Sally the Snake says “SSSsss”

Emergent Literacy Design 

 By: Sara Warren

Rationale: In order for students to be successful in reading and in writing, they must realize that spoken words are composed of phonemes. The sequence of letters in the written word maps out the sequence of phonemes in the spoken word. Phonemes are sorted into two basic types: vowels and consonants. This lesson will help children identify /s/, the phoneme represented by S. Students will learn to recognize /s/ in spoken words by learning a meaningful representation (slithering your arm like a snake) and the letter symbol S, practice finding /s/ in words, and apply phoneme awareness with /s/ in phonetic cue reading by distinguishing rhyming words from beginning letters.


·  Primary paper and pencil

·  Chart with “Sneaky Sally Snake Slithers Slowly”

·  Drawing paper and crayons

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

·  Word cards with SIT, SICK, SLIME, JAM, SOCK, SO

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



1.      Say: Our written language is a secret code. The tricky part is learning what letters stand for—the mouth moves in different ways as we make and say words. Today we're going to work on spotting the mouth move /s/.  We spell /s/ with letter SS looks like a slithering snake on the ground, and /s/ sounds like what you say when you hear a snake: SSSsss.

2.      Let's pretend that we are a slithering snake on the ground,  /s/, /s/, /s/. [Pantomime slithering the arm like a snake.] Notice where your lips and teeth are? (Slightly open lips and closed teeth). When we say /s/, we leave our lips and teeth barely together and remember our tongue lightly touches the back of our teeth. We will put the motion and sound together.

3.      Let me show you how to find /s/ in the word slow.  I'm going to stretch slow out in super slow motion and listen for my “sssss”.  Sss- l- oooo-w.  Slower: Sss-l-l-l-ooo-w, There it was!  I felt my lips and teeth barely together and my tongue lightly touches the back of our teeth. I can hear myself say /s/ in slow.

4.      Let's try a tongue twister [on chart]. “ Sneaky Sally Snake Slithers Slowly.” Everybody say it three times together and make your slithery snake arm come out each time you hear /s/. Now say it again, and this time, stretch the /s/ at the beginning of the words. “ Sssneaky Sssally Sssnake Ssslithers Ssslowly.” Try it again, and this time break it off the word: “/s/neaky /s/ally /s/nake /s/lithers /s/lowly.”

5.      [Have students take out primary paper and pencil]. We will use the letter S to spell /s/ and the letter S looks like a snake. Let's write uppercase S. For uppercase S, first form a c up in the air between the rooftop and the fence, then swing back (demonstrate on primary chart paper). Can everyone show me his or her uppercase S?  Great job everyone! I'm going to walk around and look at everyone's S. If I put a sticker on your paper please practice writing ten more just like the first one. Now we're going to write lowercase s. For lowercase s, form a tiny c up in the air between the fence and the sidewalk and then swing back (demonstrate on primary chart paper). Can everyone show me his or her lowercase s? Great job! I'm going to walk around and look at everyone's s. If I put a sticker on your paper please practice writing ten more just like the first one."

6.      Call on students to answer and tell how they knew: Do you hear /s/ in smile or frown? Less or More?  Sad or glad? Stop or Go? Winter or Spring? Say: Let's see if you can spot the mouth move /s/ in some words. Use your slithery snake arm when you hear /s/: sock, upon, twist, police, milk, fast, sleep, angry.

7.      Say: “Let's look at an alphabet book.  Dr. Seuss tells us about a creature named starts with S.  Can you guess?” “Right! It’s Sammy!”  Read page with S, drawing out /s/. Say: “SSSSilly SSSSammy sssslick ssssipped ssssix ssssodas and got sssicckkk.”  Ask children if they can think of other words with /s/.  Ask them to make up a silly snake name like Swweeetttt SSSara Sssnake. Then have each student write their silly name with invented spelling and draw a picture of their silly snake. Display their work at the end.

8.      Show SIT and model how to decide if it is sit or hit: The S tells me to slither my hand, ssssss, so this word is sss-it, sit. You try some: SICK: pick or sick? SLIME: dine or slime? JAM: Sam or jam? SOCK: sock or lock? SO: go or so?

9.      For assessment, distribute the worksheet.  Students are to complete the partial spellings of the words that begin with /s/ with an s. Call students individually to read the phonetic cue words.


Reference:  (Bruce Murray Toothbrush design) (Slithering Snake Says “SSSsss” By Maggie McKinney)


Assessment worksheet:

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