Slimy Snakes Say "Ssssss"

Snake and YoYo

Emergent Literacy Design

Jeannie Pearman

Rationale: Research suggests that alphabetic letter recognition and phoneme awareness are the most important indicators of first-year reading achievement in prereaders. Therefore, it is extremely important that teachers effectively teach  the alphabet and the corresponding phonemes. The goal of this lesson is to introduce the letter S and its corresponding phoneme /s/. Students will learn to recognize /s/ in spoken words by learning a meaningful representation (snakes make the sound "sss") and the letter symbol S, practice finding /s/ in words, and apply phoneme awareness with /s/ in phonemic cue reading by distinguishing rhyming words from beginning letters.  

1. Primary Paper
2. Chart with "Slimy snakes slither slowly down the stairs."
3. Picture of the "S" snake
(URL )
4. Word Cards with SOCK, PINK, STAR, JAM, SICK, SNOW
5. “Swine Lake” by James Marshall (published by Harper Collins, 1999)
6. Assessment worksheet identifying pictures with /s/ and practicing writing the letters S and s
(URL )

1. Say: Our written language is a secret code. The tricky part is learning what letters stand for-our mouths move in certain ways when we say words. Today we are going to work on spotting the mouth move /s/. We spell /s/ with the letter S. S looks like a snake, and the /s/ sounds like the sound that a snake makes when they hiss. "Sssssssss."

2. Say: Let’s pretend our arms and hands are snakes. Let’s wiggle our arms and hands and make the "Ssssss" sound like a snake would make. /s/ /s/ /s/. (Pantomime a snake with your hands and arms.) Do you notice how your teeth are together when you make that sound? When we say /s/ we blow air through our teeth.

3. Say: Let me show you how to find /s/ in the word sister. I’m going to stretch it out in super slow motion and listen for my snake sound. Sssss-i-sssss-t-e-r. One more time, ssss-i-sss-t-e-r. There it was! I heard the /s/ sound when I blew air out through my teeth. I can hear the snake sound in sister.

4. Say: Let’s try a tongue twister (on chart). "Slimy snakes slither slowly down the stairs". (Everybody say it three times together). Now, let’s say it again, and this time, stretch out the /s/ at the beginning of the words. "Sssssslimy sssnakes ssslither ssslowly down the ssstairs". Try it again, and this time break the /s/ off of each word. "/S/ limy /s/ nakes /s/ lither /s/ lowly down the /s/ tairs".

5. (Hand the primary paper and a pencil out to each student). Say: We use the letter S to spell /s/. Uppercase and lowercase S both look curvy like a snake. (Show the picture of the "S" snake). Let’s write the uppercase S first. (Model as you explain how to write an S). Begin with your pencil just below the roof and make a little curved c so that it sits on the fence. Now, without lifting your pencil, make a curve around the backside of the fence and rest it on the sidewalk. I want to see everybody’s uppercase S. After I put a smiley face on it, I want you to make four more just like it. After you write five uppercase S’s, write a lowercase s. (Model how to write a lowercase s). Begin with your pencil just below the fence and make a little c that is between the fence and the sidewalk. Now, without lifting your pencil, make a curve around the backside of the fence and rest it on the sidewalk. I want to see everybody’s lowercase s. After I put a smiley face on it, write four more just like it.

6. Call on students to answer and tell how they knew:  Say: Do you hear /s/ in Sparkle or Dull? Loud or Soft? Chris or Mike? Wrist or Finger? Messy or Clean? Let’s see if you can spot our mouths making the /s/ sound in some more words. Make a wiggly snake with your arms and hands if you /s/. Funny? Test? Sticky? Blue? Mad? Sad? Risk? Neat?

7. (Get out the word cards). Show SOCK and model how to decide if it is sock or clock. Say: The S tells me that this word has the sound that a snake makes in it-/s/, so this word is ssss-ock, sock. You try some: PINK: Pink or Sink? STAR: Star or Car? JAM: Sam or Jam? SICK: Tick or Sick? SNOW: Bow or Snow?

8. Say: Let’s look at a book that has lot’s of /s/ sounds in it. (Introduce the book Swine Lake by James Marshall). Ask: Have any of you ever been to a lake? What do you normally see at a lake? I want you to listen to the story to see what we see at Swine Lake, and I want you to keep your ears open for words that make the same sound as snakes. Whenever you hear the /s/ sound that a snake makes, I want you to wiggle you hands and arms like snakes.

9. For assessment, distribute the worksheet. Students are to complete the partial spellings and practice writing upper and lowercase S on their own. Call students individually to read the phonetic cue words from step # 7.


Bell, Elizabeth. Slinky Scaly Snakes.

Sullivan, Sarah. Nice and Neat Micky Mouse.   

Marshall, James. Swine Lake. Harper Collins. 1999

Click here to get bcak to Solutions.