Tick-Tock Goes The Clock

Emergent Literacy

Stephanie Broach 


The most accurate predictors of reading success later in life are letter recognition and the ability to hear different phonemes in spoken words.  With these two factors being the most important aspects of skillful reading in the future it is fitting that they should be focused on when working with emergent readers.  The goal of this lesson is for the students to be able to make the /t/ sound, write the letter t, recognize the letter t in print by reading a book, recognize the sound /t/ in speech by making motions to indicate the sound and to grasp the concept t says /t/.


Primary paper


Chart paper with tongue twister written on it: "Tina took Timmy's tiny turtle to town."

Picture of a pocket watch or pendulum clock (something that makes a tick-tock sound)

White board

Dry erase marker

Pictures of the number two, toes, a tent, and a turkey

Pictures of a book, the number four, hands, and a door

Activity sheet with pictures of a turtle, a table, a television, a dog, a bird, fingers and a typewriter

Turtle Time by Stan Stoddard


1. Begin by holding up the picture of the watch/clock and ask the students "What is this a picture of?"  If the students cannot get it, tell them that it is a picture of a watch/clock.  Then ask them if they've ever listened to a clock.  Ask them what sound it makes? (tick-tock, tick-tock or /t/-/t/-/t/-/t/). 

2. "How do we make that noise?"  Have the students watch their partner closely as they take turns saying /t/.  Then tell them, "when we make the sound /t/ we start with our tongue at the top of our mouth behind our teeth.  We then breathe out and as we do this we move our tongues down so that they end up behind our bottom teeth.  Lets make the sound /t/ five times in a row!"

3. Sometimes it helps us to remember something if we make up a motion to go with it.  Demonstrate for the students how to tap your wrist as if you were tapping a watch waiting for someone.  Now have them do it with you.  "Can you tap your imaginary (or real if they have them) watches?  Okay good!  Now every time we tap lets say /t/."  As they are tapping at a steady pace they should be saying "/t/-/t/-/t/·"

4. Let's try a rhyme [on chart]. "Tina took Timmy's tiny turtle to town."  Read it the first time and have the children listen.  Then ask them to try it with you two times.  The second time that they read it with you, have them raise their hands every time they hear /t/. (This should be at the beginning of each word).  "Now lets separate out the /t/ and every time we hear it we'll tap our watch·T-ina t-ook T-immy's t-urtle t-o t-own.  Good job!"

5. [Have students take out primary paper and pencil].  "Did you know that we could use letters to represent sounds that we hear?"  Demonstrate for the students on a white board how to make the lower case letter t.  "We start at the rooftop and draw a straight line all the way down to the sidewalk.  Then we cross at the fence.  Can you make a lower case t?  Good job!  I want everyone to continue to make lower case t's on their paper while I walk around and get a peek at your work.  When you make the letter t, I want you to say /t/ so that we remember that t says /t/."  As you walk around the room, if you see a student who is struggling, repeat your instructions of how to make the letter and then provide further help if needed.  After this, demonstrate how to make an upper case T.  "For the upper case T we start out the same way.  Draw a line from the rooftop to the sidewalk but this time, instead of crossing at the fence, lets cross on the rooftop.  Let me see you try it.  Remember, when you make the letter t, I want you to say /t/ so that we remember that t says /t/."  Proceed in the same way that you did for lower case. 

Checklist for teacher to use when walking around and checking students' work:

  1. Does the lowercase t cross in the middle?
  2. Does the uppercase T cross at the top?
  3. Does the student make the /t/ sound correctly?

6. Tell the students that it is now time to hear a story.  "Today when we read our story, I want you to listen very carefully for the /t/ sound that we've been talking about.  What letter makes that sound?  Right!  The letter t!  Every time that you hear t say /t/ I want you to tap your watch."  Before reading, introduce the story with a brief book talk.  "In this story a little girl finds a turtle.  She brings him home with her and gives him all sorts of things that children would like.  But will the turtle like all of these things?" 

7. For assessment, hold up the pictures that are listed in the materials list have the students identify the objects.  After they have identified these items, ask them to tap their watches if they hear /t/ when they name the pictures.  Pass out the activity sheet with pictures on it and ask them to circle the pictures that begin with the /t/.  This will allow you to evaluate the students' understanding of the concept taught in this lesson. 


Hall, M. "Silly Sally."


Reading Genie: http://www.auburn.edu/rdggenie

Stoddard, S. Turtle Time. Houghton Mifflin, 1997. 32 pgs.