Day, Play, Say, Okay!

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Students will be able to add or substitute individual sounds in simple, one syllable words to make new words.

Big Idea

Making a sun helps students understand how changing one letter can make a new word.


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 ask the students to tell me what they know about the sun.

“Can anyone tell me one fact they know about the sun?”

I will select a student who is following the correct protocol to respond to the question.

“Justin says the sun is a star.”

I point to another student.

“Sara says the sun gives us light to see in the day.”

I keep pointing at students and allowing them to have a chance to respond to the question until we either exhaust the extent of the students knowledge or I begin to see my audiences interest waning.

“Those were all great facts. Today we are going to use our SMARTBoard to read and listen to a book about the sun.”


I use this discussion to arouse their curiosity and set them up with some prior knowledge before involving them in the interactive read along on the SMARTBoard about the sun. Having some prior knowledge will help the students begin to make sense of what is about to be read to them. Having a shared dialogue about the sun can also help the students decode unknown vocabulary words we may come across during the group multimedia experience.


45 minutes

On the SMARTBoard I have already loaded the PebbleGo website. This website has many resources on numerous topics but it is a paid subscription site. Our school subscribes to the site so we have access to many research opportunities for our students. The site can be used either to introduce students to a topic or used to support instruction. Today I am using it to support instruction by opening the site to the Earth and Space section. Then I click on the Space section and then the Our Solar System section. Finally I click on our subject – The Sun.


If you do not have the luxury of having this resource available at your school site you can use the book The Sun, by Thomas K. Adamson.


I use the fair sticks to select students to come up and take part in clicking on the speaker to hear the narrator and also to click on the vocabulary words to hear the definition.  


When I have finished reading the shared interactive experience I ask the students, “Now who can tell me with certainty one fact they know about the sun?”

I select enough students to respond to this question to cover most of the facts we have heard from the interactive reading experience.

“Those were all great facts. Now I would like you to take a seat around the edge of the rug.”

While the students are taking a seat around the edge of the rug, I get down the model of the –ay word family tool I have made.

I hold it up for the students to see.

“What have a made here?”

I allow the students to call out the response.

“That’s right I made the sun. And when does the sun come out?”

Once again I allow the students to call out the response.

“Yes during the day. Can anyone tell me the sound they hear at the end of the word “day”?”

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

“Great work Michael; the sound /ay/ is at the end of the word “day.” Now who can tell me the two letters that make up the /ay/ sound at the end of the word “day”?”

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

“Helen that is exactly right. The letters a and y make the /ay/ sound. Can anyone tell me another word that has the /ay/ sound at the end of it?”

I select enough students to cover as many /ay words as possible.

“Good work team. You gave me a lot of –ay word family words. Today at one of your integrated work stations you are going to make a sun using yellow construction paper and a paper plate. First you will need to glue 6 or 8 yellow construction paper strips to the edge of the white paper plate circle. Next you will brad the yellow circle to the white paper plate circle. Then you will write the letters a and y together at the edge of the plate on the left hand side. Everyone show me your left hand.”

“Nice work you all know the left hand side. Now comes the tricky part. You will write a letter on each of your sun rays to help make an –ay word family word. Can anyone tell me how I could do that?”

I select a student who I know is proficient at using this skill because I want a solid explanation for other students to follow.

“Great explanation Finnley. Finnley told us he would put the –ay sound, made with the letters a y, on the main part of the sun and then he would go down the alphabet saying each letter in front of the ay word to see if it made a real word. He said /a/ /ay/ did not make a real word so he went to the next letter, which was b. /b/ /ay/ made the word bay so he would write the letter b on his first sun ray. Then he would continue going down the alphabet trying each sound and he said he would even try some of the blends he knew; nicely done Finnley.”     

“At the integrated work station you will find all of the pieces you need to make your model sun. This model will be there for you to follow in case you forgot the steps I took to make the sun. Mrs. K (my paraeducator) will be working at this station to help anyone who needs it.”

“Remember Mrs. Clapp is going to use a checklist to go over your work to see if you followed the directions that were given. Did the student put their name on the back of the plate? Did the student put the sun together correctly?  Did the student come up with at least 6 –ay word family words? Is the student’s work neat and tidy?”   

“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 –ay word family 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.

Students building their -ay word wheels

Student working on her -ay word wheel                       Student working on his -ay word wheel



Word family recognition is one of the keys to understanding the complexities of the English language. Word family activities help students understand the different short vowel sounds and how each sound makes up a different word family set. From a simple set of just 37 basic word families a student can make up to 500 different words. Students who become proficient at recognizing word family patterns are then ready to move from invented spelling to more complex spellings; including the use of silent letters to change medial vowel 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.”

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.

Close view of one of the student -ay word wheels

Student reading her -ay word wheel                            Student reading his -ay word wheel


Once the students are seated I tell them that their exit slip for today is to use a describing word in a sentence.

“Boys and girls, your exit ticket today to get your snack is to tell me an –ay word family word. Here is the deal I am going to make with you. Try to come up with the trickiest –ay word you know. That will help us get some really different words and it will leave enough –ay word family words for everyone to use. ”

“I am going to use the fair sticks to choose who is going to tell me their –ay word first. Here we go.”

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

Once a student has told me their –ay word, they are able to use the hand sanitizer and go to get their snack. If a student is unable to give me an –ay word family word, 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 together on coming up with an –ay word family word together. 

I use this exit ticket process to see if the students have truly "caught what was taught." Students should be able to confidently come up with an -ay word family word because they have just explored this concept during the activity part of the lesson. If a student still has difficulty grasping this skill I will present it in a small group setting through the use of a game or an emergent reader at reading work station time.  


Call the each student over during a time which fits into your classroom schedule. I call my students over to work with me during free choice centers time or at integrated work station time (only if I have enough parent volunteers and I am not working a station myself).

 Point to the –ay word family paper on the table and tell the student, “These two letters make the –ay sound. Listen /a/ /y/ -ay. Can you please add a letter to the beginning of this sound to make a word?”

-ay Word Family Assessment.

I have higher functioning students write the words themselves directly onto the paper.

With students who have difficulty writing, I have them verbally tell me the words and then I write their responses. Sometimes I have the students try and write the words on dry erase boards just to see what they can do. 

Once he/she has made one word I would ask the student to change the beginning sound to make another word. “Can you please change the first letter to make a new –ay word?”

I will ask the students to come up with as many words as possible. With my higher performing students I may set up a timer and see how many words they can produce in a set amount of time – usually 2 minutes. Later we will try to beat that time.


It is important to see how the students came up with their –ay family words they noted on their assessment paper because this gives me an insight into the level of ability they currently exhibit. If a student is still struggling with the concept of being able to change one sound at the beginning of a given word family to make new words, then I need to redo this lesson at small reading group time. I would use manipulatives such as letter tiles in front of a written word family to model how changing a beginning sound creates a new word. 

I can repeat this process with the -un word family to reinforce the concept of changing letters to make new words.

-un Word Family Assessment. 


Students make a paper plate sun. They tear up pieces of red, yellow and orange tissue to collage onto the plate. Then they use strips of red, yellow and orange tissue to glue around the edge to make the rays of the sun. We use red, yellow and orange tissue because those colors represent hot colors and are the colors of the real sun. The students tear the small tissue bits to exercise pincer grip control. Once the sun is complete the students then glue sun facts onto the back. We hang the sun from the ceiling to go along with our moons. The facts glued onto the back help the students recall information they have learned from the unit when they take the sun home later on.

Student working on his sun


At another station students work on making a time of the day wallet. Once they have created the time of the day wallet they must sort the images into the correct time pocket.

Student working on her time of day wallet              Student working on his time of the day wallet


At the math station students are working on recording the correct time of day on an analog clock in a time book.

Students working on time of the day books


Students make the –un word slide tool from The –un Family Set. I have the students glue the circle part onto a paper plate. Next I have the student cut out the letter strip and glue it to another strip of construction paper. This makes the letter strip more durable. This activity goes home with the student for them to practice word family skills with family members.