“Shhh,” said the Fish

 Beginning Readers Design

Kelly McIntosh



In order for children to become fluent readers, they must first understand that letters represent phonemes, which are the vocal gestures that they hear. Students must also understand that vocal gestures are represented by graphemes, which are the letters they see. These phonemes can be represented by a single letter or a combination of letters. But regardless of whether they are made up of one or more letters, the phonemes make up one single sound. When a combination of letters makes up a sound, we call this a digraph. The goal of this lesson is to get students to understand that digraphs are made up of more than one letter but only produce one vocal gesture. The digraph taught in this lesson is /sh/. Students will be able to recognize audibly and visually the phoneme and grapheme /sh/ in text.




Primary Paper

Small white board and white board markers

Poster with tongue twister on it “Shelly shops for fish food, shells, and ships.”

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.  Geisel, Theodor Seuss.  Random House Publishers, 1960. (Enough for each child to have their own)

Sheet with pictures on it with line under word (ship, shirt, dog, shoe, house, shell, hand)




  1. If you’re getting too loud in your class, what do you think that the teacher might tell you to do? Shhh……that’s right! Shhh is a very special sound that we are going to talk about today. Remember when we talked about words and how words are made up of special things called sounds. Well would you believe that /sh/ is a sound? But it’s not just a sound, it’s a special one. Many times when we hear one sound, it is written with one letter, but sometimes we have special sounds that are spelled with two letters. /Sh/ is an example of that. When we find an S and an H right next to each other, they make the special sound /sh/ (write S and H on the board when you are explaining this).
  2. Now let’s pretend that we’re all being too loud and lets all say /sh/ together. Ready? /sh/! Very good. Now let’s do it again, but when we say /sh/ lets put our fingers over our mouths like we’re really telling someone to be quiet. Ready? /sh/ Very good!
  3. Now I want to read you a special sentence. Each time you hear our special /sh/ sound I want you to put your finger over your mouth, like you’re telling somebody to /sh/.  Ready? Here I go:
    1. Shelly shops for fish food, shells, and ships.

Very Good!

  1.  Now I’m going to show you the sentence that I have written and when I point to each word that has /sh/ in it, I want you to put your finger over your mouth and say /sh/. Very good!
  2. Now let’s read the sentence together and each time we hear the /sh/ sound, let’s stretch it out, just like this fissssshhhhhhh. Ok? Sssshhhhelly sssshhhhops for fisssshhhh food, sssshhhhells, and sssshhhhips. Wonderful!
  3. Now I’m going to write some words on my board (small white board in lap). When I turn the board around, I want you to say /sh/ if you see the /sh/ in this word. Ready? (Write first word on board (dish). Give all students the opportunity to say /sh/ if they think it is in this word. If you hear students say /sh/ then ask them where they see the /sh/ in the word and have them point to it. Then ask students when they hear the /sh/. Whether it’s at the beginning or middle or end of the word. Then repeat this for each word following).
    1. Dish
    2. Shop
    3. Dog
    4. Shoe
    5. Wash
  4. Now it’s your turn to find some /sh/ words. I have a copy of One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish for each of you. With a partner I want you to take turns reading the book. When you come to a word that has a /sh/ in it, I want you to write it down. When everyone is finished, we will make a poster of the ocean and write all our /sh/ words in the ocean, since our book is about fish. (Give students time to finish reading the book and writing their words down. As a class compile a list of the words with /sh/ in it)
  5. Now I am going to give you a sheet of paper that has some pictures on it. First of all, I want you to write the word underneath the picture, telling me what the picture is. Next I want you to circle the picture if it has our special /sh/ sound in it. If you need to say the word out loud to figure out if it has our special sound then that is fine, just remember to use your inside voices. When you are all done, you can color the pictures. (picture sheet will have pictures of ship, shirt, dog, shoe, house, shell, hand)




Butcher, Shona. (2003). Fish Fish Fish. A beginning reading design created by Shona Butcher. Auburn University Reading Genie Website: retrieved March 15, 2004. http://www.auburn.edu/rdggenie/insp/butcherbr.html


Geisel, Theodor Seuss.  One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.  Random House Publishers, 1960.