Open wide…and say Ahh!

 Emerging Literacy

Barret Freeman


Rationale:  In order for children to learn to read and spell words, they must use insight from the alphabetic principle to understand that letters stand for phonemes.  They must also understand that spellings “map” out phonemes in spoken words.  Before they can match letters to phonemes, they must recognize phonemes in spoken words.  Short vowels are usually hard for kids to identify.  This lesson will help students identify /o/ (short o).  They will learn to recognize /o/ in spoken words by learning a meaningful representation and also a letter symbol.  They will then practice this new correspondence by finding /o/ in words.



·  Primary paper

·  Pencils

·  Poster with tongue twister “Oliver had an operation in October, and Oscar gave him an Octopus” written on it

·  Chalk board and chalk

·  Tongue depressor for each student (popsicle sticks work too)

·  Laminated poster with primary lines drawn on it

·  Dry erase marker

·  Copy of “Doc in the Fog” for each student (Educational Insights, 1990)

·  Cards with words to read for sound /o/ and pictures of each word for students to look at (cards: jog or run; broom or mop; pan or pot;- each word will have a corresponding picture above it for the students to look at)



1. Introduce the lesson by telling students that written language is our secret code that we must “crack” or figure out before learning to read.  Sometimes the hard part is learning what the letters stand for (the mouth moves that we make as we say words).  Today we are going to work on learning the mouth move /o/.  At first, /o/ will seem like it is hiding from you in words, but as you get better at cracking the “code” you’ll be able to find it in all sorts of words.

2.Ask students “Have you ever been to the doctor?  When he wants to look at our throat, he tells us to open wide, stick out our tongue, and say /o/.”  That is our mouth move for today.  We will be looking for this mouth move in many different words.  Let’s practice together.  Everybody get your tongue depressor and place it on your tongue like this (I will model how to do it).  Now, let’s all do it together, /o/.

3.Let’s try our tongue twister (on poster board). “Oliver had an operation in October, and Oscar gave him an Octopus.”  Now, everybody say it three times together.  Now we will say it again, but this time stretch the /o/ at the beginning of the words. “Ooooliver had an ooooperation in Ooooctober, and Ooooscar gave him an Oooctopus.”  Try it one more time, but this time break the /o/ off the word. “/o/ liver had an /o/peration in /o/ ctober, and /o/ scar gave him an /o/ ctopus.”  Great job!

4.Have students take out primary writing paper and a pencil.  Say “We can use the letter o to spell /o/.  Let’s write it.” I will use the laminated poster to model the correct way to write the letter o.  I will say “To write a lowercase o, we start at the fence, draw a curved line down to the sidewalk, and then keep the curve going back up to the fence.”  I will draw several lowercase o’s.  The students will follow my direction and draw one lowercase o.  Say “I want to see everyone’s o’s.  When you get a happy face, you can draw nine more just like it.”  Next, I will say “To write an uppercase O, we start at the rooftop, draw a curved line down to the sidewalk, and then keep the curve going back up to the rooftop.”  I will draw several uppercase O’s and then tell the children to draw one on their own paper.  I will say “once you get a happy face by your uppercase O, I want you to draw nine more just like it.”  I will say “Now that you know what the o looks like, when you see it, you will know to say /o/.”

5.Say “Let me show you how to find /o/ in the word stop. I am going to stretch out the word in very slow motion and listen for the doctor sound.  Ssstop, ssstttop, ssstttooo…there it is! I do hear the doctor sound in stop!”

6.I will hand out a set of cards to each student with two words and two pictures on each card (cards: jog or run; broom or mop; pan or pot- each word will have a corresponding picture above it for the students to look at).  I will call on students who raise their hands. They will tell me which word they hear the /o/ sound in, and how they know: Do you hear /o/ in on or in?  Jog or run?  Broom or mop?  Pan or pot?  I will ask students if they can think of some words with the /o/ sound.  I will write these words on the board.

7.Say “Doc is a wizard.  He has magical powers.  He points his magic wand at things and they change into different things. Doc even changes a dog into a pot!  What will happen to the dog?  We will have to read the book to find out!” Read Doc in the Fog and discuss the story.  Read it a second time, but now have students raise their hands when they hear words with the /o/ sound (tell them to think really carefully and not just raise their hand because someone else is.)  List these words with /o/ sound on the board (along with the words the students came up with ).  Have the students draw a picture of Doc the magic wizard and write a message about it.  Tell them “I can’t help you spell the words.  If you get to a word that you aren’t sure about, sound it out the best you can.”

8.For assessment, I will hand out the worksheet with 4 pictures in a row (some words will have the /o/ sound, and others won’t).  I will tell them to color the pictures that have the /o/ sound in them.  First, we will go over each picture and say what it is (so the students do not interpret the pictures wrong). 




Doc In the Fog. Educational Insights. 1990.

Heather Lynch. Reading Genie Website. Stick out your tongue… and say ah.

Reading Genie website- How to Teach Phoneme Awareness.  “Making Friends with Phonemes”

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