Standard Lesson

Using Songwriting to Build Awareness of Beginning Letter Sounds

K - 2
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
One 30-minute session; two 60-minute sessions
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This lesson can be adapted for kindergarten, first, or second graders. Students begin by singing a song to the tune of "Mary Had a Little Lamb." Kindergartners can identify and learn letter names and beginning consonant sounds. First graders will enjoy extending the activity by creating new verses to the song as a class, thus building phonemic awareness and vocabulary. Second graders will enjoy creating their very own song verses, which integrates the activity of songwriting to support many aspects of language development. The activity culminates by illustrating the song verses.

From Theory to Practice

  • Art, music, dance, and drama activities have been found to have academic benefits for children.

  • Research demonstrates that music activities are strongly associated with academic performance, content learning, and social skills.

  • Music activities are effective for the teaching of literacy skills.

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.

State Standards

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).
  • 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.

Materials and Technology

  • Chart paper

  • Drawing materials or computers with a drawing software program installed

  • Markers

  • Paper and pencils



If you are planning to use a drawing software program to create illustrations, prepare to instruct students in how to use the program before beginning the lesson, and schedule time for the class to use the computer lab.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Identify particular letter sounds

  • Brainstorm words that begin with selected sounds

  • Create song verses (either as a class or individually)

  • Illustrate song verses

Session 1

Teach students to identify the sounds of beginning letters by having them participate in a singing/songwriting activity.

1. Begin the lesson by singing the song "Mary Had a Little Lamb."

Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb.
Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow.
Everywhere that Mary went, Mary went, Mary went
Everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go.
2. Next, sing a new verse to the tune of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" that includes many words that begin with the letter b, using the example below.

Bessy bird lives in a barn, in a barn, in a barn.
Bessy bird lives in a barn, and she is very happy.
Bessy likes to eat bacon, eat bacon, eat bacon.
Bessy likes to eat bacon, and it tastes very good.
3. Allow students to sing the song together using the new verse. Draw students' attention to the words that begin with the /b/ sound. Ask students to identify the kind of animal in the song (a bird), the name of the bird (Bessy), where Bessy lives (a barn), and what she eats (bacon). Sing the song with the students several times to learn the words and the pattern of the song.

Session 2

1. Review the song from Session 1 and allow students to sing it several times.

2. Next, write the following headings on chart paper: Names, Animals, Homes, Food. Tell students that they will now create a new verse to the song using a different beginning letter sound, such as /p/. Begin with the category "Names" and ask students to think of names that begin with the /p/ sound. Write the students' contributions on the chart paper to create a list. Continue in the same manner, brainstorming words for animals, homes, and food that begin with the letter p, as shown in the chart below:

Names Animals Homes Food
Patty pig pool peaches
Peter panda pond pears
Polly poodle park pizza

3. Next, write the following verse frame on the chart paper:

______ ______ lives in a ______, in a ______, in a ______.

______ ______ lives in a ______, and she/he is very happy.

______ likes to eat ______, eat ______, eat ______.

______ likes to eat ______, and it tastes very good.

4. Invite students to select a name, an animal, a home, and a kind of food to add to the frame. When the blanks are filled, review the new words to the song and sing it together several times.

5. The above steps can be repeated during future class periods with different letter sounds. For first and second graders, you may want to brainstorm the lists of names, animals, homes, and foods and then have the students create their own verses. To do this, provide each student with a Verse Frame handout and instruct each student to select words from the group lists to create verses. Encourage students to share their verses by singing them as a class.

Session 3

1. If students will be using computers to create illustrations, take them to the computer lab to illustrate one of the song verses. (Be sure to review the use of the software drawing program, so students can complete this portion of the activity with ease.) If students will be creating illustrations on paper, prepare materials for students to use.

2. Instruct students to illustrate one of the song verses they created either as a class or individually. Remind students to include illustrations of the animal, home, and food in the song.

  • If desired, have students label the illustrations that they draw.

  • If you feel your students are capable, have them type or write the words to the verse near the illustration. Alternatively, they can cut and paste the words from the Verse Frame handout.

  • If using computers, allow students to print their illustrations.
3. Assemble the illustrated verse pages into a class book. Display the book in your classroom library and encourage students to read the book and sing the verses of the song.


  • Access Sing a Song for fun music to share with students. Students simply click on a song title and the music plays! Instruct them to listen for words in the songs that start with the same letter. You might also wish to display the words to certain songs and ask students to underline the words that start with the same beginning sound.

  • Try this lesson activity using different song tunes, such as "You Are My Sunshine" and "Old MacDonald." You can change the words and use the songs to practice letter sounds or other skills you are teaching to students.

  • For further practice of matching initial letter sounds to words, have students play the Picture Match or ABC Match game. In the latter, you can print off the game cards and have students look for words they can use to create new song lyrics.

Student Assessment / Reflections

Evaluate each student’s progress by doing the following:

  • Create a skills checklist to record the beginning letter sounds each student can identify.

  • Instruct students to provide examples of names, animals, homes, and food that begin with a selected letter sound.

  • Provide each student with the Verse Frame handout. Ask the student to fill in the blanks with words that begin with the same beginning letter sound.


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