What Do You Eat?

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Students will be able to print many lower and upper case letters as they attempt to spell words phonetically, drawing on sound-letter relationships.

Big Idea

Practice purely phonetic spelling


5 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.

Once the students are seated on their spots on the rug I ask them to tell me some of the foods they eat at Thanksgiving.

“I would like each of you to tell me two foods that you eat at Thanksgiving at your house. It is okay if you hear someone else give the same foods you were going to say because many of us choose to eat the same kinds of foods at certain celebrations. I will go along each row on the rug so that everyone has a chance to share how many foods.”

“That’s right…two.”

I point to each student when it is their turn so they have a clear visual when it is their turn to speak.

“Those all sound like yummy foods. We are now going to read a book about what one lady chose to eat on Thanksgiving Day.”


I have the students tell me two foods out loud because I want the students to see how many of us eat the same foods during the Thanksgiving meal. I also want the students to see that occasionally we will come across students who eat something very different. This can be a conversation piece at a later time, say during snack time, to listen to the students explain why he/she has that particular food at his/her Thanksgiving. 

The students also begin to start thinking about the types of food they may hear in the book and find in the food flyers. This will make it easier for them when they are sounding out the words phonetically because they will be focused on the words themselves. 


40 minutes

“This book is called I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie written by Alison Jackson and illustrated by Judy Schachner. Girls and boys I was very fortunate to meet the lady who illustrated this book. See here… (I point to where the illustrator signed the book, wrote an inscription and drew a little picture) … she wrote me an inscription, which is a little message to me, signed her name and drew me a little picture. Isn’t that cool?”

Most of the students are very impressed with such things and I feel it is important to point out the fact that authors and illustrators are regular people that you can meet anywhere on your travels. I feel it makes it much more believable to the students that they too could become authors and illustrators.

“Would anyone like to guess some of the foods they think the old lady is going to eat in this story?”

I use the fair sticks to select three or four students to respond to the question.

“I agree with you Finn. Pie is an easy one to guess because it is in the title. That was a good observation.”

“Yes Emily turkey is another good guess because many families eat turkey at Thanksgiving.”


“I would like to let you know this book is like a song that I know. Can anyone tell me the name of the song?”

“Yes Kallee it is like I Know Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. So I am going to sing this book to you using that same tune.”

I go ahead and sing the book using the tune of I Know Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly as my guide.

As I “read” I ask the students what they think will happen next and we observe how the old woman changes after each food.


Near the end of the story we predict what will happen to the old lady. Many of the students predict that she will die just like the old lady at the end of the fly version, other predict she will throw the food back up like in the lady in many of the I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell series does to make something.

When I ask the students why the family ties a rope around the old lady’s leg, many of them respond with, “They tie her up so she won’t eat any more of the food.”

The students are often surprised to see the old lady used as a balloon.

I will often have at least one student who will tell me it is not possible for the old lady to float because she is full of food. I remind the students that sometimes you have to use your imagination.


When the story is over I explain to the students that they will be making an old lady at one of their work stations. They will need to cut out the old lady pieces, glue them onto the big round “belly” and then use a pencil to write their name on the back. Now they will be ready to find food items to fill the belly.   Old lady pumpkin pie sample

I tell the students the food does not have to be foods from the story. They can fill the “belly” with whatever food they would like to eat at Thanksgiving. I show the students the food flyers I got from the grocery store and how to go through them looking for food. I model the process I would like them to use.

“Ah here is a picture of the pie I would like to eat on Thanksgiving Day. I am going to cut it out, glue it inside the belly and now I need to label the food. Can anyone tell me how I can label the food item?”

I select three or four students to respond to the request.

“Your right I could do any one of those things. I could tap out the sounds I hear. I could look in the flyer at the label, or I could ask a friend to help me out.”

“If I choose to use the label out of the flyer, what am I going to have to do first?”

“Yes Adam, I am going to have to make sure I use the right word. How will I know if it is the right word?”

“Kara is right. I will need to use some of those strategies we have been practicing in reading groups. What is one of those strategies?”

We go over a few of the strategies we have used such as:

  • getting my mouth ready to say the first sound (looking at the letter, recognizing the letter, recalling it's sound and saying that sound out loud),
  • chunking the word (finding word families or blends within a word; for example -ump and -in within the word pumpkin) and, 
  • using the picture clues (if there is a picture of an ear of corn, the word beside it is most likely "corn," especially if you check the initial sound of the word).        

Once the students understand the directions I send them over to the work stations one group at a time to maintain a safe and orderly classroom environment. It sounds a bit like this:

“Station number one go have some food finding fun.

Station number two you know what to do.

Station number three hope you were listening to me.

Station number four shouldn’t be here anymore.”

These are not always done in that order so the students have to pay attention to when their station actually gets called.  

Student working on assignment 1     Student working on assignment 2

Students working on assignment     Students working on assignment 2     Students working on assignment 3


Allow the students 20 minutes to work on this activity. Set a visual timer and remind the students to look at the timer so they will use their time wisely.


The importance of Phonetic Spelling



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.”

Students know to put completed work in the finished work bin. Any work that is not completed goes into the under construction bin and can be completed throughout the day whenever the student finds he/she has spare time or it will be completed during free choice center time.

Student sample 1   - This is a high student attempting to phonetically spell the words for themselves. This student knew that -ur made the /ur/ sound and wrote the letter "e" to represent the final sound.     

Student sample 2  - This was a middle student who was using the flyer as a resource and was practicing reading strategies to check the words.      

Student sample 3  - A low student who had teacher assistance to help use the flyer as a resource. The student even wanted to use the actual flyer word as a label.     

Student sample 4  - A middle phonetic speller who is attempting to label the words for themselves. Has most of the sounds, for example "pers" for the word "peppers."  

Student sample 5   - Middle phonetic speller attempting to write the words for themselves.  

Student sample 6     Student sample 7 - A closer look at the above student's work and their cover page. 

Once the students are seated I tell them that their exit slip for today is to tell me there favorite food to eat at Thanksgiving. I use the fair sticks to select the order in which the students respond to the request.

Once a student has told me his/her favorite food they are able to use the hand sanitizer and go to get their snack. 


10 minutes

For this assignment I will do two things.

First I will use the I Know an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Pie checklist and attach it to the student’s piece of work to place in their working portfolio.

Second I will give the students a Phonetic Spelling Morning Assignment which relates back to this lesson. The students will phonetically spell the words for the food item pictures on the sheet. I will take note of any observations I make during the morning work session and place this in the students working portfolio.

NB: Two of the foods chosen for this morning work assignment relate to the day’s lesson which involves discussing what the Pilgrims and Wampanoag native people ate during the first Thanksgiving. 

The activity and the assessment help me as a teacher because I can see where my students are in their development of inventive spelling stages. This will help me guide my whole group instruction and meet any particular needs during small group work time.  


Have the students make a story retell puppet. The one we use is the same old lady pieces from the pie lady template except we staple them to the edges of a Ziploc bag. The students then go through multi-media sources looking for the items the lady ate in the story. They cut out the food items and place them in the Ziploc bag. Next they practice telling the story to their peers using the retell tool.

The reason I choose to do the retell puppet this way is to cut down on the amount of paper used to copy the story telling pieces. I also feel the students have to work harder at recalling the story if they have to look for the foods themselves rather than having them handed to them on a sheet of paper.   


The Making Learning Fun website has some other activity ideas to go along with the story. These I make with school supplies and laminate for durability.