Where's the /th/?

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

Big Idea

Sorting picture items helps the students begin to recognize the blend /th/, 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 we are going to watch a short video on teeth.

”Today we are going to watch a short video clip about a very important body part that you use every day.”

I use the SMARTBoard to show the video about teeth from the Scholastic Let’s Find Out website.

When the video is finished I ask the students to raise their hand if they brush their teeth twice a day.

“Great I think the tooth fairy would and the dentist will be happy to see your teeth.”

“Now we are going to read a book about some animals and the awesome teeth they have.”   


I use this short video clip to get the students thinking about healthy practices for their teeth. This will help them later on when they are going through magazines looking for items that are part of a healthy oral routine. 


40 minutes

“Today’s book is called What if You Had Animal Teeth? written by and Sandra Markle and illustrated by Howard McWilliam.”

“Hearing the title of the book, what kind of animals do you think we might find in this book?”

When the student tells me their chosen animal I ask them why they think that particular animal might be in the book.

I select several students to give me a response to the question.

“Those were all great predictions. Let’s go ahead and read our book and see if the animals you mentioned are in the book.”  


During reading I will stop and discuss any vocabulary words the students may not know. Words such as; chisels, gnaw, tusk, etc. I will model reading decoding strategies such as skip the word and read on to see what word would make sense, sounding out the word, using picture clues, or chunking.


When I have finished reading the book I tell the students to take a seat around the edge of the rug.

Edge of the Rug Song.

“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 Connor; you are right. The book is about different teeth and how to take care of them.”

“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; we should brush and floss our teeth twice a day.”

“Now can anyone tell me the blend they hear at the end of the word “teeth”?”

I select a student to respond.

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

“Right Ava; /th/ is made up by the letters t and h.”

“Today at one of the integrated work stations you are going to have a sheet of different items. Some of the items have the /th/ blend as a beginning sound and some have the /th/ blend as an ending sound. It will be your job to sort the items into the correct category on your recording sheet.”

/th/ blend sort and recording sheet

“Once you have sorted all of the items into the category you think they belong in, I would like you to go ahead and label the items. Can anyone tell me a resource I can use to help me label my items?”

I select a student to respond.

“Great work Shelby; I can use my tapping out strategy. What is another resource I can use?”

I continue with this line of questioning until all of the different methods have been covered. Methods such as; use a friend, use books from the book area, ask a teacher, etc. 

“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 recording sheet? Are all of the items sorted correctly? Did the students label the items? 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 /th/ sorting 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. 



Blending is a skill easily overlooked. As proficient readers we already ‘know’ the entire word and can easily break sounds apart and effortlessly put the word together again. Since it is effortless for us we often fail to recognize the difficulty beginners face in combining individual sounds to form words. Beginner readers do not ‘know’ the end result (the word). Therefore, choppy segmenting of sounds can prevent them from being able to combine sounds together and form the word.  

To read proficiently, the student needs to learn to blend individual sounds smoothly together into words without choppy pauses between the sounds. The ability to seamlessly combine individual sounds together into the fluid word is not only vital for developing correct phonologic processing, it is also critical for developing eventual fluency. Recognizing consonant blends leads to smooth blending which is one of the subskills vital to developing correct phonologic processing, the foundation for proficient reading.

To avoid potential difficulty it is important to directly teach smooth blending skills from the beginning. The student needs to automatically engrain the skill of smooth blending. Also remember, it is always easier to develop correct techniques in the initial stages then try to ‘undo’ engrained bad habits of ‘choppy’ ‘segmented’ sounding out. Take the time to develop smooth blending from the very beginning. 




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.

High performing student.     Close view of high student work.       Close up of high student work 2.       High student sort but forgot labels.

Middle student sorting and labeling at same time.      Middle student sort and miss label.

Struggling student with teacher assistance.      Struggling student. Miss sorted. 

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

“Today’s exit ticket is you have to tell me a word that has the /th/ blend. Your word can have the /th/ blend either at the beginning or at the end, it is your choice. If you need help coming up with a word using the /th/ blend, think back to all the items you just sorted during integrated work station time. Now you might want to think of more than one /th/ 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!”

 “Now I am going to give you about ten seconds to think of your /th/ blend words. Remember your /th/ blend can be at the beginning or at the end of your word. 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 the task at hand.

“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 /th/ 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 /th/ blend word together.

This exit ticket helps the students to practice the skill they just used during the activity. Students will develop and refine their discriminatory hearing skills as we practice over and over again.  


I use the Th Blend Sort 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 where the blend occurs in a word. For example a student may select to put the image of teeth into the beginning sound category. This shows me the student recognizes the blend itself, but recalls the blend sound as the initial sound rather than the ending sound.

Reviewing student work.


Students put together a dental toothbrush book filled with healthy things for teeth.


Students make and play with toothpaste putty.

Recipe for Toothpaste Putty

In a bowl mix 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, 1 tablespoon of white glue and ½ a teaspoon of minty toothpaste (not gel). Add ½ a teaspoon of water. Stir until the mixture is like putty. The putty will begin to harden in 20 minutes. In 24 hours it will be totally hard. 

The rebus directions sheet     Student adding an ingredient     Blending ingredients     A student creation


Go over our Let's Find Out magazine for reading practice and to reinforce the healthy oral hygiene routines we have heard about. We also play the game on the website page.