Hisssssing With S

Emergent Literacy Design

Jessica Taff


Rationale: This lesson will teach prealphabetic students to identify /s/ which is the phoneme represented by S. By learning a meaningful, vocal representation of the letter symbol S (hissing like a snake), students will fully understand how to identify /s/ in spoken words. By identifying /s/ in words, students become aware of the letter symbol S and its corresponding vocal gesture. Finally, by applying phoneme awareness with /s/ in phonetic cue reading, students are able to distinguish /s/ from other phonemes and S from other letter symbols.


- Primary Paper

- Pencils

- Chart displaying the tongue twister: “Sam said he was sorry he put salt in Sally’s sandwich.”

- Some Smug Slug (1996) by Pamela Duncan Edwards

- Flash cards with: Snack, Sat, Stop, Sip, Sell

- White board and marker for modeling how to write the letter “S”

- Paper and crayons/ markers

- Assessment worksheet (URL below)


1. Begin lesson by saying: "Think about all of the words you use each and every day to communicate with other. The words you use to speak are combinations of different letters that come from our alphabet which consists of 26 letters. That is a lot of letters for us to remember! The hardest part is knowing how to properly combine these letters to form words. So how do we do this? We must first become familiar with each and every letter of the alphabet and the different, unique sound each letter of the alphabet makes. Since there are so many letters, we are going to start with familiarizing ourselves with the letter S. We will work on forming our mouths to make the /s/ sound and familiarizing ourselves with the visual representation of the letter. We spell /s/ with the letter S which looks like a curly snake, with his head at the top tip of the S and its tail at the bottom tip; /s/ sounds like a snake hissing."

2. "I want us to practice hissing like a snake (Model it first and then have the students join in): /s/, /s/, /s/. Pay close attention to the shape of your mouth and the positioning of your teeth when you say /s/. Your mouth should almost feel like you are forming a half smile, your front two top teeth should be touching your front two bottom teeth, and the tip of your tongue should be at the top of your front two top teeth as your simultaneously blow air through your front teeth. This should feel like you are a snake hissing at his enemy."

3. "Next I want to show you how to find /s/ in different words. Let’s start with the word lost, like I lost my keys this morning and I do not know where they are. I am going to model how to stretch out a word to find /s/ and then I want you to follow my lead; be sure to listen for the snake hissing at his enemy. Lll-o o-ossssssst. Did you hear the snake hissing? I felt my teeth begin to touch and air being pushed out from my front teeth. Now I want to hear you locate the /s/ in lost."

4. "Let’s do something fun, yet a little tricky now. I want you to look at our whiteboard and find our tongue tickler on there. We are going to practice saying this three times together, but first, I am going to model how to find /s/ in each of the words. (Say: “Sam said he was sorry he put salt in Sally’s sandwich” slowly so that the students can catch on to each word). Now everyone say it with me, slowly, three times. Now say it again, but this time, we are going to stretch out the /s/ at the beginning of each word: Sssssssssam sssssssssaid he was ssssssssssorry he put ssssssssssalt in SSSSSSSSSSSSally’s ssssssssandwich. This time, let’s break off the /s/ from each word so that it sounds like this: /S/ am /s/ aid he was /s/ orry he put /s/ alt in /S/ ally’s /s/ andwich."

5. Take out your whiteboard and marker and have students take out their pencil and primary paper. Say: "Now we are going to work on writing the letter S (Model it on your whiteboard before students practice on their primary paper). To write the letter S we start just below the rooftop, make a small curve that touches the rooftop, and curve all the way down to the sidewalk, like you are going down a twisty slide, touch the sidewalk, and make a small tail for your snake by bringing your pencil just above the sidewalk. (Let the students practice writing the letter ten times independently). Once I have checked off your paper, write another row filled with S’s."

 6. Call on students to answer and tell how they knew: "Do you hear /s/ in Second or Minute? Sausage or Bacon? Silly or Mad?  Mist or Rain? Floss or Teeth?” Write the students’ responses on the board so that they can visually recognize the letter S in writing. “Let’s see if you can spot the /s/ in some words. Hiss like a snake when you hear /s/ in the following words: The, silly, salamander, swam, to, South, America, where, he, met, a, stinky, skunk, named, Sally."

7. "Let’s look at an alphabet book that has the letter S on every page. This book is about a slug that is very smug, which means he is very proud of himself." Show the class pages 4 and 5, which read, “One summer Sunday while strolling on soil, with its antennae signaling, a slug sensed a slope.” Be sure to draw out /s/ in every word. Ask the students to think of words with /s/. "This slug was taking a stroll during the summer. I want you to think of your favorite thing to do in the summer with /s/ in the word. I know my favorite thing to do in the summer is to swim."  (Show them a picture that you have drawn of someone swimming with the word swim written at the top of the page.) Have the students think of their favorite summer activity that includes /s/ in the word. Write some suggestions on the board. Have the students illustrate their favorite summer activity with paper and markers and spell the name of the activity on their paper. (Ideas: sell lemonade, skate, wear sunglasses, play sports, etc.). While they work, show them the Youtube video, "Letter S Song" which gives them examples of /s/ words and even demonstrates how to write the letter S. Youtube Video

8. Show SAT and model how to determine if it is sat or fat: "The S tells me that I need to be a snake and hiss at my enemy, /s/, so this word is ssss-at, sat. Now you try some: SNACK: snack or back? STOP: stop or hop? DIP: sip or dip? SELL: sell or bell? BAND: sand or band?"

9. For assessment, distribute the worksheet. Students will begin by printing the word that is associated with each picture on the line provided. Then they will color each picture that begins with S. Work with students individually to read the words on the cards from #8, and have students compile a list of as many /s/ words as they can in one minute.


Allman, Amber, "Hiss Like a Snake with S", http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/awakenings/allmanaEL.htm

Assessment worksheet: http://specialed.about.com/od/wordwalls/ss/sws_3.htm

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