Building a Bass Drum Band


Laura Ruth Langham

Emergent Literacy


Rationale: Students must have an understanding of phoneme awareness before they can venture into reading.  Phoneme awareness is the understanding of the sounds that are produced by different graphemes, or letters.  After a student understands the verbal context of a word, the student can use the knowledge to enter into phonics instruction and understand how the phonemes work together to produce words, both verbally and scripted.  Students will continue their knowledge of phonemes in this lesson with the phoneme /b/.  During the lesson, students will become familiar with /b/ through the construction of a meaningful representation (beat of a drum), practice of the symbolic notation of /b/ (B and b), and the identification of /b/ in spoken words.



Handheld mirrors (1 per student)

Sheet with bass drum picture containing the letter B


Board with tongue twister (Benjy beats and bangs on his big bass drum.)

Primary writing paper and pencils (just in case)

Dry-erase marker/chalk

Board eraser

Book Olivia Forms a Band

Worksheet with pictures of words that begin and do not begin with /b/ (1 per student)



1. Pass out handheld mirrors to each student.  Explain to the students that each sound that they make has a certain mouth movement.  Allow the students a minute to explore previous mouth movements covered in class.  "Today, we are going to add a new sound to our phoneme library! Today's sound is /b/.  Watch me make the /b/ sound with my mouth.  [model /b/]  To make this sound, we will start with our lips together.  Then, we will slightly open our mouth and let a puff of air come out.  Now, everyone try to make the /b/ sound.  Look into your mirror to see if your mouth is moving the same way that mine did. [Students will explore the mouth movement for a minute or two.] Good job everyone!"

2. Once the students are comfortable with their mouth movement, have everyone place their mirror face down in the top corner of their desk.  "Now that we are familiar with how our mouth works for the phoneme /b/, let me show you a great way to remember the /b/ sound.  Has everyone in the class seen a band play before? It could be a marching band, an orchestra, or even a rock band!  There is an instrument in the band that is really loud and makes a deep, deep noise.  It's a type of drum called a bass drum.  Display the picture of the bass drum with the letter B inside of it on the projector.

3. When the drummer plays their bass drum, everyone can hear /b/. [Pretend to hit a bass drum with both hands in front of you with your hands in a fist. Continue the /b/ sound while doing the motion.]  Now I want everyone to beat their bass drum with me!  This is our bass drum band so everyone play together! [Have students match the phoneme and representation.] We sound great with our /b/ sounds."

4. Once the students are quiet again, display the board that says the tongue twister (Benjy beats and bangs on his big bass drum.).  "Since we are all bbbbbass players now, we are going to find the sound /b/ in a sentence.  I will read the sentence to you. Benjy beats and bangs on his big bass drum.  Now, say it with me. [Have students accompany you.]  Benjy beats on his big bass drum.  Everyone join me two more times. [Repeat twice]  I hear our /b/ sound in our new sentence.  Let's stretch out the sound /b/ in our sentence.  Bbbbbenjy bbbbbeats on his bbbbbig bbbbbass drum.  This time we are going to help Benjy with his music by beating on our bass drums every time we hear the sound /b/.  Remember to stretch out your /b/ sound.  [Repeat stretched out sentence with the students using their meaningful representation.]

5. "Our band is sounding great!  The sound /b/ can be represented as the letter B.  Who can tell me how many ways we write B? (Two ways--upper and lower case)  That is right! We have an upper case B and a lower case b.  I want everyone to take out a sheet of paper and a pencil.  First, watch me as I form an upper case B on the board.  [Explain to students while writing the letter.]  Start at the top and go straight down to the bottom line.  Make the big chest and then the big stomach.  That is the upper case or capital letter B.  I want everyone to practice their capital B on their paper as I name the steps.  Pick up your pencil. Ready? Start at the top and go straight down to the bottom line.  Then, come back and make the big chest.  Now, make the big belly.  That is the capital B.  Now, I will show you how to make the lower case B. [Demonstrate writing the letter during the explanation.]  Start at the top, go down, b-b-bounce up and around.  That is our lower case B.  Now, pick up your pencil again and write the lower case B as I explain it.  Start at the top and go down.  B-b-bounce up and around.  That is the lower case B.  I want everyone to practice the upper and lower case B five more times on your paper." Walk around the room and monitor the students' progress.  Note any confusion with students and go over the phrase to draw the letter again.  "Remember when you see the upper case or lower case B, you will make your bass drum sound /b/."  Pretend to beat the bass drum.

6. Have the students remove their paper from their desk to avoid distractions.  "We already heard our /b/ sound in our tongue twister about Benjy.  Bbbbbenjy bbbbbeats and bbbbbangs on his bbbbig bbbbbass drum. [Use the representation with the sentence.]  Now I will show everyone how I can find our /b/ sound or our bass drum beat in the middle and end of words also.  I will use the word crab.  Let me stretch the word cccccrrrraaaabbbbb... cccrrraaabbb.  There it is!  I heard the bass drum! It is at the end of the word.  Did you hear it?  Listen one more time. cccrrrraaaabbb... crab.  We found our /b/ sound.  Now let's look for the bass drum sound in the middle of a word.  Let's look at the word album since we are a band!  Album.  I am going to stretch it out.  Listen. aaaaalllllbbbbuuuummmm... aaaallllbbbb.  There it is!  I heard our bass drum in the middle of our word.  Listen again. aaallllbbb... album.  We found our phoneme in the middle of the word.


6.  "When we just looked at the words crab and album, we knew that we heard our beating bass drum or the sound /b/.  I want you to pick your mirror back up.  Now repeat each word after me and look at your mouth in the mirror. Let's drag the words out. Say beat. [with students] bbbeeeaaattt.  Did you see your mouth at the beginning of the word?  Now, say crab. [with students] cccrrraaabbb.  Did you see how your mouth made the same shape at the end of the word crab?  Now, say album. [with students] aaallllbbbuuummm.  Did you see how your mouth made the same shape in the middle of album as it made at the beginning of beat and end of crab.  That is because we have the same phoneme in all three words but in different places.  The /b/ phoneme can move around inside a word." Have students place their mirrors back on the corner of their desk.


7.  "Now, we are going to search for our /b/ sound in different words.  I will tell you two words.  One word will have the /b/ sound, our beating drum.  The other word will not.  If you think the first word contained our sound, I want you to hold up one finger.  If you think the second word contained our /b/ sound, I want you to hold up two fingers.  We will do the first one together.  Do you hear /b/ in bug or fly? Hold up your guess.  It is in the first word bug.  Listen to the word bbbug. bug.  This time try it without my help.  Do you hear /b/ in bike or skate? (bike) Small or big? (big) Top or tab? (tab) [If the students have trouble identifying the /b/ at the end, review the two choices as a class slowly.]  Hub or tire? (hub)  Get ready!  The next few might be tricky.  Really listen for our beating bass drum.  Do you hear /b/ in chubby or skinny? (chubby)  Snake or cobra? (cobra)"


8.  Bring the students' attention to the board.  Write the following words one at a time on the board.  "Remember that we will use our lower case and upper case B to symbolize the /b/ sound.  I will write a word on the board.  I want you to tell me if the word has the /b/ sound.  Remember that our letter B represents our beating drum. [Write bag.] Does this word have the /b/ sound? (Yes)  Repeat the word after me.  Make sure to beat your drum when  you say the /b/ sound.  Bag.  [Write Billy.] Is there a /b/ sound, yes or no?  (yes)  Repeat after me Billy.  [Write cat]  Yes or no?  (no)  Say the word after me. Cat.  I did not beat my drum.  Did you?  I do not hear a /b/ sound in the word cat.  Let's try a couple more words.  [Write dark.]  Is there a /b/ sound in this word? (No.  If students are confused, they could be mixing up the letter b and d.  Repeat the saying for writing a b if students are confused.)  Repeat after me. Dark.  Did you beat your bass drum?  Great job! I did not beat my drum either!  One more word. [Write black.]  Will we need to beat our bass drum for this word? (yes)  Repeat after me. Black.  Yes, I beat my bass drum!"


9.  Walk around and take up the mirrors from the students desks.  "Today we formed our own beating and banging band of bass drummers!  Now we are going to hear a story a bout a little pig that you might be familiar with.  Her name is Olivia.  We know Olivia and her wild imagination.  Guess what Olivia is up to now!  She formed her own band.  She is make noises and sounds with everything!  Let's listen to Olivia's story in the book Olivia Forms a Band.  I want everyone to keep your ears open to see if Olivia made the same sound as us and our /b/ sound.  Also, listen to the story and we will try to find words that have our /b/ sound.  Does everyone have their bass drum ready?  I want you to bang on your imaginary drum whenever you hear our /b/ sound!  Remember to listen to Olivia's noises and the words in the story."  Read the story Olivia Forms a Band.  If students point out a word containing the /b/ sound, quickly write the word on the board.  Stress the /b/ sound as you read the story, especially when it comes within or at the end of a word.


10.  Have the students discuss different sounds that Olivia made in her band.  Turn to the pages with the onomatopoeias and ask students to identify any sounds that reminded them of our bass drums.  Review the words on the board.  While repeating the words to students slowly, have the students beat their bass drums when they hear the /b/ sound.


11.  For assessment, the students will complete a worksheet with different common pictures represented on the page.  "Everyone needs to stay with the class while we complete this exercise.  I might want to call a picture a different name that you might not have thought about.  Listen closely.  Circle the pictures that have a name that contains the /b/ sound in ANY place in the word.  Remember our beating bass drum!"  Name each picture for the students.  Have a mixture of words that contain the /b/ sound and words that do not.  Mix in words that have the b sound in the middle or at the end of the word.



- Murray, Bruce. The Reading Genie: Mouth Moves and Gestures for Phonemes.

- Murray, Bruce. How to Print Letters. CTRD3710 Handout Spring 2008.

- 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.

- Capistrano School. (Bass drum picture)

- Falconer, Ian. Olivia Forms a Band. Atheneum: 2006. 50 pages.

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