Emergent Literacy Design: Wishing with W

By Morgan Pierce


Rationale: This lesson will help children identify /w/, the phoneme represented by W. Students will learn to recognize /w/ in spoken words by learning a meaningful representation (blowing out the candles on a cake) and the letter symbol W, practice finding /w/ in words, and apply phoneme awareness with /w/ in phonetic cue reading by distinguishing rhyming words from beginning letters. This lesson is geared towards an appropriate literacy goal for students at this stage of literacy development.


Materials: Primary paper and a pencil; chart that says, "We wash wiggly worms"; the W book; word cards with WE, MAT, FISH, WENT, WEST,  and WISH; assessment worksheet (below) identifying /w/



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 /w/.  We spell /w/ with letter W.  W looks like candles on a birthday cake, and /w/ sounds like when you blow out your birthday candles.

2. Let's pretend to blow out our candles,  /w/, /w/, /w/. [Pantomime blowing out candles] Notice what your mouth is doing? (making a small circle). When we say /w/, we blow air through the circle our mouth makes.

3. Let me show you how to find /w/ in the word water.  I'm going to stretch water out in super slow motion and listen for my toothbrush.  Www-a-a-t-e-rr.  Slower: Www-a-a-a-t-e-r-r-r There it was!  I felt my mouth make a circle and blow out air. I can feel the candles in /w/ in water.

4. Let's try a tongue twister [on chart]. " We wash wiggly worms." Everybody say it three times together. Now say it again, and this time, stretch the /w/ at the beginning of the words. "Wwwe wwwash wwwiggly wwworms." Try it again, and this time break it off the word: "/w/ e  /w/ ash /w/ iggly /w/ orms." Complete, so that everything necessary is mentioned and clearly described in an easily accessible and well-organized form.

5. [Have students take out primary paper and pencil]. We use letter W to spell /w/. Capital W looks like candles sticking out of a cake.  Let's write the lowercase letter w. Start at the fence. Draw a tilted line all the way down to the sidewalk. Then draw a line tilted the other way up to the fence.  The draw another tilted line the other way back down to the sidewalk. And then draw another line the other way back up to the fence. I want to see everybody's w. 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 /w/ in work or fun? wiggle or still? we or us? want or have? will or not? Say: Let's see if you can spot the mouth move /w/ in some words. Blow out your candles if you hear /w/: The, wiggly, white, worm, went, for, a, walk, with, his, friend, Walter.

7. Say: "Let's look at a W book.  This book names different things that start with W. Ask children if they can think of other words with /w/. Ask the children to write a short story (2-3 sentences) with a character that stars with /w/ and that does things that start with /w/. Then have each student draw a picture of their /w/ story. Display their work.

8. Show WEEK and model how to decide if it is week or meek: The W tells me to blow out the candles, /w/, so this word is www-eek, week.  You try some: WAY: way or hay? WILL: bill or will? WENT: went or sent? WELL: tell or well? WE: we or me?

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


Reference: Byrne, B., & Fielding-Barnsley, R. (1990). Acquiring the alphabetic principle: A case for

teaching recognition of phoneme identity. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 805-81reader to track down the source.






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