Vacuuming with M

Emergent Literacy, Amber Shamburger

Rationale: This lesson will help children identify /m/, the phoneme represented by M.

Students will learn to recognize /m/ in spoken words by learning a meaningful representation (M vacuum cleaner) and the letter symbol M, practice finding /m/ in words, and apply phoneme awareness with /m/ in phonetic cue reading by distinguishing rhyming words from beginning letters.


Materials: Vacuum picture with letter M; chart with "Molly’s muddy monkey married a mouse"; primary paper and pencil; Millie Waits for the Mail by Alexander Steffensmeier; word cards with MADE, MET, MINE, LIST, MORE, FELT, and MAT



1. Say: To learn our written language we must learn which letters stand for which moves our mouths make as we speak. Today, we will focus on the mouth move /m/. Letter M is what we use to stand for /m/.In our picture the M is a vacuum, and /m/ sounds like the noise a vacuum makes. [Have a picture of a vacuum with an M as part of the vacuum.]


2. Let's make the noise that a vacuum makes, /m/. [Draw out /m/ and pretend to push a vacuum] Notice how your mouth is shaped. (Touching lips) When we say /m/, we put our lips together and make noise with our mouths closed.


3. Let me show you how to find /m/ in the word same. I'm going to stretch same out in super slow motion and listen for my vacuum. Ss-a-a-m-e. Slower: sss-aaa-mmm-e. There it was! I felt my lips touching as I made noise. I can feel the vacuum /m/ in same.


4. Let's try a tongue twister [on chart]. "Molly’s muddy monkey married a mouse." Everybody say it three times together. Now say it again, and this time, stretch the /m/ at the beginning of the words. "Mmmolly’s mmmuddy mmmonkey mmmarried a mmmouse ." Try it again, and this time break it off the word: "/m/ olly’s /m/ uddy /m/ onkey /m/ arried a /m/ ouse.”


5. [Have students take out primary paper and pencil]. We use letter M to spell /m/. Capital M looks like two mountains. Let's write the lowercase letter m. Start at the fence and make line down to the sidewalk. Then, make a curve up to the fence and back down to the sidewalk. Make a second curve just like the first. [Model this as you describe it.] I want to see everybody's m. 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 /m/ in messy or

clean? bucket or mop? smooth or rough? jam or jelly?  Say: Let's see if you can spot

the mouth move /m/ in some words. Push your vacuum if you hear /m/: music, map, candle, money, medal, silver, fun, most, blue, mash.


7. Say: “Let’s read Millie Waits for the Mail. This is a book about a cow named Millie who likes to wait each day to scare the mailman, let’s read to find out what the mailman does about Millie. While we read, listen closely for the /m/ sound. Put your thumb up each time you hear /m/.”


8. Show MADE and model how to decide if it is made or fade: The M tells me to push my vacuum, /m/, so this word is mmm-ade, made. You try some: MINE: fine or mine? MET: pet

or met? LIST: list or mist? MORE: more or sore? FELT: felt or melt? MAT: sat or mat?


9. For assessment, call students individually to read the phonetic cue words from step #8


Reference: Murray, Bruce. (2012).Making Sight Words: Teaching Word Recognition from Phoneme Awareness to Fluency. Chapter Six: Learning to Detect Phonemes in Spoken Word. P. 87-112.

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