Phonics Through Literature: Learning About the Letter M
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Phonics is an important part of literacy instruction that can be taught within the context of reading children's literature. This lesson incorporates the use of children's literature, in addition to various learning centers and activities that focus on learning about the letter m. Students will learn about phonics by participating in an integrated array of activities, including reading, writing, mathematics, music, art, and technology.
Crossword Puzzle tool: Students will use this interactive tool to create an m word crossword puzzle.
From Theory to Practice
- Teaching phonics in association with children's literature maximizes learning opportunities for beginning readers.
- The whole-part-whole instructional framework integrates learning to read with actual reading.
1. Starting with a whole piece of literature reflects both common sense and sound pedagogy. 2. Zeroing in on a targeted phonic element soon after it has been heard repeatedly in an enjoyable story contextualizes the decoding lesson, a welcome alternative to phonics-in-isolation. 3. Practicing and applying a phonic principle in quality children's literature provides students with familiar, meaningful, natural language and engrossing plots.
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
- 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
- 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
- 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
- 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
- 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
- 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Materials and Technology
- Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed (Clarion, 1989)
- Five Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree (Clarion, 1991)
- The M&Ms Counting Book (Charlesbridge Publishing, 1994)
- Chart paper and markers
- Index cards
- Small box
- Card stock
- Tongue depressors
- M&Ms, marshmallows, banana chips, milk, mustard, and mayonnaise
- Five Little Monkeys Comparison Chart
- Book cover sheet and pages: Monkeys Jumping on Things That Begin With the Letter M
- Book cover sheet: M, M, and More M's!
- Monkey Mask
- Monkey Fingerplays
- Activity sheet: M&M Math
- Book cover sheet: Mom & Me
- Recipe: Monkey Mix
- Activity sheet: Monkeys Jumping on the Bed
- All About Monkeys: Recommended Booklist
- Listen to and read children's books that contain words with the letter m
- Learn about the sound the letter m makes
- Learn about words that begin with the letter m
- Practice writing uppercase and lowercase m and words that begin with the letter m
- Apply their knowledge of the letter m by contributing to the creation of class books
- Participate in individual, group, and home learning experiences
- Express their knowledge of the letter m through creative representation, play, music and movement, talking, reading, and writing
- Explore some interactive and informational websites about monkeys and the letter m
Instruction and Activities
This lesson provides a list of activities that can be selected from during the course of the week. Activities are organized into four sections: Introduction, Children's Literature, Letter Study, and Word Study. Each section contains a focused lesson, along with integrated learning centers and activities. The learning centers and activities are intended to actively engage students in interactive experiences to encourage meaningful construction of knowledge. The variety also allows students to participate in the lesson at a level that is appropriate to their individual abilities. Students are able to practice newly acquired skills and display their learning through various means.
Introduction: Mystery Box
Before class, gather a bag of M&Ms, a small box, an index card, chart paper, and markers. Place the M&Ms in the box and write an m on the index card. You may also want to decorate the box with question marks or other artwork and label it as the "Mystery Box." Title the chart paper "Mystery Box Guesses," and list the names of your students in a column on the left.
[Note: You will need to alter this plan if there are students in your class who are allergic to chocolate.]
|1.||Shake the box and have students listen to the sound it makes. Say, "I wonder what is in this Mystery Box?"
|2.||Show the index card with the letter m on it and tell students, "The things in the Mystery Box begin with this letter. Who knows what letter this is?" Make sure that all students can recognize the letter m.
|3.||Allow each student to hold and shake the box and then guess what might be inside. Record each student's guess on the chart paper next to his or her name. Encourage students to help you write some or all of the letters on the chart paper to spell their guesses. The class can also help you spell the guesses as you write them. Use a different color marker to write the letter m or have students go back and circle all of the m's later.
|4.||After everyone has guessed what might be inside the Mystery Box, tell students, "The things in the Mystery Box taste M'm, M'm good, the same sound that the letter m makes." Open the box and show them the M&Ms. Circle any correct guesses on the chart paper.
|5.||Pass out a few M&Ms to each student. Have students locate the letter m on the candies and practice saying "M'm, M'm" as they eat them.
Read aloud Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed and Five Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree by Eileen Christelow. Distribute the Five Little Monkeys Comparison Chart and have students discuss and compare the story elements, including characters, setting, problem, solution, and ending. As you conduct this discussion, help students fill in the chart.
Place fiction and nonfiction books about monkeys in the reading center of the classroom. See the All About Monkeys: Recommended Booklist for titles you can include in your reading center. Encourage students to read these books on their own or to each other.
Encourage students to write their own story about monkeys. Have them use the Five Little Monkeys Comparison Chart and change one thing to create a new story. For example, students can change the characters from monkeys to moose or from Momma to Mary. Challenge them to use words that begin with the letter m in their story.
Have students access the website developed by Eileen Christelow: Author and Illustrator. Students can read a comic strip about the author and learn about her illustrations.
Students can also access The Chunky Monkey Fan Club website to learn about the Chunky Monkey comic strip character. The site includes tips on how to draw the character and other fun activities. Encourage students to create their own drawings and poems about monkeys, then submit them to the Chunky Monkey website.
Encourage students to creatively represent the stories that they have read in a form of their choice, such as through drawing, painting, or sculpting. Place photographs and books with monkeys in the art center for children to reference while creating their artwork. Student can use play dough for sculpting monkeys or scenes from the book. You might also add other small items to this area, such as toy beds, trees, and plastic toy monkeys.
Copy the Monkey Mask for each student on card stock. Have students decorate and cut the monkey masks out and mount them on tongue depressors. Monkey tails can also be made out of felt, construction paper, or other materials. Invite students to take turns acting out the two stories they have read about monkeys. Students might also work in small groups to act out the stories. Add props to this center, such as a telephone, stethoscope, doctor's outfit, blanket, mats or pillows for a bed, and so on.
Use the Monkey Fingerplays to sing and act out the rhymes Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed and Five Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree. Copy these handouts and send them home for students to do with their family.
Use The M&M Counting Book by Barbara Barbieri McGrath, along with the M&M Math sheet to work on mathematical concepts. Place some M&Ms in a small plastic bag and have students estimate how many M&Ms are in the bag, recording their guesses on the M&M Math sheet. Then have students count the actual number in the bag, record the answer on the sheet, and indicate whether their estimate was more, less, or the same as the actual number. Next, have students sort the M&Ms by color and graph their results on the M&M Math sheet. Have student identify which color had the most and least amount. [Note: You will need to alter this plan if there are students in your class who are allergic to chocolate.]
|1.||Assemble a class book by adding several blank pages following the cover M, M, and More M's!
|2.||In small groups, encourage students to look through magazines, newspapers, and other print materials to locate examples of the uppercase or lowercase m and pictures of things that begin with the letter m.
|3.||Have students glue the pictures and m letters they find onto the blank pages of the book. Assist students in writing words next to the pictures they glue on the pages.
Place the "M, M, and More M's" class book in the reading center for continued enjoyment and additions throughout the year.
Squeeze some mustard or mayonnaise (two more things that begin with m) on trays. Have students practice writing the uppercase and lowercase m with their fingers in the gooey mess.
To integrate reading, technology, and math, have students read the online children's story Bananas for Lunch and access the interactive game Count the Bananas. This story and game can also be viewed in Spanish.
Use the Amazing Handwriting Worksheet Maker to create a worksheet for students to practice writing uppercase and lowercase m. You can select basic, Denelian, or cursive print, and input letters or words.
As preparation for this activity, print out Monkeys Jumping on Things That Begin With the Letter M. Make one copy of the second sheet for each student.
|1.||As a whole class, have students brainstorm words beginning with the letter m. It may be helpful to have a children's picture dictionary or some picture cards of words that begin with m to guide students in their brainstorming. List the m words on chart paper. Add illustrations to help students remember the words.
|2.||After the class has come up with several words that begin with the letter m, distribute the second sheet of the class book to each student. Have students create their own page for the book. Each student will need to come up with a word beginning with the letter m to complete the sentence:
"One little monkey jumping on a [object that begins with m]."
|3.||Allow students to write at their own level. Some may copy a word from the chart paper, while others may be able to select their own word but will need assistance with spelling. Some students may want to write additional sentences for their page. For those who are able, allow them to write independently, while you assist students who require help.
|4.||When all student pages are complete, assemble them along with the cover to create a class book: "Monkeys Jumping On Things That Begin with the Letter M." Read the book together in class.
Place the classroom book in the reading area for students to read on their own.
[Note: You will need to alter this activity if students in your class are allergic to any of the ingredients in the recipe.]
Follow the Monkey Mix recipe by pouring M&Ms, marshmallows, and banana chips into a large bowl. Invite each student to take a turn mixing the Monkey Mix and then have each student scoop out a cup of the mix and put it in a baggie. Serve the Monkey Mix with milk. As students eat the snack together, reinforce the /m/ sound by saying things such as, "M'm, M'm this Monkey Mix tastes good. M'm, M'm I like to drink milk. M'm is the same sound the letter m makes!" Have student practice making the /m/ sound. Talk about items in the recipe that start with the letter m as they snack.
In advance of this activity, ask each student to bring in a photograph of him or herself from home that can be cut. Distribute the Monkeys Jumping on the Bed activity sheet and have students glue a photograph of their face on the monkey, color the picture, and cut it out. Set up a bulletin board, label it as "[number of students in class] Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed," and draw a large bed at the bottom. Place the student monkeys on the bulletin board. To reinforce words that begin with the letter m, draw a few things on the bed that begin with the letter m.
Invite students to create an m word crossword puzzle using the online Crossword Puzzle tool. The answers can be words from the class list; students can work in pairs to create clues. Ask students to print and share their puzzles when they are finished. See Creating Puzzles: A Guide for Teachers for more information.
Have students work at home with their families to create a Mom & Me book. On the cover sheet provided, have students fill in their name. In the space at the bottom, students can either draw a picture of themselves with their mom or glue a photograph. On each inside page, have students write one thing that they like to do with their mom and illustrate it with a drawing or photograph. Encourage them to include activities that begin with the letter m. For example, "Me and my mom like to munch on snacks at the movies." Students can highlight the letter m whenever it is used in their book. Encourage parents to work with their child on at least five pages for the "Mom and Me" book. For additional ideas, they can read the book Just Me and My Mom by Mercer Mayer.
Student Assessment / Reflections
During the course of overseeing these various activities, observe each student's ability to:
- Participate in listening to and reading books related to the letter m
- Name a word beginning with m during the Mystery Box activity
- Be able to recognize the uppercase and lowercase m, find examples for the classroom book, and write both forms
- Name a word beginning with m when creating the classroom book
- Make the sound of the letter m and integrate the sound when reading m words
- Locate and identify words that begin with the letter m
- Write words that begin with the letter m
- Express their understanding of the letter m through various means, such as creative representation, drama, music and movement, reading, and writing
- Explore and interact with websites about monkeys and the letter m