TTTTickingAway With T’s


Emergent Literacy

Caroline Hiskey

Rationale: This lesson will help children identify /t/, the phoneme represented by the letter T.   Students will learn to recognize /t/ in spoken words by learning a meaningful representation (ticking timer) and the letter symbol T, practice finding /t/ in words, and apply phoneme awareness with /t/ in phonetic cue reading by distinguishing rhyming words from beginning letters.


·         Primary writing paper and pencil

·         Chart with "Ted took Tommy’s top turtle"

·         Drawing paper and crayons

·         Dr. Seuss's ABC (Random House, 1963)

·         Word cards with TACK, TAPE, BENT, CAN, TILE, and TOP

·         Assessment worksheet identifying pictures with / t / (URL below).


1.      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 / t /. We spell / t / with letter T. T looks like a hand on a clock, and / t / sounds like the ticking that a clock makes. 

2.      Let’s pretend to tick like a clock, /t/, /t/, /t/. [Pantomime moving arms like the hands on a clock.] Notice where your tongue is? When you say /t/, your tongue touches the roof of your mouth and comes back down to make the sound. 

3.      Now let’s practice finding the phoneme /t/.  I am going to say a word, and you need to listen for the /t/ sound when I stretch it out.  SSS-ttt-aayy.  Stay.  I heard it at the beginning.  Do you hear it? I feel my tongue touch the roof of my mouth at the beginning.  Now you try saying the word, and see if you can feel your tongue. 

4.      Let’s try a tongue twister [on chart].  “Ted took Tommy’s top turtle.” Everyone say it three times together.  Now, let’s say it again, but this time, stretch the /t/ at the beginning of each word.  “TTTTed ttttook TTTTommy’s ttttop tttturtle.” Let’s try it one more time, but now break the /t/ off of the word.  “/t/ ed /t/ ook /T/ ommy’s /t/ op /t/ urtle.”

5.      [Have students take out primary paper and pencils].  We use the letter T to spell /t/.  First, we are going to write a capital T.  Start at the rooftop and go straight down to the sidewalk. Then draw a horizontal line on the rooftop. Let’s make a nice row of capital T’s.  Now we’re going to practice writing the lower case t.  Start out a little above the fence, and make a vertical line straight down to the sidewalk. Then cross it at the fence. I want to see all of your capitals and lowercases, so after I come by and check, I want you to make nine more just like we practiced.

6.      Now we’re going to play a little game.  I am going to say two words, and when you hear the /t/, start moving your arms like clock hands.  [Call on students and ask why they move their hands for each pair].  Do you hear the /t/ in stop or run? Head or foot? Soccer or Basketball? Steak or salad? Popcorn or butter? Let’s see if you can spot the mouth move /t/ in some of these words.  Tick your arms like a clock if you hear /t/: The train rode the tracks over the topsy-turvy terrain. 

7.      Now that we know what the /t/ phoneme sounds and feels like, let’s look at an alphabet book to see the letter T.  This book is called Dr. Seuss's ABC.  Read page 46, exaggerating /t/. (display children's work).  I want you to think of some funny animal names that start use the /t/ sound.  The write the name (with invented spelling) and draw a picture of your creature.  [Display their work]

8.      I am going to show all of you some words, and we are going to try to decide if they use the /t/ or not.  I will do the first word, and then you all will figure out the rest.  Show the TACK card and model how to decide if it is tack or rack.  The T tells me to tick my clock hands, /t/, so this word is ttt-ack, tack.  Now, you try some.  TAPE: tape or shape? BENT: bent or rent? CAN: tan or can? TILE: tile or pile? TOP: top or pop?

9.      For assessment, distribute the worksheet.  Students are to complete the partial spellings and color the pictures that begin with T.  Call students individually to read the phonetic cue words from the cards in Step 8.

Reference: Murray.  Brush your teeth with f.

Kinsey, A. 2012. Ticking tock t.

Assessment worksheet:

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