Roll, Ramp, Slope, and Slide!

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Students will be able to recognize the blend /sl/ and the initial sound /r/ as part of practicing grade level phonics.

Big Idea

Sorting and labeling pictures helps students recognize the difference between a blend and a beginning sound.


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 the students we are going to watch a very short lesson on the SMARTBoard. Watch this lesson closely and see if you can pick out what all of the words have in common.”

Once the video is over I sit down and ask the students, “What did all of those words have in common?”

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

“You are right Michael; all of those words had s and l in them. What is called when we have two letters together making one sound?”

I allow the students to call out the response, “Blend!”

“Well down crew; it is called a blend. What is our hand signal for a blend?”

Everyone holds up the hand signal we make for a blend. Having a hand signal gives my kinesthetic learners something to focus on when working with sounds.

Blend Symbol 1     Blend Symbol 2

“Great blend signal everyone. Now who can recall a /sl/ blend word from the short snippet we watched?”

I select each student to give me a word so they all feel as if they have contributed to the conversation.

“Well done everyone coming up with a /sl/ blend word. I like how some of you used words from the video and some of you used words you knew from other sources.”  

“We are going to read a book which goes along with our forces in transportation unit. You will notice two words in the title which use our blend.”


 I use this very short YouTube snippet because it allows us to discuss and review blend work and it also helps set the students up with one of the sounds they need for the activity part of the lesson. I also like how the mini /sl/ blend YouTube lesson includes words which have the /sl/ blend within a word. This helps remind the students that you will not always find blends at the beginning of a word but also within a word which helps with decoding.   


45 minutes

“Today’s book is called Roll, Slope and Slide: A Book About Ramps, by Michael Dahl. Looking at the title who can tell me the two words that use our blend?”

I select a student who is following the correct classroom procedure of raising their hand.

“Well done Finnley; the two words are “slope” and “slide.” They both have the blend /sl/ as their initial sound.”

“Let’s go ahead and read our book to see if there are any other words which use our /sl/ blend.”


During reading I go over some of the vocabulary words as we come across them within the text. We review the meanings of words we have heard from previous texts; gravity, push, pull, etc, and explore new words such as; friction, effort, etc.


After reading I tell the students, “Now that we have finished reading I would like someone to tell me one way they have used an inclined plane.”

I select as many students as there are responses. The responses will vary depending on your audience. Most of my students tell me about the different slides they have been on at parks. Sometimes I have a student who has an older sibling who is a skateboards or BMX bike rider.

“Those were all great ways to describe how we use inclined planes.”
“I would like you to think back to the title of our book. There were two words that used a blend, some sight words and two more words with the same initial sound. Can anyone tell me what they think that initial sound is?”

I select a student who is following the correct classroom protocol of raising their hand.

“Great memory Rachel; the beginning sound, or initial sound is /r/. If the sound is /r/ which two words in the title am I talking about?”

I select a different student to respond.

“Kara is right it is the word “roll” and “ramp.” She also pointed out they have the same initial sound as Rachel’s name. Good work.”

“Today at one of your integrated work stations you will find a sheet like this one (I hold up a sample for the students to see). There will also be a recording sheet that looks like this one (I hold up a sample). What do you think your job will be?”

/sl/ blend and /r/ sort recording sheet and images

I select a student who I know will give a detailed explanation because I want all of the students to comprehend what is being asked of them.

“Emily says that we will be sorting the items on the first sheet onto the recording sheet by sound. How did you know that Emily?”

“Ahhh… she knew what we were doing because she saw the picture clues at the top of each category of the recording sheet. There is a slide at the top of the /sl/ blend category and a roll of paper on the /r/ category.”

“Boys and girls it will be your job to sort the items into the correct category and then label the items there. What is a resource I can use to help me label my items?”

I select enough students to respond to cover all of the available resources.

“Those are all great resources I can use. I can tap out the sounds, I can use books, and I can ask my friends.”

“As usual we know Mrs. Clapp will be using a checklist to go over your work. I will be looking for student names, correctly sorted items, clear labels and neat tidy work.”   

“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 go have some 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 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 sorting sounds. 




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.


Sorting is important as it is part of the classification process. When students are sorting they are classifying items based on a specific set of similarities. At first these skills are purely based on sight, sound, or texture. Later on these skills become more refined and groups can be broken into sub-groups. For example the animal group in an animal / non-animal sort can be broken down to mammalian and non-mammalian.

Students need to practice classification skills as classifying saves people a lot of time. Think of a filing cabinet with hundreds of files. Information is easy to find when it is organized in a way that makes sense to the user. The office manager of a doctor’s office organizes the patient’s files alphabetically by their last name. Any file that is needed can be found almost instantly. But if hundreds of files were scattered and stacked without any order, it would be very hard to find a file you needed.


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.

Sample from high performing student.                       Close view of high spelling.

Sample from high middle performing student.           Close view of high middle spelling.

Sample from middle performing student.                   Close view of middle spelling.

Sample from low middle performing student.

Sample from low performing student.


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

“Today’s exit ticket is you have to tell me a word that has the /sl/ blend. The blend can be an initial sound or as a higher challenge it can be within the word you choose to use. Now you might want to think of more than one /sl/ 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 /sl/ blend words.”

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 /sl/ 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 /sl/ blend word together.


Using this very quick and easy exit ticket method everyday gets the students into a routine and they know what to expect as a continuation of their learning. The exit ticket gives me a quick glimpse of how a student is doing when they either fluently give me a response or if they struggle I know I may need to do each support work with that particular student. The exit ticket also supports the lesson we have just completed and ties it up before moving on with the rest of our day.  


I use the /Sl/ blend and initial /r/ 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 a blend and an initial sound.

The student is also working with a sorting skill which helps them to classify words by sound. Looking at the student work allows me to see if the students can classify items based on the sounds they hear with the items name. 

Discussing student work.


At one of the other stations students are experimenting with different kinds of ramps to see which ramp is more effective at making the car go the furthest distance. We record our results in our science journals.


At another station students go on a hunt around the classroom testing items to see if they roll or slide down a gentle inclined plane – a ramp. This is a review of an experiment we had done in our Polar Unit when we tested for items that rolled like a penguins egg. Only this time the students are selecting items rather than the teacher giving them specific items to work with. Once again they are writing the results in their science journals.