Ssshhopping for Ssshhells

Beginning Readers Design

Lauren Kendrick


            In order for children to become fluent readers, they must first begin to understand that letters are mapped onto graphemes, which are the vocal gestures they hear in words.  These vocal gestures are called phonemes which are mapped onto graphemes.  Phonemes can be a single letter or 2 letters that together still make on sound.  When a combination of letters makes one single sound we call this a digraph.  The goal of this lesson is to help students understand that digraphs are made up of more than one letter but only has one vocal gesture or phoneme. The digraph taught in this lesson is /sh/. Students will be able to recognize audibly and visually the phoneme and grapheme /sh/ in text by the use of the letterboxes as well as learn to spell and read /sh/ words.   


            Pencil for each student, primary paper, chart with “Shirley shuffled while shopping for fish, shoes, and shells”, Elkonin boxes for each student, letters (d, a, s, h, i, p, t, o, c, h, e) for each student. Sheep on a Ship by Nancy E. Shaw, one for each student.


  1. “When you are at the library and people start talking to loud, what does the librarian say? Shhh….that’s right.  Shhh is the special sound we are going to talk about today and we hear and use this a lot when we want people to lower their voices.  Well did you know that sh is a sound?  This is a special sound because many times when we hear a sound it is written with one letter, but sometimes there are special sounds that are written with two letters.  Sh is an example of a sound that is written with two letters and those two letters are s and h.  When we see s and h next to each other in a word that tells us that they sound the make is /sh/.  (Teacher will use the board while talking about this.)
  2. “Now, class let’s practice our special sound.  I want you to pretend that everyone is talking really loud and we need to say /sh/ together.  Shhh…great job!  Now let’s say our sound, but put your index finger over your lips when you say the sound.  Shhh…very good!  (Teacher models)  Throughout the rest of our lesson whenever you hear the sound /sh/ I want to put your index finger over you lips as a signal that you hear the sound.”
  3. “Now I have a tongue twister for everyone to read together.  Ready? Here we go.

“Shirley shuffled while shopping for fish, shoes, and shells.”

  1. “Now this time when we say our tongue twister I want you to stretch out the /sh/ sound in the words, just like this wissshhhhh. Ready?  Ssshhhirley ssshhuffled while ssshhhhopping for fissshhh, ssshhhhoes, and ssshhhells. Great job!”
  2. “Class, please take out your letterboxes that I gave you.  Please pay attention while I demonstrate how to spell the word wish.”  Draw letterboxes on the board for modeling.  I will slowly stretch out the word and remind the students that each box represents a sound and sh is one sound that goes in one box.  I will model slowly stretching out the word wwwwiiiisssshhhhh.  I will put w in box one, I in box two, and /sh/ in box three, because the sh makes one sound so it goes in one box.  “Ok, class now it’s your turn to spell out some words.  Open up two letterboxes and spell the word ash.  Open three boxes and spell fish, wash, ship, and shut.  Next, open up four boxes and spell shell, flash, brush, and shout.  Great job!  Now, that you have spelled these words let’s see if you can read the words outside of the letterboxes.”  I will walk around the room and observe the students while we are doing the letterbox lesson.  (assessment)  Write the words on the board and have the class say the words together.  “Wonderful job class.”
  3. “I am going to write some words on my small white board and when I turn it around you will have five seconds to think about and I want you to say /sh/ if you see the /sh/ in the word.”  Ask the students if the /sh/ is at the beginning, middle, or end of the word?  “Great job!”
    1. dash
    2. ship
    3. stop
    4. cash
    5. shoe
    6. hat
  4. “Now with a partner you are going to read Sheep on a Ship.  You will take turns reading and when come to word with /sh/ in it I want you to write it down on the paper I will give you.  (The papers with the words will be turned in for assessment.)  “With the words from our book are going to make a poster with a ship in the sea and we will place all these words on a Sheep Ship.  Great job class!!”


Auburn University Reading Genie Website: “Ssshh Said the Fish” by Kelly McIntosh

Sound of the week lesson for /sh/

Shaw, Nancy E. Sheep on a ship. Houghton Mifflin; Reprint edition 1992

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