Emergent Literacy Design:  Going to the Doctor

By:  Mari Manning

  This lesson will help children identify /o/ (short o).  They will learn to recognize /o/ in spoken words by learning a meaningful representation and a letter symbol.  They will then practice finding /o/ in written words.  They will use a meaningful representation to help them read words that contain /o/.  Since short vowels are tough phonemes for young children to identify, it is important to make sure children learn these phonemes.  Children need to be exposed to different phonemes in order to read and spell, and they must recognize them in the spoken context before they can recognize them in the written context.  This lesson will give children the proper exposure needed to identify /o/ in the spoken and written contexts.



  1. Introduce the lesson by explaining that it is hard to recognize short vowels in our spoken and written language.  "The tricky part of learning to recognize these vowels is learning which letters stand for which mouth moves we make as we say words.  Today we are going to work on spotting the mouth move /o/.  It may be hard for you to spot /o/ in spoken and written words at first, but as we practice it and get to know it well, we will be able to spot /o/ in both written and spoken words."
  2. Ask students:  "Have you ever been to the doctor and had to open your mouth and say /o/ as he looked down your throat?  Well, that is the mouth move we will be looking for today.  Let's pretend to be at the doctor and open our mouths and say /o/ as he looks down our throats (have class open mouths and say /o/).  We say /o/ to open our throats so the doctor can look down them and see any problems.  Let's open our throats for the doctor:  /o/."
  3. Let's try a tongue twister (on chart).  "Ollie the octopus opted out of the opposites contest with the ostrich in October."  Everyone say it three times together (class says it together).  Now let's say it again, and this time, let's stretch the /o/ at the beginning of the words.  "Ooollie the oooctopus ooopted ooout ooof the ooopposites contest with the ooostrich in Oooctober."  Try it again, and this time break it off the word:  "/o/ llie the /o/ ctopus /o/ pted /o/ ut /o/ f the /o/ pposites contest with the /o/ tter in /o/ ctober." 
  4. Have students take out primary paper and pencil.  Tell students:  "We can use the letter o to spell /o/.  Let's write it first.  Start at the fence line.  Draw half a circle around to the sidewalk and another half circle back around to the fence line.  Do this without lifting your pencil.  When you finish, you should have a circle.  I want to see everyone's o's.  After I put a smiley face on your paper, I want you to make 9 more just like it.  When you see the letter o all by itself in a word, that's the signal to say /o/ like we've practiced.  When you make your 9 more o's, I want to hear you say /o/ as you are making them."
  5. Have children stand up in a circle and get ready to play the tongue twister challenge.  Have ready-made cards with /o/ words and pictures on them, either beginning with /o/ or have /o/ in the middle.  The first child takes the top card and looks at the picture to determine the word (example:  dog).  The second child says the first child's word and adds a second word to it that has /o/ in it (example:  dog, stop).  Continue with as many children as are participating.  After each new word, the entire class chants the chain of words thus far.  Encourage the children to see how quickly they can say or chant the words.  Children can then write down tongue twisters of their own using /o/.  The tongue twisters can be displayed in the hall or in the classroom. 
  6. Read Frog Cops and discuss the story.  Read the story again and have children get with a partner and shine their doctor lights down their partner's throats while the partner opens his or her mouth to form /o/ each time they hear a word with /o/ (children can take turns).  Have a child, or yourself, list those words on the board.  Then have the children draw a frog and write a short message about it using invented spelling.  These too can be displayed in the classroom or in the hallway.
  7. For assessment, pass out a picture page that contains several rows of pictures of things with /o/ and things without /o/.  Help children name each picture just to make sure they know what it is.  Ask them to draw a box around each picture whose name has /o/.


Gaydos, Nora.  Frog Cops.  New York:  Scholastic.  2001.

Linse, Caroline.  20 Fun-Filled Games that Build Early Reading Skills.  New York:  Scholastic.  2001.  40.

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