Can You Say Grrrr?

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Students will be able to recognize and write the blend /gr/ as part of practicing grade level phonics.

Big Idea

Building a Groundhog puppet helps students recognize a common blend - /gr/, which helps build fluency when reading.


10 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 seated on their dot in the rug area I tell them they are going to watch a short video about a mammal called a Groundhog.

“Boys and girls today I am going to show you a very short video about a mammal called a groundhog.”

“Before we watch this short clip can anyone tell me a characteristic of a mammal?”

I select a student who is following the correct protocol of raising their hand and waiting to be called on.

I will select enough students to respond to the question to cover three of the basic characteristics of a mammal.

“Those were all good characteristics. Mammals have warm blood and they are covered with fur. Mammals do give birth to live young and they nurse their young with milk.”

“Now can anyone tell me why we might be learning about a groundhog today?”

Again I select a student who is following the correct protocol.

“Well done Finnley. We are learning about groundhogs because it is the day after Groundhog Day. Does anyone know what happens on Groundhog Day?”

Once again I select a student who is following the correct protocol.

“Very good Clara; Groundhog Day is when a group of people watch to see what happens when a groundhog comes out of its hole. If it sees its shadow there will be six more weeks of winter and if it does not see its shadow them spring will be early.”

“Let’s go ahead and watch our short video clip. Remember to use your good observing skills to see what new information you can learn.” By telling the students to use their “good observing skills,” I am reminding them to listen for new information and to watch for interesting facts.

Video about Groundhogs from the Animal Planet Website.

I use this short video clip to arouse their curiosity and set them up with some prior knowledge before reading the book about Groundhog Day. Having some prior knowledge helps students make sense of what is begin read and can also help them decode unknown vocabulary words.


When the short video clip is over I have the student stand-up and stretch, touch their hand to their opposite foot and then switch sides to help wake up both sides of their brain. Then I ask them to sit back down on their spot.   Spot on Your Dot Song


45 minutes

“Today’s book is called Groundhog Day and it is written and illustrated by one of our favorite authors. Looking at the illustration does anyone have an idea who was the author and illustrator of this particular book?”

I select a student who is following the correct protocol of raising their hand and waiting to be called on.

“Good work Rachel; it is Gail Gibbons. Can anyone tell me the title of another book we have read by this author?”

Again I select two or three students who are following the correct protocol.

Bats, Owls and Pumpkins, are all books we have read in this classroom by the same author; very good memory team.”

“Let’s go ahead and read this book and see what new information we can learn.”


During reading I will stop and ask the students to “refresh my memory” as to what some of the vocabulary words mean. Words like; predator and prey, from our Forest unit; and celebrate and religious from our Around the World unit.

We will discuss why the early settlers watched the hibernating animals for an idea as to when the weather would change.


After the book has been completed I tell the students to take a seat around the edge of the rug.

“Can anyone give me a brief summary of what this book was about?”

I select a student who is following the correct protocol of raising their hand to respond to the question.

“Thank you Ryan; you are right. The book is about Groundhog day and how the people came to use the groundhog to tell if spring is coming or if there will be more winter.”

“Does anyone remember a fact from the short video clip we watched before reading the book?”

Again I select a student following the correct protocol.

“Nice one Carson; the groundhog can live up in the mountains.”

“Now can anyone tell me the blend they hear at the beginning of the word groundhog?”

I select a student to respond.

“Yes Ava the beginning sound blend is /gr/ and which two letters make-up the /gr/ blend?”

“Right Ava; /gr/ is made up by the letters g and r.”     Why Blends?

“Today at one of the integrated work stations you are going to make a paper bag groundhog puppet like my friend Gregory here.” I hold up my own paper bag groundhog puppet.

“At this station you will find all the materials you need to make the puppet such as a paper bag, scissors to cut out the pieces, glue to stick the pieces to the paper bag and crayons to color your groundhog. You will also find these two pieces of paper.” I hold up the two pieces of paper that I am talking about.

“On these two pieces of paper you will see a variety of items. It will be your job to look at the items and figure out which ones have the same beginning blend as the word “groundhog.” Once you have sorted out which items have the same beginning blend as the word groundhog, you will cut them out and glue them onto the back of your groundhog puppet.” I make sure to continually say the word groundhog and emphasize the initial blend. This helps the students keep the blend sound fresh in their mind.

“Now which blend am I looking for when I am sorting through these pictures?”

I allow the students to call the answer out altogether.

“Well done team. The beginning blend I am looking for is /gr/.”

“Now remember I will be using a checklist to go over your work to make sure you have followed the directions you were given. Did the student write their name on their puppet? Did the student make the groundhog puppet correctly? Are there at least four /gr/ blend words glued onto the back of the puppet? Is the student’s work neat and tidy?”

After I have gone quickly over the checklist I ask, “Does anyone have any questions?”


Once I feel the group has a good grasp of the instructions 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 let’s go have some groundhog 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.”


Allow the students 15-20 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. 

Students working on making their groundhog paper bag puppets   

Students working on making their groundhog paper bag puppets 2

Students sorting through images for /gr/ blends


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     Student sample 2 (Struggling)      Student sample 3      Student sample 4 (Middle)     

Once the students are seated I tell them that their exit slip for today is to tell me a word which has the blend /gr/ as its initial sound.

“Today’s exit ticket is you have to tell me a word that has the /gr/ blend at the beginning. I want you to think back to all the /gr/ blend words you thought of for your groundhog puppet. Now you might want to think of more than one /gr/ blend word because once someone has used that particular word it is…?”

The students are very used to hearing me say this now and will chant back, “Off the menu!”

Off the Menu explanation

“Now I am going to give you about ten seconds to think of your /gr/ blend words. Here we go.”

I hold up my arm and look at my watch as I “time” their thinking. I also pretend to be thinking so the students stayed focused on thinking.

“Okay your time is up. I hope you thought carefully because here we go.”   

I use the fair sticks to determine the order of the students.

Once a student has told me his/her /gr/ word they are able to use the hand sanitizer and go to get their snack. If a student is unable to give me an answer, they know they can do one of two things.

  1. They can ask a friend to help, or
  2. They can wait until everyone else has gone and then we will work on coming up with a /gr/ blend word together.


I use the Groundhog Paper Bag Puppet checklist to go over the student’s work and once it is complete I will place the student’s work in his/her collection portfolio.

Looking at the student’s work with the checklist helps me to stay focused on the point that I am looking to see if a student can differentiate between a blend and an initial sound. For example a student may select to put the image of the gorilla onto the bag. This shows me they can isolate the initial sound, but they need more practice at identifying blends as a pair of letters which combine to make a specific sound. 


At one station the students will work on making a paper cup groundhog puppet.



At another station the students’ work on completing an –og word family book. I have the students work on the -og word family because it can be tied in with the animal we used in the main activity. I like to take advantage of every opportunity and the - og word family can be easily introduced through the word groundhog

I like to use these mini-books as a way to reinforce a concept in a fun self-directed way. I do not have to constantly man this station. I can just check in with the group at the beginning of the rotation to ensure everyone understands what is expected of them and then again at the end to see that everyone has completed the task. 

Link to purchase book at the Scholastic Products Website

Student work sample     Students working on -og word family book     Students working on -og word family book 2