Open Wide and Say “Aaah”

Beginning Reading Lesson Design

Megan Kerns


Rationale:  To learn to read and spell words, students must not only learn that letters are symbols that stand for phonemes, or vocal gestures, but also use their knowledge of those letter sound relationships to decode and recognize words. It has been proven that children must learn to decode all of the different correspondences in words in order to learn how to read and to be a skillful and fluent reader.  Mastering short vowel sounds is imperative before moving on to more difficult correspondences, and for becoming a fluent reader.  In this lesson, the children will learn the o = /o/ correspondence, or the short o.  The children will be able to recognize the short letter o and associate it with the phoneme /o/ in written and spoken words.  They will learn to associate the letter o with the sound that you make when you go to the doctor and get your throat checked, when you open wide and say “Aaah”. 

Materials:  Poster with picture of doctor checking a person’s throat, Elkonin Boxes and Ziploc baggie with set of lowercase letters for each child (t, t, a, n, r, o, d, m, p, h, l, I, b, b, u, g, f, s, e), larger felt board with Elkonin boxes and letters p, o, and t for the teacher to model with, sentence strip with the tongue twister on it – Oscar the octopus had an operation in October, Decodable book: Cushman, Sheila. In the Big Top. (1990). Educational Insights. Carson, California. (one for every student), worksheet containing pictures of words with and without the o = /o/ phoneme for every child, such as a frog, mop, bug, can, stop sign, octopus, and pencil, blank piece of paper and box of crayons for each student, and primary writing paper and pencil for each student, second worksheet for each student with a column of pictures on one side and a column of words on the other:  box, rack, lock, umberlla, octopus, cap, mop.  

Procedures:  1. Pass out materials.  Introduce the lesson by explaining that our written language is a secret code and we must pay close attention to the smaller sounds we hear in words in order to understand them better and be better learners and readers.  Ask students if they can name other vowels they have already learned.  Today we are going to learn about another vowel, the letter o.  We are going to learn one of the sounds this letter makes, the short o sound.  Remind the students that the letter o = /o/ only when it is by itself.  If there is another vowel, it does not say this sound. I hear this sound a lot when I go to the doctor and he checks my throat.  Show picture poster board.  My doctor will tell me, “Open wide and say Aaah”.  Has your doctor ever said this to you?  Well, this is the same sound the letter o makes.  It says /o/.  Your mouth is going to be open just like if you were getting your throat checked by the doctor!  Let’s all say the sound the letter o makes together.  

2.  Let’s try to see if we can find the letter o in some of these words in this silly tongue twister.  Oscar the octopus had an operation in October.”  Everybody say it out loud together.  Now say it again, and this time, stretch the /o/ at the beginning of each word that starts with o and think about the sound you make when you open wide and say “Aaah”.  Oooscar the oooctopus had an oooperation in Oooctober.”  Try it again, and this time break the /o/ off each word.  “/o/ scar the /o/ ctopus had an /o/ peration in /o/ ctober.”  Great Job!  Now do you hear the /o/ in mop or map?  Lot or let?  On or in?

3. I think that everyone knows how to make the letter o, but lets write several together on our (primary) paper.  Start just below the fence. First little c, then close it up! Good, now make five more on your paper for practice. Great job! I will walk around and make sure everyone made his or her letter o correctly before moving on.

4.  Let’s use our letterboxes (Elkonin Boxes) to help us find the letter o in some words.  When we do this, we are going to review some of the words we already know using different vowels and we are also going to learn some new words with our doctor sound.  Remember, we use the letter o to represent this sound. Before we all try to spell some words, watch me to make sure we remember how to do this.  Hold up felt board with letterboxes and model for students.  Remember, each box stands for one sound.  Sometimes our sounds use more than one letter, so it is important that we listen for sounds in our words.  I am going to spell a word with three sounds in it.  (Put out three letterboxes).  The word I am going to spell is pot.  /p/ /o/ /t/.  I hear three sounds in this word, so in the first box, I am going to put the first sound.  /p/.  I will put the letter p here.  Next, I hear our doctor sound /o/, so I will put my o in the middle.  The last sound I hear is a /t/.  I will put that letter t here.  /p/ /o/ /t/, pot like a cooking pot!  Now, I want you to try some.  As I call out a word, I want all of you to put the letters in your boxes that you have in front of you.  I will come around and help you if you need some help. (Tell the students how many sounds there are in each word before you say the word.  This way they will know how many boxes to have ready).  Call out words which consists of three phonemes including review words: tan- I like to tan in the sun, rod- the rod kept the curtains up, mop- you have to mop up spills, hot- the summer time is hot, lid- the lid kept the bugs from getting out, fog- the fog made it hard to see, and words which consists of four phonemes: stop- stop at the stop sign, pond- the pond has lots of fish, blob- the blob of ice cream looked yummy, tent- the tent was great to camp in, and a word with five phonemes: frost- the frost on the ground was cold on my feet!   Now I want you all to read the words that I put up on the big felt boxes up at the front. When I put the word up, I want you all to respond out loud together and tell me what the word is!  (put up all the words spelled before)

5.  Now I want you all to write a message on your paper about what you like to do when it is nice and warm outside like it has been lately!

6.  Now I want you all to read the book you have on your desk, In the Big Top.  I want everyone to whisper read this book while I come around and listen how excellent you all read!  Raise your hand if you are stuck on a word!  This book is about a family who wants to go to the circus.  They bring a lot of things to the circus with them, but they only have one little car to get them there!  Tod gets in the car first.  Then Roz hops in. Then Rob hops in. Then the dog hops in! Will anymore people fit into the car? Will they ever get to the circus?  I want you all to read to find out! I will walk around the room and observe the students while they read, and assist any who are having trouble with a word.  After their first reading, we will talk about some things they noticed in the story (that deals with the plot).  I will then have them read the book one more time to look for certain aspects to the story, as well as give them lots of practice in decoding the words in the book and to look for words that have the /o/ sound or letter o in it.  

7.  Have students use crayons to draw pictures on the blank piece of paper of things or objects that have the letter o in them.  Display their work. 

Assessment:  The students will be evaluated on their participation and on what I observed during the letterbox lesson and during the reading of the book.   I will also hand out a worksheet with pictures that have things with the /o/ phoneme in them.  Some of the objects will not have this phoneme in them.  Ask the children to circle the pictures that have the doctor sound in them with a pencil.  Then, ask them to write the name of the objects that have the sound underneath it on the line using their inventive spellings. Then, have the students to the second worksheet that has them match a picture to the correct word by drawing a line to connect the two. 


Cushman, Sheila. (1990). Decodable book:  In the Big Top.  Educational Insights.  Carson City, CA. 

 Hall, Mariel D. “Aaah says the Doc”

 Murray, Bruce. Teaching Letter Recognition.

 Murray, Bruce A. and Theresa Lesniak (1999). “Teaching Reading. The Letterbox lesson: A hands-on approach for teaching decoding.” The Reading Teacher. Vol. 52, No.6. pp.644-650.

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