/o/… I can’t stop yawning!

Beginning Reading

Amanda Cummings


Rationale: In order for children to be able to read and spell words it is important that they can identify letters and their phonemes.  But before children can match letters to phonemes they must be able to hear them in spoken words. Students will learn in this lesson the phoneme, a meaningful representation, and the letter symbol for /o/ (short o). This lesson will help students recognize the /o/ in spoken words and begin to spell words with the assistance of letter boxes. Students will also be exposed to a text with many words using /o/ (short o) as well.

Materials: Chart with “Oliver had an operation in October”; Hop on Pop by Dr. Suess(Random House. New York. 1963.); letterboxes for each student, letter tiles with letters: l, o, g, b, e, d, t, c, r, a, c, k, s, n, m, p; picture of person yawning with their mouth open saying /o/, copy of Doc in the Fog by Sheila Cushman (Educational Insights. Carson, CA. 1990.)


  1. Today, we are going to start working on using the letters in the alphabet to write words but before we can do that we must understand a secret about our language. Each letter has a certain sound – the way the mouth moves when you say it. In order to write words we must be able to hear those sounds. It may be difficult at first but the more we work at this the better you will get at it. We are going to start with listening and saying what we hear when we say /o/.
  2. Ask students: How many of you have ever been up late at night and your mouth keeps saying /o/ because you are sleepy? Let’s pretend that we you are so tired and you cannot quit yawning. Open your mouth and use your hand to cover it as you yawn. Let me show you. (Model open mouth and /o/.) Now can everyone take their hand and place it in front as your mouth, and open your mouth wide and say /o/. (Allow students to practice. Have different students demonstrate this.)
  3. Now, let’s try a tongue twister to see if you can hear /o/ in these words. It goes like this “Oliver had an operation in October.”  (Use chart with “Oliver had an operation in October” and point to each word as your pronounce it, modeling that words are read from left to right.  Read it to students one time before having them do it with you.) Now let’s try it together. Great! Read it two more times.  Now, let’s say it again and see if we can hear the /o/ in each word by stretching it out slowly. Say “Ooooliver had an ooooperation in Ooooctober.” I want everyone to act like they are really, really sleepy  and you cannot quit yawning every time you hear the /o/. This time in our sentence I want you to break off the /o/ from each word “/o/ liver had an /o/ peration in /o/ ctober” showing me that you hear the /o/ in the words.
  4. Now we are going to do an activity to see if we can hear the /o/ sound in some words. I am going to tell you two words and I want you to tell me which one you hear the sound you make when you are yawning. For example, if I say do you hear /o/ in fog or fat? The answer is in fog. F ooooo g.
  5. It’s your turn to try. Call on students to answer the following questions: Do you hear /o/ in step or stop? In knob or knee? Bob or Brad? Stick or Rock? Now, that you know how to listen for /o/ we are going to read a book together and I want you to do your very best to listen for that sound. Read an excerpt from Dr. Seuss’s Pop on Top to the students. Ask them to do their sign for /o/ every time they hear it. Next, we will practice spelling and reading words using letter boxes. First I will say a word like “mop” and I will place each letter that represents a sound that I hear in its own box. So for mop we want to listen for /o/. I hear that sound in the middle of the word so I am going to put the o in the middle box. Now, let’s think about what it starts with. Mmmmm ooooo p. It starts with /m/ so I will put m in the first box. What is on the end of this word? Mmmmm oooooo ppppp. Now, I know /p/ goes on the end.  /m/ /o/ /p/. Now you are going to try some words.

Word List      3) log, bed, dot   4) crab, clock, rest, snob   5) stomp

You did an excellent job spelling those words. Now I am going to put the letters together and let’s see if you can read the word to me. Let me show you. For this word (place m,o, p tiles together) I will put the /m/ /o/ /p/ together and read the word. Mop. (This continues until all words have been reviewed and read.

  1. It is your turn to read to me and show me how you can read new words with /o/. We are going to read a book called Doc in the Fog. Doc is a wizard who is always making things with his magic but sometimes his magic gets him into trouble. Let’s read and found out what he can do with his magic. (Each student will have their own book and choral read). Ask comprehension questions such as: What does Doc turn into? What else does Doc change with his magic?
  2. For assessment, look for recognition of /o/ in spoken words as well during the letter box lesson.  Also, look for the use of the motion. For choral reading, walk around the room and listen as students read. Listen for the /o/. Later, have students reread Doc in the Fog to you individually for more specific results of their missing correspondences such as running records.



Murray, Bruce. The Reading Genie. http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/phonwords.html

Murray, Bruce. The Reading Genie. http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/twisters.html

Tew, Melanie. “It’s O-o-obvious you are sick.” 2006.  http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/persp/tewbr.html

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