Catch Your Breath with H


Emergent Reading Lesson

By: Jenny Rodriguez


Our goal is to have a phonemic awareness of /h/. It is important for students to have a firm understanding of all the phonemes in our alphabetic code. The letter h has a simple phoneme cue that can be triggered in a direct lesson. Students will be able to sound out and recognize the letter h. We will be working as a group on blending, phonetic cues, book talk, and tongue twisters. Then the children will be able to work separately on spelling and worksheet assessments. By the end of this lesson they should be able to recognize any words with the /h/.


 Materials. Poster board with H, a picture of a dog panting, butcher paper, permanent marker, primary paper (for practice spelling the letter h), pencils, projector, white board, expo markers, note cards (words: hop, hat, pay, her, him, spot), Chicka, Chicka, Boom Boom by Bill Martin, worksheet with a hat on it, worksheet with random words on it, and markers


 Procedures for carrying out the lesson in detail, with numbered steps.

Our new skill will be valuable because it will help my students recognize all those words with h.  Say: Our written language is a secret code, The tricky part is learning what letters stand for—the mouth moves we make as we say words. Today we’re going to work on spotting the mouth move /h/. We spell /h/ with the letter H. I will show them a paper with the letter H on it.


Let’s pretend you are a dog panting, we would be panting /h/, /h/, /h/.  [Pantomime is paws out and tongue sticking out]. Notice your breath coming out of your mouth to make that /h/. You also need to open your mouth slightly. Here is a picture of a dog panting. See how his mouth is slightly open. This is Harry the panting dog.


“Next let me model how you would find /h/ in the word ham. I am going to stretch out the word ham  in super slow motion and I want you guys to put on your listening ears for our panting dog  /h/. hhhh-aaa-mmm. Slower: hhhhh-aaaa-mmm. Found it! I could feel my breath leaving my mouth with that first part of the word. I can hear the panting dog /h/ in ham.


Let’s try a tongue twister (have it already written on a piece of butcher paper). “Hannah has a handful of hot hamburgers in her hand.” Now everybody says it together three times. The fourth time I want everyone to stretch out that /h/ sound at the beginning of each word. “Hhhannah hhas a hhhandful of hhhot hhhamburger in hhher hhand.” Now we are going to do it again, this time we are going to break that /h/ sound off from the word. “/h/ annah /h/as a /h/andful of /h/ot /h/ambugers in /h/er /h/and.”


Spelling: students should go to their tables and grab primary paper and a pencil. “First, we will start with writing the capital H. Upper case H starts with the pencil tip on the rooftop moving down towards the sidewalk and then another line that is the same rooftop to sidewalk these two lines should be a pinky apart. But then connect them with a short line right across the fence. There is our capital H. Now our lower case h. We are going to draw another line rooftop down to the  sidewalk. Then from the sidewalk comes a hump towards the fence and back down to the side walk again. So that uppercase h goes above our fence to the top line.” They can also keep their spelling in a journal that way they can flip back to all their letters for reference.


As a group we are going to work on hearing that phonetic sound. Do you hear /h/ in hat or mat? Help or clip? Pair or hair? Helmet or racket? Now I am going to say a few more examples and I want you to raise your hand if you know the answer. Do you hear /h/ in save or have? Heart or smart? Lab or ham? Hall or mall? Let’s see if you can spot the mouth move /h/ in some words. Breathe like you ran 10 laps if you hear /h/: hand, man, like, help, melt, hug, flower.


Say: “Let’s look at our Alphabet book called Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom by Bill Martin. This book helps us review the whole alphabet. Let’s start at the beginning of the book with all our letters before h. The words with /h/ I want you to pant like our dog friend Harry. When you see the letter H I want you to put out two paws and pant. Now this book is about the alphabet. What do you think is going to happen after the letter h?” This will help me notice if they are recognizing that /h/ and the letter h. Also it is an effective book talk because students want to know what is going to happen with the rest of the alphabet. After reading this book we are going to make an H with hearts to put at the top of the coconut tree set up in the classroom.


Show HOP on a note card and model how to decide if it is hop or pop. The H tells me to pant like a dog, /h/, so this word is hhh-op, hop. I will show the note card and ask you which word it is. You try some: HAT: pat or hat? PAY: pay or hay? HER: her or set? HIM: pen or him? SPOT: hot or spot?


For assessment, distribute the worksheet. On the top of the sheet there is a hat. At the bottom there are a lot of words. Some that starts with /h/ and some that do not start with /h/. If the word starts with /h/ the student should cut it out, and glue it to the inside of the hat. Check students work. Also throughout this lesson I will be taking formative assessment on student’s verbal performance on the /h/.



Book: Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom by Bill Martin

Journal: 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.l

Bruce Murray, Getting Poppin’ with P:


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