Say Ahh for Dr. Mickey!


A Beginning Reading Lesson

Beth Anne Autrey




Rationale: This lesson teaches children about the short vowel o = /o/. In order for children to read successfully, they must effortlessly recognize letters and know the sounds that they each make. This leads them to recognizing word spellings that map word pronunciations. In this lesson, the children will learn to identify, spell, and read words containing the letter o. They will learn a meaningful representation (opening mouth for the doctor), spell and read words using o in a letterbox lesson, and read a decodable book that focuses on the correspondence o = /o/.


Materials: Graphic image of Dr. Mickey; cover-up critter; whiteboard, Elkonin boxes for modeling, and individual Elkonin letterboxes for each student; letter manipulatives for each child: o, d (2), s, l, c, k, p, u, g, h, m, t, r, o, n, f, l, i, a, y; list of spelling words on paper to read: odd, sod, lock, plug, strong, chomp, pot, frog, lick, cat, rock, play, stop; decodable text: In the Big Top, and assessment worksheet.


1. Say: In order to become expert readers we need to learn the code that tells us how to pronounce words. We have already learned to read short vowel words with i, like sit, and today we are going to learn about short o, which says /o/. When I say /o/ I think of a doctor looking down his patient's throat and asking him to make a /o/ noise. [Show Dr. Mickey graphic image].


2. Say: Before we learn about the spelling of /o/, we need learn how to listen for it in some words. When I listen for o in words, I hear o say /o/ and my mouth opens up wide in an o shape. [Make vocal gesture for /o/.] I'll show you first: pot. I heard o say /o/ and I felt my mouth make a big wide o [make a circle motion around mouth]. There is a short o in pot. Now I'm going to see if it's in the word pool. Hmm, I didn't hear o say its name and my lips didn't make that wide o. Now you try. If you hear /o/ say, "ooooooo," like you're at the doctor. If you don't hear /o/ say, "That's not it." Is it in frog, lick, cat, pot, rock, play? [Have children make an o with their hands when they feel the /o/ sound.]

3. Say: Now let's look at the spelling of /o/ that we will learn today. One way to spell /o/ is with the letter o. [Write o on the whiteboard.] What if I want to spell the word stop? "The car will stop at the read light." To spell stop in letterboxes, first I need to know how many phonemes I have in the word so I stretch it out and count: /s//t//o//p/. I need 4 boxes. I heard that /o/ in the middle of the word. It came just before the /p/ so I'm going to put an o in the 3rd box. What letter makes the sound /p/? That will go in our last box. Now, what sounds did we hear at the beginning? We hear hissing s so s goes in the first box. I still have one missing box. [Point to letters in boxes when stretching out the word: /s//t//o//p/.] The missing one is /t/.







4. Say: Now I'm going to have you spell some words in letterboxes. You'll start out easy with two boxes for odd. Odd is a descriptive word, "I think it is odd that his favorite color is pink." What should go in the first box? [Respond to children's answers]. What goes in the second box? Do two letters go in the box together? I'll check your spelling while I walk around the room. [Observe progress.] You'll need three letterboxes for the next word. Listen for the beginning sound that goes in the first box.  Listen for /o/. Here's the word: sod, “They laid sod on the ground at the new park”; sod. [Allow children to spell words.] Time to check your work. Watch how I spell it in my letterboxes on the board: s – o – d and see if you've spelled it the same way. Try another with three boxes: lock; I need a lock to keep my sister out of my room. [Have volunteer spell it in the letterbox on the front board for children to check their work. Repeat this step for each new word.] Next word, let's try 4 phonemes. Listen to see if this word has /o/ in it before you spell it: plug; I saw a plug in the garden. Did you need a short o? Why not? Right, because we don't hear o say its name. We spell it with our short vowel u. [volunteer spells it on the front board.] Now let's try another 4 phonemes: chomp; the dog had to chomp on his bone to make it small enough to eat. One more word, then we're done with spelling, and this time you need five boxes: strong; If I lift weights, I will become very strong. Remember to stretch it out to get this tough word.

5. Say: Now I am going to let you read the words you've spelled, but first I'll show you how I would read a tough word. [Display poster with stop on the top and model reading the word.] There's the vowel o. It must say /o/. I'm going to use a cover-up to get the first part. [Uncover and blend sequentially before the vowel, then blend with the vowel.] /s/ + /t/ = /st/. Now I'm going to blend that with /o/ = /sto/. Now all I need is the end, /p/. /sto/ + /p/ =/stop/. Stop; that's it. Now it's your turn, everyone together. [Have children read words in unison. Afterwards, call on individuals to read one word on the list until everyone has had a turn.]

6. Say: You've done a great job and reading words with our new spelling for o = /o/. Now we are going to read a book called In the Big Top. This is a story of Pop and his big family. They all love the circus but their car is a little small. Lets find out if they can all fit and make it to the Big Top! Let's pair up and take turns reading In the Big Top to find out where they are going. [Children pair up and take turns reading alternate pages each while teacher walks around the room monitoring progress. After individual paired reading, the class rereads In the Big Top aloud together, and stops between page turns to discuss the plot.]


7. Say: That was a fun story. Did the whole family get in the car? Right, they all piled in. Where did the family go? Correct, they were circus performers! Before we finish up with our lesson about one way to spell /o/ = o, I want to see how you can solve a reading problem. On this worksheet, we have some words. Your job is to look through all the words and circle the words with the short o vowel sound in them. After that, you must write each of your new words in ABC order. First try reading all the words in the box, then, choose the words that have our sound. Reread your answers to see if they make sense. [Collect worksheets to evaluate individual child progress.]




Murray, G. (2012) O, O, O, at the Doctor. Reading Genie:

Book: Phonics Readers – Short Vowels – Short o – In the Big Top

Assessment Worksheet:


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