Emergent Literacy Design: Slither Your Arm like a Snake with S


Emergent Literacy Design

Marguerite DeWitt

Rationale: This lesson will help children identify /s/, the phoneme represented by S.  Students will learn to recognize /s/ in spoken words by learning a meaningful representation (slithering their arm like a snake) and the letter symbol S, practice finding /s/ in words, and apply phoneme awareness with /s/ in phonetic cue reading by distinguishing rhyming words from beginning letters.

Materials: Primary paper and pencil; chart with 'Some sneaky snakes slither and slide'; drawing paper and crayons; Dr. Seuss's ABC (Random House, 1963); word cards with BELL, MILL, SING, SAM, BUN; assessment worksheet identifying pictures with /s/ (http://www.kidzone.ws/kindergarten/s-begins2.htm).

1. Say: "Our written language is a secret code. The tricky part is learning what letters stand for—the mouth moves we make as we say words. Today we're going to work on spotting the mouth move /s/. We spell /s/ with letter S. S looks like a snake, and /s/ sounds like a snake slithering".

2. "Let's slither our arm like a snake, /s/, /s/, /s/. (Pantomime slithering arm like a snake) Notice how your teeth are almost closed and you lips are spread apart? (Touching corners of mouth). When we say /s/, we blow air between our teeth".

3. "Let me show you how to find /s/ in the word nose. I'm going to stretch nose out in super slow motion and listen for my snake. Nnn-o-o-ose. Slower: Nnn-o-o-o-ssse.  There it was! I felt my teeth almost close with air blowing through them and my mouth spread wide. I can feel the snake /s/ in nose".

4. "Let's try a tongue tickler (on chart). 'Some sneaky snakes slither and slide'.  Everybody say it three times together. Now say it again, and this time, stretch the /s/ at the beginning of the words. 'Sssome sssneaky sssnakes ssslither and ssslide'.  Try it again, and this time break it off the word: '/s/ ome /s/ neaky /s/ nakes /s/ lither and /s/ lide'".

5. [Have students take out primary paper and pencil]. "We use letter S to spell /s/. S looks like a snake. Let's write the lowercase letter s. Start just below the fence. Start to make a little c up in the air, then half way down make a backwards c so that the bottom touches the sidewalk. I want to see everybody's s. After I put a smile on it, I want you to make nine more just like it."

6. Call on students to answer and tell how they knew: "Do you hear /s/ in none or some? house or car? loose or tight? nose or lip? case or pail?" Say: "Let's see if you can spot the mouth move /s/ in some words. Slither your arm like a snake if you hear /s/: The, small, soft, mouse, ran, fast, to, smell, the, cheese."

7. Say: "Let's look at an alphabet book. Dr. Seuss tells us about a funny fellow whose name starts with S. Can you guess?" Read page 44, drawing out /s/. Ask children if they can think of other words with /s/. Ask them to make up a silly tongue twister like "Silly Sammy Slick sipped six sodas and got sick, sick, sick". Then have each student write their silly tongue twister with invented spelling and draw a picture of it. Display their work.

8. Show SAY and model how to decide if it is say or may.  "The S tells me to slither my snake, /s/, so this word is sss-ay, say. You try some: SILL: mill or sill? SING: ring or sing? SAM: Sam or ham? BUN: bun or sun? BELL: sell or bell?".  Then have each student write their silly tongue twister with invented spelling and draw a picture of it. Display their work.

9. For assessment, distribute the worksheet. Students are to complete the partial spellings and color the pictures that begin with S. Call students individually to read the phonetic cue words from step #8.


Byrne, B., & Fielding-Barnsley, R. (1990). Acquiring the alphabetic principle: A case for teaching recognition of phoneme identity. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 805-812.

Bruce Murray.  Emergent Literacy Lesson. "Brush Your Teeth with F". http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/sightings/murrayel.html

Return to the Projects index