/C/ Like Columbus

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Students will be able to confidently isolate the initial sound in a given word and recognize other words with the same initial sound.

Big Idea

A historical figure helps students recognize a specific initial sound.


15 minutes

Gather students on the rug using a preferred classroom management technique. I like to use my “Stop, look, listen.” The students stop what they are doing, look at me and listen for the direction. I usually preface the direction with, “When I say go…” This reminds the students to listen to the whole direction before moving to follow the directive.

In this case I would say, “When I say go I would like you to clear your space, push in your chair and go take a spot on your dot. Walking feet go.” By saying walking feet I am reminding the students to use walking feet in the classroom to ensure safe movement between areas.

When all of the students are on the rug I have them stand on their spots and do washing machine arms to make sure they have enough space around them ready to do an action song. I remind the students they are in control of their body and it will only do what you tell it to do.

I let the students know that we are going to do the Lettercise song by Dr. Jean. Sometimes I will do the other version which is to Phonercise and I play it on the SMARTBoard for the students to follow along.

The reason I select this song is because I want the students to recall letter sounds when they get ready to do the activity for this lesson. They will need to recall letter sounds while they are trying to find items with the same initial sound.

Once the song is over I sing the Spot on Your Dot Song to have the students sit back down on their spot ready to learn. 


30 minutes

“This story is called In 1492, by Jean Marzollo and illustrated by Steve Bjorkman. If Jean Marzollo is the author of this story, what did she do?” Hopefully a student will raise their hand and state that she wrote the words. If not I tell the students, “The author’s job is to write the words of the story.”

“Since we know Jean Marzollo is the author and she wrote the words, what does it mean Steve Bjorkman the illustrator did?” Hopefully a student will raise their hand and state that he drew the pictures. It should be pretty obvious since we just discussed the author and we have practiced this routine with several previous stories. However if the students are having an off day and no one can tell me then I simply state, “The illustrator’s job is to draw pictures which support the author’s words.”

“Looking at the cover I see three sailing ships, some fish and a man standing on the deck of one of the ships. Using the title and the picture clue can anyone tell me what this book is most likely going to be about?”

I use the fair sticks and I only take two or three responses.

“I agree with you Robert. I think the book will most likely be about someone’s adventure on a ship. Has anyone ever heard of an explorer named Christopher Columbus?”

Once again I use the fair sticks and I only take two or three responses.

There are usually a couple of children who say, “He discovered America.”

“Well let’s read the book and see what we find out.”


During reading we discuss vocabulary words that we come across. Words like compass, joyful, pride, spice, trading, bright, etc.  

We discuss what the author meant when she wrote, “Some men worked while others snored.”

We also discuss what the author means when she writes, “The first American? No not quite. But Columbus was brave, and he was bright.”

“What does the author mean when she writes, “The first American? No not quite?””

“So if the Indians were already here, could Christopher Columbus discover the country?”

“No your right, but he did open up new possibilities for trading, the exchanging of ideas and opportunities for other explorers.”   


Once the story is over I ask, “Now that the story is over can anyone tell me the sound they hear at the beginning of Columbus?”

I use the fair sticks to select a student to respond.

“Great work Bryan. /C/ is the first sound I hear. Can anyone give me a word which has the same beginning sound?”

Again I use the fair sticks and I only take two or three responses.

“Those were great examples to give me. Today at one of the work stations you will be asked to find items which have the same beginning sound as Columbus. Once you find an item, you will cut it out and glue it onto the recording sheet. You will need at least five items on your Columbus Recording Sheet. Some of you will be asked to make an attempt to label your items.”  


Once I feel the students understand the concept of what is being asked of them I prepare to send them over to the work station tables where they will find pencils, scissors, glue sticks, magazines, and the recording sheet.

“At the work station you will find magazines and papers which have pictures of a variety of items and also a copy of the recording sheet. What is the first thing you will do?”

I select a student who is following the correct classroom protocol to respond to the request.

“That's right Bryan you need to write your name at the top of the paper. You do not need to write the date because we have the date stamp. Use it to date your work.”

Now I send the students over one table group at a time to maintain a safe and orderly classroom. It usually sounds like this;

“Table number one go have some /c/ sound fun.

Table number two, you know what to do.

Table number three, hope you were listening to me, and

Table number four, you shouldn’t be here anymore.”


Give the students about 15 minutes to get this assignment done. Remind the students they can look at the visual timer to check how much time they have left. 


Importance of Beginning Sounds


10 minutes

When the time is up I blow two short blasts on my whistle and use the “Stop, look listen” technique mentioned above. “When I say go, I would like you to clean up your space remembering to take care of our things, push in your chair, and use walking feet to go and take a spot on your dot.”

I remind students to put their completed work in the “completed work” bin. Students who have not completed their work can put it in the “under construction” bin to complete later in the day when they have spare time.

Columbus phonics student sample 1 - middle student who found items with the same beginning sound.

Columbus Phonics student sample 2 - low student who used teacher assistance to find items.  


Once everyone is seated on their spot I tell the students that their “exit slip” to get their snack is to tell me one word that has the same beginning sound as Columbus. I tell the students, “Here is the tricky part once a word has been used by another student that word is Off the Menu. This means you should have two or three words ready in case someone else says one of the words you wanted to use. So take a minute to think of two or three words in your brain that have the same beginning sound as Columbus.”

I pull out a fair stick to select the first student. The selected student gives me a word and if he/she is successful the student uses the hand sanitizer and then goes to get his/her snack. If he/she is not successful, he/she has two choices. The student can:

  • select someone to help or, 
  • wait until the end and we can work on finding a word together. 


This exit ticket process is a quick assessment to see which students have grasped the concept and those who may need some extra practice. Those students who need extra assistance will meet with me in a small group session to work on more initial sound activities. These activities could include matching games or emergent readers.  


For this assignment I would simply place a copy of the student’s work along with the Columbus /c/checklist in his/her portfolio to illustrate whether the student was able to meet the objective or not.

Looking at the student’s work with the checklist helps me to stay focused on the objective of the assignment. I am looking to see if a student is able to identify the initial sound of the given word and then find items that have the same initial sound. Did the student work independently or was assistance required? Was the student able to label or not? Is the students work neat and tidy?

The checklist helps me because the work sample provides me with evidence of students learning as to whether the student has met the objectives or not. The checklist helps to convey information to the student’s family as to how well they are doing in class, and finally it helps the student by letting him/her know how he/she did and if there are areas where he/she could improve. 



Students work on filling in a “C is for ___________” foldable book from Making Alphabet Books to Teach Letters and Sounds by Dorothy P. Hall. ISBN 0-88724-694-X


Another good letter sound sing along is the Letter Sounds Song by Jack Hartman