lily pads on it), a frog cut out with Velcro backing (from, student size letterboxes, envelopes (containing the letters "t," "h," {"t" and "h" should be taped together} "e," "I," s," "a," "t," "b," "I," and "k") for each student, teacher size letterboxes and envelope with letters previously mentioned, also with the letter "m," primary paper, and pencils


  1. Begin lesson by reviewing previous letters and corresponding sounds. "Today we are going to talk about two letters we already know and then we will discuss how they can act differently. The two letters that we have already learned their sounds are 't' and 'h.' Can anyone remember the sounds these two letters make?"
  1. Next, describe how these two letters form one sound. "Well, now we are going to talk about  how the letters 't' and 'h' decided to come together and make one sound, /th/. Can we all say / th/?"
  1. Then, let the students discover their mouth movements as they say / th/. "Ok, I want you to say it again and this time I want you to say it very slowly and see what happens." "When I make the / th/ sound, my tongue touches the back of my top teeth and air leaks through. Did you feel the same thing?" "Watch as I say the word Th ursday. Thththhthththuuuuurrrssssddaaaay ." "This is what happens every time we read a /th / word, our mouth moves just like this."
  1. "Now, I am going to say a few sentences and I want you to listen for a / th/ sound. Listen carefully. I want you to watch my mouth and be on the look-out for the /th/ mouth move." "Ok, if you hear a /th/ sound, instead of raising our hands, we are going to put on our thinking caps (teacher demonstrates, which is simply the act of putting your hands on top of your head)." "Ok, here we go………..A.) I thought I saw your mom yesterday.  B.) We heard thunder when it rained. C) Thursday we will have a test. D.) Brianna th rew a ball to David.  E.) Jessica lost a tooth." "Alright, I want you to listen very carefully to this next sentence, F.) Bobby lives in the third house on our street." "Awesome job guys."
  1. Next, begin the letterbox lesson. "Alright class, now that we heard the /th/ sound, we are going to make some /th/ sound words. I want all eyes up here for a second." "Ok, since the word 'math' has a /th / sound in it, we are going to see if we can spell it." "Now let's say it together to see how many sounds we have in 'math.'" " Mmmmmaaaaathththth. I heard three sounds, so I am going to have three boxes, one for each sound in 'math.'" "Now in my first box, I am going to put the letter 'm' because I heard a /m/ sound." "In my second box I am going to put an 'a' in there because I heard an /a/ sound. Then in my last box I am going to put my ' th' that is taped together because it makes one sound so it is going to go in only one box, and I heard that sound last so it is going in my last box." "Now, let's say the word I just put in my letterboxes,  mmmmmmaaaathththththth."  "Very nice class." 
  1. Now have the students spell the word "the" along with the teacher. Then, have the students, independently, spell the following words in their own letterboxes: "this," "that," "bath," and "think." Remind the class to say the words and count how many sounds they hear before they begin with their letterboxes. Walk around the classroom in case of assistance and tell the students that if they get stuck and need help when the teacher is not available, then to ask their neighbor for help.

5. Begin reading /th/ sounds. "Ok class, I would like for you to put away your letterboxes and 

come over for reading time. Now, since we talked about / th/ words, we are now going to read / th / words." "We are going to read a book called Moth and Frog Race, and since our story is about a frog, I have a frog right here and what we need to do is get our frog across this lake on the lily pads." "The way we get our frog across this lake is to raise our thumbs when we recognize a /th/ word." "There are a bunch of lily pads which means we must have a bunch of /th / words, so we have to pay close attention to the book, ok ? "Have the students read the book by alternating girls only reading, then boys only, and so forth. "MAGNIFICENT class, you are all awesome readers and got all of the /th/ words so that our frog made it across the lake. You are all SUPER THINKERS!!!!!!!"

  1. Now have students write /th/ words. "Ok, class, let's all have a seat. I would now like for you all to take out your paper and pencils. Since we have been talking and reading about / th/ words, I would like for you to come up with at least th ree sentences with /th/ words. The words can be any of the words we talked about, read, or ones you know that we did not talk about. If you need help, I will come around or ask a buddy near you quietly for help."
Assessment:  Students will be given a picture page. They are to match the pictures on the left side that contain the /th/ sound to their spellings on the right side. The pictures would include: the number three, cat, moth, computer, umbrella, thermometer, pants, the number five, bed, basket, and window."

Reference:, accumulation ideas from several student lesson designs

Eldridge, J. Lloyd, Merrill. (1995). Teaching Decoding in Holistic Classrooms50-70.

Murray, B & Lesniak, T. (1999). "The Letterbox Lesson: A Hands-On Approach to Teaching 

Decoding." The  Reading Teacher, 43.

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