Sh, Sh, It's Sheila the Shark!

Beginning Reading Design

By Haley Dykes


In order for children to become fluent readers, they must understand that letters represent phonemes, which are the vocal gestures they hear in words. Phonemes can be represented by one letter or a combination of letters. When a combination of letters makes a single sound, it is called a digraph. The purpose of this lesson is to help students understand that two letters put together can make one sound. In this lesson, children will learn that when s and h are put together, it forms the sound /sh/ by recognizing /sh/ in spoken words, doing letterbox lessons, and reading The Crash in the Shed.       


-          Class copies of The Crash in the Shed

-          Poster with tongue tickler: Sheila the shark shops for shells by the ships.

-          Elkonin boxes for each student

-          Letters for each student dash, stop, shoe, hat, cash, sheep (d,a,s,h,t,o,p,e,e,c)

-          Board-sized Elkonin box and letters for teacher to model letterbox lesson in front of class.

-          Handouts for the class with various pictures that have the /sh/ sound (ash, mesh, fish, cat); put words on right column and pictures on left column (mixed up) and match words to pictures.



1. Teacher will introduce the lesson to the class by saying, 'Sometimes two letters put together can make one sound. Today, we will put together the letters s and h, which makes the /sh/ sound.' (Teacher writes sh on the board)

2. 'Pretend we are on a big ship and we jump in the water to find sea shells, when all of a sudden we see a big fin heading our way.' (Teacher puts hands in the shape of a fin on her head and repeats the /sh/ sound.) 'What could it be? It is Sheila the friendly shark! She has come to help us learn to identify words that contain the /sh/ sound. Did you notice that 'Sheila' and 'Shark' both start with what sound?' Give students opportunities to answer. 'Yes, /sh/, that is exactly right! Now everyone put your hands on your head in a triangle like this and say 'Shhhhhhhh shhhh shhhh' like you are a shark swimming through the sea (teacher models shark hand gesture and mouth movement). Very good!'

3. Teacher say, 'Now, lets look at our tongue tickler on the poster board: 'Sheila the shark shops for shells'. I am going to say it very slowly, and everyone look for the /sh/ sound. When you hear the /sh/ sound, make your hands like a shark. Very nice! Lets stretch it out together and make our hand gesture when we hear the /sh/ sound.' (Teacher points to words while saying the tongue twister with the class). 'Great job everyone!'

4. Have everyone take out their letterboxes and letters. Tell students 'Remember that each box stands for one sound, so when letters are teamed up, like s and h, they only get one box. I am going to show you how to spell the word ship in your letterboxes.' Say, 'The first sound I hear is /sh/, so I will put the letters s and h in the first box.' Teacher models how to spell ship. Next say, 'Let us spell some words in our letterboxes: dash, stop, hat, cash, sheep.' (After teacher says each word, she walks around to make sure students are spelling the words correctly). 'Now, together we will read the words we spelled in our letterboxes.' (Teacher writes the word dash on the board and models reading it by sounding out each phoneme, /d/a/sh/, and continues to do this with the rest of the words with the class all together.)

5. 'Now I want to see how well you can recognize the /sh/ sound in words. Do you hear /sh/ in slow or rush? Whisper or shout? Malt or shake? Dish or bowl? Great job everyone!'

6. Keep encouraging and tell students, 'You all are doing such a great job, and I think you have this down! I would like everyone to get with a partner and buddy read The Crash in the Shed together. Ben and Jess can't make up their minds whether to fish or collect shells.  Suddenly they hear a crash in the shed. Sounds like trouble! I want you to look for the words that have the /sh/ sound and make Sheila the shark happy with your /sh/ hand and vocal gestures.' After reading, get students back together and ask them what words they found and write them on the board. Ask students if they can think of any other words with the /sh/ sound and write them also.

7. For assessment, pass out activity sheet with pictures and words on it and have students match the correct picture with the word. (Have students turn them in and review for assessment)



McIntosh, Kelly. 'Ssshhopping for Ssshhells' Auburn University Reading Genie Website, 2005.

Murray, B.A. and Lesniak, T. (1999). 'The Letterbox Lesson: A hands on approach for teaching decoding.' The Reading Teacher, 52, 644-650.

Murray, Geri. The Crash in the Shed. Reading Genie Collection, 2006.

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