Shhh...It's a Secret!

Shhhh…It’s a Secret! 

A Beginning Reading Lesson

By Betsy Jackson 

Rationale: This lesson teaches children about the correspondence sh = /sh/. In order to be able to read, children must learn to the spellings that map word pronunciations.  In this lesson children will learn to recognize, spell, and read words containing the spelling sh. They will learn a meaningful representation (a child putting his finger to his mouth), spell and read words containing this spelling in a Letterbox lesson, look at a tongue twister, and read a decodable book that focuses on the correspondence sh = /sh/.



·      Graphic image of boy saying “shhhh”

·      lined paper

·      pencil

·      cover-up critter

·      individual letter boxes for each student

·      letter manipulatives: a, e, h, i, l, k, n, o, p, r, s, t, u

·      list of spelling words on poster to read: she, shake, pesh, rush, shell, shine, shot

·      decodable text: Shelly’s Shell Shop

·      assessment worksheet


Procedures:1. Say: Words are made up of vocal gestures that change for different letters. Sometimes those vocal gestures can be made up of two letters that make one sound together. This is called a digraph. Today we are going to work on phoneme /sh/. Think about what sound a your friend says when they are telling you a secret. "Sh!" Say that with me: "Sh!"

2. Say: Before we learn about the spelling of /sh/, we need to listen for it in some words. When I think of sh I think of putting my finger over my lips like this. [Put pointer finger over your lips and say: sh!]. Ask students what shape their mouth makes when they make the /sh/ sound. Every time we hear the /sh/ sound, we are going to put our fingers over our lips like we are telling someone to be quiet. I’ll show you first: show. I can tell it’s the /sh/ sound at the beginning, like I am telling a secret. Now you try. If you hear /sh/ put your finger to your mouth. Is it in she, him, shoe, chat, black, rush?

3. Say: Now let’s look at the spelling of /sh/ that we’ll learn today. The consonant cluster includes the letter s and the letter h. To write an s, you start at the fence and curve the snack backwards and then forwards. For the h, you draw a straight line from the roof to the street and then make a hill from the fence to the street. To spell rash in letterboxes, first I need to know how many phonemes I have in the word so I stretch it out and count: /r//a//sh/. I need 3 boxes. I heard /sh/ at the end so it will go in the 3rd letter box. The word starts with /r/, that’s easy; I need an r. Lastly, I heard /a/ in the middle so I am going to put a in the second letterbox.

4. Say: Now I’m going to have you spell some words in letterboxes. You’ll start out easy with two boxes for she. She is another word for girl, “She likes roses and lilies.” What should go in the first box? [Respond to children’s answers]. What goes in the second box? I’ll check your spelling while I walk around the room. [Observe progress.] You’ll need three letterboxes for the next word. Listen for the beginning sound that goes in the first box and also listen for the sh. Now try the word: dash as in the incredible Dash can run really fast. [Allow children to spell words.] Time to check your work. Watch how I spell it in my letterboxes on the board: d – a – sh and see if you’ve spelled it the same way. Try another with three boxes: shot; I have to get a flu shot at the doctor. Now let’s try 4 phonemes: shine; the sun always seems to shine bright. One more then we’re done with spelling: flash; did you see that flash of lightning. Remember to stretch it out to get this tough word.

5. Say: Now I am going to let you read the words you’ve spelled, but first I’ll show you how I would read a tough word. [Display poster with flash on the top and model reading the word.] First I see the word starts with /f/l/. Then there is the vowel a. It must say /a/ because it is on its own. I’m going to use a cover-up to get the first part. [Uncover and blend sequentially before the vowel, then blend with the vowel.] /f//l/ = /fl/ + /a/ = /fla/. Now I’m going to blend that with /sh/ = /fla/ + /sh/ = /flash/. Flash; that’s it. Now it’s your turn, everyone together. [Have children read words in unison. Afterwards, call on individuals to read one word on the list until everyone has had a turn.]

6. Say: You’ve done a great job and reading words with our new spelling for sh = /sh/. Now we are going to read a book called Shelly’s Shell Shop. This is a story of a boy named Shane who loves sea shells. His favorite store to shop at is Shelly’s Shell Shop. One day, he decided to go to the store with a lot of cash, but Shelly had closed the shop to go fishing. Will Shane end up with any shells? Let’s read this book to find out!

7. Say: Now that you understand /sh/, we are going to fill out a worksheet. All you have to do is color in the words that have the consonant cluster sh.



Harris, Melissa SHHH! The baby’s sleeping! 

Lee, Laurin She Sells Sea Shells: 

Murray, G. Oh I Didn’t Know!

Shelly’s Shell Shop:


Name _____________________________

Directions: Look at the picture and circle the name of the item.


            a) fish

               b) dish

               c) brush



                 a) splash

                 b) brush

                 c) shoe 


                  a) ship

                  b) sheep

                  c) crash


                    a) wish

                    b) dash     

                    c)  ship

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