Open Wide!
Ashley Wood
Emergent Literacy Design

Rationale: Before learning to read and spell, young learners must first learn that letters stand for phonemes and spellings are mapped onto phonemes in spoken words. Since short vowels are so difficult for children to identify, this lesson will help them identify /o/ (short o). They will be able to recognize /o/ in spoken words by learning a meaningful representation and letter symbol. They will then practice finding /o/ in words.


            Primary paper and pencil
            Chart with: “Ozzie the octopus had an operation in October.”
            Paper with octopus and crayons
            Doc in the Fog (Educational Insights)
            Picture page with: dog, mat, bar, cat, block, fish, mop, doctor


1. Introduce the lesson by explaining that our written language is a secret code. “Today, we are going to be working to try to break that secret code. To do this, we must know what letters stand for and the mouth moves we make when we say words. Today, we are going to particularly be working on the mouth move /o/. In the beginning, you may not be able to spot /o/ in words, but as you become familiar with it, you will be able to spot it in all kinds of words.”

2. Ask students: Have you ever been to the doctor with a soar throat and he tells you to open your mouth wide and say /o/? That is the mouth move that we are going to be looking for in words today! The ahhhh sound you make when you you’re your mouth is wide for the doctor is actually the short o sound. Now let’s practice together, pretend that the doctor is telling you to make the /o/ sound when you open your mouth wide, ready, go! Great job!

3. Now that we know what /o/ sounds like, let’s try a tongue twister! “Ozzie the octopus had an operation in October.” Now everyone say it together three times. Now we are going to say it again, but stretch the /o/ at the beginning of the words. “Oooozie the ooooctopus had an oooperation in Oooctober.” Good, this time we are going to try something a little different. This time, try to break off the /o/ from the rest of the word. “/o/ zzie the /o/ cotopus had an /o/ peration in /o/ tober.”

4. (Have students take out primary paper and pencil.) We can use letter o to spell /o/. Let’s write it. I want to see everyone’s o. When I put a sticker on your paper, I want you to draw nine more just like the one that I put a sticker next to. When you see letter Start at the fence line, curve around to touch the sidewalk, and then curve back around to the fence line where you first started. When you see letter o all by itself in a word, that’s the signal to say /o/.

5. Let me show you how to find /o/ in spot. I am going to stretch spot out in slow motion and listen for the sound you make when you open your mouth for the doctor. S-s-s-p-p-o-t. S-s-p-p-o-o…there it is! I do hear the /o/ sound when I open my mouth wide.

6. Call on students to answer and tell how they knew: Do you hear /o/ in dog or cat? Mop or nap? Black or block? Stop or stay? (Pass out a card to each student.) “Let’s see if you can spot the mouth move /o/ in some words. Open your mouth wide when you /o/. Ozzie, the, octopus, had, an, operation, in, October.

7. Read Doc in the Fog and talk about the story. Read it again, and have students raise their hands when they hear words with /o/. List their words on the board. Have students write a message about it using invented spelling inside the octopus on their paper. Display their work.

8. For assessment, distribute the picture page and assist the students in naming each picture. Ask the students to color the pictures whose names have /o/.


Champine, Lindsey. Emergent Literacy: Open Your Mouth and Say Ahh!

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