Rockets Help Our Reading Skills Blast Off!

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Students will be able to isolate and pronounce the initial, medial vowel, and final sounds (phonemes) in three-phoneme (consonant-vowel-consonant, or CVC) words.

Big Idea

Students use letter tiles to build CVC words which help increase phonemic and phonetic awareness skills.


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 seated on their dot in the rug area I tell the students that some of them will have the chance to come up and use the rolling letter dice on the SMARTBoard to make some crazy words.

“Today room 203 we are going to have a chance to make some words using our rolling letter dice on the SMARTBoard. I am letting you know not all of you will get a turn the first round we do this, but later in the day those of you who did not get a turn this time, will get a turn after lunch. I am going to use the fair sticks to select who will get a turn now and I will make a note of those who did not get a turn so I do not forget.”

“When you are chosen by the fair sticks to come up you will tap one of the letter dice like this (I tap one of the die in the appropriate fashion to model the way I want it done to take care of our SMARTBoard) and when it has stopped rolling you will sound out the letters and blend the sounds to make a CVC word. Who remembers what a CVC word is?”    

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

“Right Rachel it is a consonant-vowel-consonant word. Now in this game some of the words will make sense and some of the words will be nonsense words and that is okay.”

“Alright here we go.”

I use the fair sticks to select the order of about 10 students.

Each of the selected students comes up and taps one letter die.

Once the die has stopped rolling the student identifies the letter sounds and then blends the sounds together to make a word. The student says the word out loud and as a class we decide if it is a real word or a nonsense word.

After 10 students have been selected I take a quick note of the 10 students who have not had a turn and remind them they will get a turn later in the day. 

“Okay boys and girls half of the class has had their turn and who remembers what I said about the rest of the class getting a turn?”   

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

“That’s right Finnley; they will get a turn this afternoon. I have taken note who did not get a turn and we will use their fair sticks this afternoon to determine the order in which they will go.”

Now that the CVC word activity 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.


I use this CVC word building activity to activate the students letter-sound association skills which will prepare them for the activity which follows the book we are about to read. 

CVC words are words that are created with the consonant-vowel-consonant sequence.  They are often used to teach young children how to spell and speak effectively. CVC words highlight the importance of associating sound with their corresponding letters. With CVC words, there are only three letters involved and these three letters pose a significant part in terms of helping young children learn words after the standard alphabet.



45 minutes

“Today’s book is called Alphabet of Space. This book is written by Laura Gates Galvin and illustrated by Higgins Bond. Looking at the cover of this book and hearing the title can anyone predict what this book might be about?”

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

“Owen thinks this book is going to be about space and it will use the alphabet. Owen why do you think this book will be about space?”

“Good reasoning. Owen said he thinks the book will be about space because the word space is used in the title and he sees space “stuff” on the cover of the book.”

“Well we are going to go ahead and read this book to see if Owen is correct.”


During reading we will go over some new vocabulary words such as telescope, satellite, etc, and review some others like lunar, astronaut, etc. I will only go over as many words as I think my audience can handle. If we were to go over every word it interrupts the flow of the book and I will begin to lose my audiences interest; this would be when I would begin to see behavior issues.

I will also ask the students what they notice about the story text.

“Boys and girls what do you notice about the words while I am reading?”

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

“Well done Finnley; the book does rhyme. Can you give me an example of two words that rhyme in the book?”

“Great; place and space do rhyme.”

“Did anyone else notice anything about the text of the book we are reading?”

“Nice one Rhys; the beginning of each page has something space related following the order of the alphabet. So if this page began with lunar, which letter do you think will start the next page?”

I allow the whole class to respond at once… “M.”

“Well done; you are all super smart.”



After reading I turn back to the letter R page where they use the word “Rocket.”

“Boys and girls, can someone tell me the first short vowel sound you hear in the word rocket?”

I select a student who is raising their hand to respond to the question.

“Great vowel work Rachel; you are correct the first vowel sound we hear is the short o.”

“Well today at one of your integrated work stations you will find a rocket ship mat just like this (I hold up a mat for the students to see) and can anyone tell me the letter they see in the square?”

I allow the students to call out the answer.  

“You are all getting so smart, but now who can tell me the short vowel sound this letter makes?”

Once again I will all of the students to make the sound all at the same time.

“Fantastic work team; the short sound for the vowel o is /o/. Well you are going to use the short sound /o/ to make CVC words. You will take two letters tiles that look like this (I will hold up two letter tiles – one each hand – for the students to see) and place one on each side of the letter o on your rocket mat. Now you will need to make each the letter sound and blend those sounds together to see if it makes a word. If those letters make a real word, you need to check with a friend if the word you made is real, and if the two of you agree then go ahead and record the word you made on the recording sheet.”

Having a friend confirm the word helps initiate a vocabulary discussion and also a simple spelling lesson. This is where you must make sure your groups are heterogeneously grouped because it will be your higher functioning readers who will clarify simple word spellings and vocabulary words for those not reading on such a high level. For example one student may think that "kom" is the word "come" because that is how it sounds out; however another student will be able to point out that if you use the word wall resource you will see that the word "come" is actually spelled c-o-m-e, making "kom" a nonsense word.    

“Let’s see if the two letters I picked out make a word.”

I model the process by placing my letter tiles down on the rocket ship mat the way I described to the students. I model the sounding out process and blend the sounds into a word. Next I turn to the students and ask them if my CVC word is an actual word.

“My letters are m-o-p and the word is mop. Is that a real word?”

I select a student to respond to the request.

“Thanks Justin; you are right it is a real word. So now that I have a friend confirm my word I can write it on my recording sheet.” I go ahead and write it on the recording sheet so that I have modeled the complete process for my students.

“Great now I have one word on my CVC Word Recording Sheet.. I will change my letters to make a new word to try out. I need to do repeat this process 16 times in order to fill up my recording sheet.”

“I need to keep in mind Mrs. Clapp will be using a checklist to go over my work to make sure I have followed the directions I was given. Did the student write their name on their work? Are there recorded words on the recording sheet? And, 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 word building 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 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.


Why CVC words?  

Students are often assessed on their ability to first recognize the sounds of a verbally given CVC word, which is the phonemic portion of learning. As their phonemic abilities and letter recognition skills increase, students are asked to put the correct letter with the sounds they hear in a CVC word, which is the phonics portion of the learning.

This lesson takes those two skills and now asks the students to build their own CVC word. First they must recognize the two letters they select, next they need to identify the sound each letter makes, and then blend all three individual letter sounds to produce a word.



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.


Once the students are seated I tell them that their exit slip for today is to tell me one of the CVC words they made using the short vowel sound /o/ like in the word rocket.

“For today’s exit ticket I would like you to tell me one of the words you recorded on your recording sheet using the short vowel sound /o/ like in the word rocket from our book.” I will emphasis the /o/ sound in the word “rocket” when speaking to the students so they recall the correct short vowel sound.

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

Once a student has told me one of his/her CVC words they created, they will be able to use the hand sanitizer and go 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 give them a word which meets the requirements, or
  2. They can wait until everyone else has gone and then we will work on coming up with a CVC word which meets the requirements together.

I use this exit ticket process to help me see which students have grasped the concept of the lesson and those that will need extra support. The students who are struggling with the concept will meet with me during reading work stations in a small group setting where I will go over the lesson in a game type format or use an emergent reader.  


I use the 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 Short o CVC Checklist helps me to stay focused on the objectives of the lesson. I am looking to see if the student is able to accurately record CVC words they made and check whether those words are used in standard language or need more explanation from the student. 

High student sample - note word they came up with

Middle student sample - used many basic words

Low student sample - needed heavy teacher assisstance


At one of the stations has the students are sorting real and nonsense CVC words. 

High student sample

Middle student sample - notice the student though kom was come

Low student sample needed teacher assisstance


 Another station has the students working on a visual discrimination activity where they will fill in a rocket ship outline with 2D shapes and record the number of each shape they used. This activity relates to our geometry unit we are currently learning about. 

Student math sample 1                 Student math sample 2                    Student math sample 3