Let the Air out of the Balloon


Emergent Literacy

Cambre Prater


Rationale: It is important for children to understand that the letters in the alphabet stand for phonemes that make up words.  Before students can match the letters to their phoneme however they have to be able to recognize the phonemes in spoken words.  This way, they understand the connection between the sound and the written letter.  This lesson is to help students learn the consonant "S" and the /s/ sound that it makes. Through the lesson, the students will learn to recognize the phoneme in spoken words and then recognize the written symbol that represents the sound.  They will practice finding /s/ in words.  



Primary paper


Paper with, "Sssarah ssscanned the sssea while sssitting in the ssssand."

            Picture of a balloon with the letter "S" printed underneath it

            Siena at the Store; the sound of S by Cecilia Minden and Joanne D Meier

Picture page with sun, bug, star, window, snake, flower, sword, table, chair, purse, sock, computer




  1. Begin the lesson by explaining that our written language can be very tricky.  "It is like a code that every one needs to learn to crack. Once you have cracked the code you are open to endless possibilities. You can understand symbols all around you.  You can write messages to your friends and family and they will understand what you mean. Our mouths move when we say words and the sounds that come out represent letters which make up words.  Today we are going to work on the sound /s/ and notice the way our mouth moves when we say it."
  2. Ask students: "Have you ever heard the air come out of something? Like a balloon or a tire? It makes the /s/ sound.  When you make the sound of air coming out of a balloon that is the /s/ mouth movement we are looking for.  Let's pretend we see a balloon flying around that has the air coming out of it. Move your hand in the air and point to the imaginary balloon and let's make the /s/ sound together." [Point up in the air and make a figure 8 like you are trying to keep your finger on a moving balloon]. 
  3. "Now that we have learned the sound and mouth movement of /s/, everyone look up here at the board!  Here is a tongue twister I want you to try (pass out sheet with tongue twister on it).  Tongue twisters can be tricky, but they are also fun, Listen to me read it then we will say it together!" I say, "Sssarah ssscanned the sssea while sssitting in the ssssand.  Let's read it together!" (We read it together.)  "Now let's read it again, but this time slower and break the /s/ sound off the word: "/s/ arah /s/ canned the /s/ ea while /s/ itting in the /s/ and."
  4. [Have students take out primary paper, pencils and pass out the picture of a balloon with air coming out and the letter "S" written under it.]  "Remember how I told you that the sounds that come out of our mouths are represented by letters.  The letter "S" is used to spell the /s/ sound.  Let's practice writing the letter "S".  Watch me write it on the board.  You start halfway between the rooftop and the fence and curve up towards the roof.  Once you get to the roof curve back to the fence and then curve down to the sidewalk.  Once you get to the sidewalk curve back up and end in-between the sidewalk and the fence. It weaves around kind of like a snake!  This is a capital "S" or a big "S".  To make a lower-case "S" or a little "S" you only use the area from the fence to the sidewalk.  Now I want everyone to try a capital "S" on your paper (repeat the directions).  I am going to walk around and see everyone‰¥ús snaky "S"s. When I put a sticker on your paper I want you to write nine more "S"s on your paper.  Now when you see the letter "S" in a word, you know that it will make the /s/ sound". 
  5. "Now I am going to show you how to find /s/ in words.  Listen to the word basket, I'm going to stretch out the word for you and I want you to listen for /s/ like the balloon that is loosing air!  B-b- b- a- a- S- S- S . . . .
    * Do you hear it? There is the /s/!  There is the air blowing out of the balloon in basket!"
  6. Call on different students to tell what they think is the answer and how they knew:
    "Do you hear the /s/ in say or cut?  Glass or bowl?  Basement or attic? Desk or table? Snake or bear?" [Tell the students to use their balloon picture] Hold up your balloon if you hear the /s/ sound in any of the words I'm about to say.  Sam, packed, his, suitcase, to, ride, a, bus, to, Seattle, to, see, Aunt, Sarah.  
  7. Say:  "Siena and her mother go to the store to buy sandals.  When they get there they end up buying a lot more!  They buy surprises for their entire family! To find out what surprises Siena and her mother buy we have to read, Siena at the Store.  Read Siena at the Store and talk about the story". Read it again and have the students raise their hands when they hear words with /s/.  List the words they hear on the board.  Next have the students write a message about the store and what they would buy if they went using invented spelling! Display their work.
  8. Assessment:  [Pass out worksheet to each student] Say, "Get out your pencil and I want you to circle every picture that has the mouth move /s/ in it".



            Murray, Bruce. The Reading Genie; Making Friends with Phonemes. http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/phon.html.

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