Icky Fingers


By Jenni Anderson 

Rationale:  Children need to know that letters stand for phonemes and spellings map out the phonemes in oral language in order to be able to read and write words.  Vowel sounds are most important because at least one vowel is found in every word.  Without these sounds, words can become confused or improperly decoded.  This lesson will help to enable students to identify i=/i/ (short i).  In this lesson children will learn to recognize /i/ in oral language by learning a fun and memorable gesture to go along with the sound, recognize i=/i/ in words, practice spelling the /i/ sound with Elkonin letterboxes, and identify the /i/ sound in written text. 

Materials:  Primary paper and pencil; poster board with tongue twister “It is chilly in the igloo”; Tin Man Fix It (Educational Insights)- copy for each student; a picture of a hand that looks dirty and sticky; Elkonin letter boxes for each child; plastic letter tiles for each child consisting of the letters p, I, n, f, s, h, c, m, t, l, g; individual picture pages (pig, chin, pin, fish, lip, mitt) with the correct number of letterboxes underneath the picture; and picture words (pig, lip, chin, mitt, fish, pin) written on note cards.


  1.   Introduce the day’s lesson by saying that our language is sometimes really tricky, but there are fun ways to make it easier.  Tell students that we use letters to write down words, and that those letters represent different sounds.  Then say, “Today we’re going to match the letter i with the sound /i/.  We are going to practice /i/ in different words and help you to remember how it sounds.  By learning this sound and how to write it, you will learn to write more words than you can now.”

  1.   Write the letter I on the board.  Tell the students that the little I makes the /i/ sound.  Ask the students “have your hands ever been sticky?  Good!  Then you know that when they feel that way you have icky sticky fingers (bring out picture of icky sticky fingers).”  “Now I want everyone to shake your icky sticky fingers for me and say /i/.  Very Good!  You can hear the /i/ sound in icky sticky fingers.”  Together, everyone says /i/ a few times.  While they make this sound, students will shake their fingers as if they are sticky.

  1.   Now, lets try something else really fun.  I want everyone to read what this poster says, “It is chilly in the igloo.”  Each student takes a turn saying the tongue twister.  Then as a class, stretch out the /i/ sound at the beginning of the words while using the shaking hand movement for each /i/ sound.  “Iiiiiit iiiiiiiiis chiiiiiiiiiiily iiiiiiiiiin the iiiiiiiiiiigloo.”  Good, now this time separate the /i/ from the rest of the words when it is at the beginning of a word.  “/i/ t /i/ s ch /i/ lly /i/ n the /i/ gloo.”  Then have students practice spotting the /i/ sound in words aloud.  “Do you hear the /i/ sound in tin or tan?  In fit or sat?  pig or pan?”

  1.   Next students get out the primary paper and pencil.  Tell students that they can use the letter i to spell the sound /i/.  Students write the letter.  “Start at the broken line and make a line to the solid line, curve a little up toward the right and stop.  Then put a dot about the fence where you started.  When everyone is done, show the person next to you.”  (Pause)  “Does it look about the same?  Now, take turns writing the letter i on each other’s paper.”  Walk around and observe students’ work and model while students are working as well.  “Whenever you see the letter i in a word, that is when you can pretend you have icky sticky fingers and shake them off.”

  1.   Next, each student receives and Elkonin letterbox as well as the letter tiles.  Say, “now we’ll practice the /i/ sound to spell words.  Let’s say I wanted to spell pig.  First I am going to unfold three boxes because pig has three sounds in it, /p/ /i/ /g/.  I will put the first sound I hear, P-P-P-ig in the first box (place the p in the first box).  The next sound is the /i/ sound like our icky sticky fingers (place the letter I in the second box.)  There is one box left and one sound left and it is pi-G-G-G (place the g in the third box).  All of you have similar letterboxes and letters.  I want each of you to spell the words in the letterboxes when I say them.  Let’s open our letterboxes to three boxes.”  Then have students spell pin, pig, lip, chin, fish, and mitt.  Then have students explain how they came up with the spellings they did.  Continue with four or five phoneme words which the teacher can decide on.

  1. Next pass out the book Tin Man Fix It by Sheila Cushman to the students.  “Now, lets work on reading words with the /i/ sound in it.  Since we all know how to recognize the letter i in words, then we can call do an excellent job saying the /i/ sound every time we see that letter.”  Allow students to read in pairs of two.  After reading have students write a few words with the little i sound, /i/.  Give a short book talk before students read the story.  Book talk could be something like, “This is Tim, this is Jim, and this is Sid (point to the three characters).  Tim and Jim are planting and Sid comes flying down the sidewalk but Tim is in the way, you will have to read the story to see what happens.”  After book is read and words written, compile a list of all the words on the board for all the students to see.

  1.   For assessment, give the students the picture pages with the number of letterboxes underneath it.  Work on the first picture together as a class, and then have them work on their own for the rest.  Do not forget to remind them that each box should only contain one sound.  Then have the students come up, one by one, and read which ever card with the picture words written on them.  Listen for the /i/ sound in the words. 


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