Crabs are where it’s at!

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

Big Idea

Sorting picture items helps the students begin to recognize the blend /cr/, 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 open up the screen on the SMARTBoard.

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, which is what I am doing today, or used to support instruction.

“Boys and girls, today we are going to learn some information about crabs. Does anyone want to take a guess as to why we might be learning some information about crabs?”

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

“You are exactly right Ava: we are learning about crabs because we are going to learn about yet another Maryland state symbol.”

“Today we are going to be introduced to the state crustacean; the Atlantic Blue Crab.”

“You will need to use your listening ears and observing eyes to pick up on all the facts we are about to see and hear.”

Once we have listened to each of the little informative section I turn off the SMARTBoard and ask the students, “Now can anyone tell me any new facts about crabs?”

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

“Yes Finnley, that is a good fact; crabs have eye stalks which they can pull into their shell.”

I select two or three more students to respond to the question.


 I use the PebbleGo website to give my students an introduction into the physical features that make up a crab, its habitat and its life cycle. The interactive multimedia activity will help the students increase their vocabulary and gives them background information on crabs. 


45 minutes

“Today’s book is called Meet Chadwick and his Chesapeake Bay Friends. The nice thing about this book is that it was written by a local author, Patricia Cummings. The illustrator is A.R. Cohen.”

“Looking very closely with scientific eyes at the crab on the cover I can tell right away this book is going to be fiction. Can anyone tell me why?”

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

“Wow that is a great observation Emily. You saw exactly what I saw. We know that crabs have eye stalks and right here on the cover we see a crab with regular looking eyes – totally not scientific.”

“Let’s go ahead and read the book and see what else notice.” 


During reading we stop and discuss the illustrations and descriptions of the animals. We compare and contrast what we would see in nature and what we see in the book. For example, the egret wearing a hat and having spectacles, the Canadian goose with his beret and scarf, etc.  


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 an introduction to many of the animals that we would find in and around the Chesapeake Bay.”

“As I mentioned before the Maryland state crustacean is the Atlantic Blue Crab – more commonly known as the Blue Crab. Raise your hand if you have tasted Blue Crab. Okay, hands down.”

“Today at one of the stations you are going to work with a blend we know from our Around the World unit. You can hear this blend at the beginning of the words crab and crustacean. Does anyone think they know what is?”

I select a student with their hand raised to respond to the question.

“That’s right Ryan it is c r. What sound do the letters c r make?”

I allow the class to make the sound as one.

“Great job team. Can anyone tell me what item we used the last time we worked with this blend?”

I select another student.

“Good memory Kallee; it was the cracker. When we travelled to the United Kingdom we studied the history of the Christmas Cracker.”

“Well today we are going to review the /cr/ blend as we sort through pictures of items that may or may not have the /cr/ blend as there beginning sound.”

“At your work station you will find a recording sheet that looks like this one (I hold up a sample for the students to see). You will need to find at least five items which begin with the /cr/ blend. When you find an item, cut it out and glue it to your recording sheet. Once you have glued five /cr/ blend items on your crab recording sheet you will need to use your resources to label the items. What resources could I use to label my items?”

Beginning Blend /cr/ like Crab recording sheet

Cr Blend items

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

“Those are all great resources: I can tap out the sounds and write a letter to represent each sound I hear, I can use a friend, I can use a book and I can check our word wall.”

“As you know I will be using a checklist to go over your work. I will check to see if you wrote your name on the recording sheet. I will check to see if you have five items on your recording sheet, and are they labeled? Finally I will check to see if your work is neat and tidy.”   

After this brief checklist review 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 /cr/ blend 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.”

 Student working on sorting /cr/ blend items

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.



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 sub-skills 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.

Student sample 

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

“Today’s exit ticket is you have to tell me a word that has the /cr/ blend at the beginning. I want you to think back to all the /cr/ blend words you thought of for your recording sheet. Now you might want to think of more than one /cr/ 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 /cr/ 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 /cr/ 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 /cr/ blend word together.


Using this easy formative assessment tool gives me an opportunity to see if a student can quickly recall the skill they just used to complete the activity. They have just practiced using their phonetic abilities during the activity so it should not be difficult for the students to respond to this request. However, if a student does have a hard time coming up with a response I will take note because I need to find out if the student had difficulty because he/she has trouble transferring skill use from one activity to another or perhaps he/she was copying peer work at the table and does not have the skill themselves. Knowing the answer to this question will determine how I handle the situation. 


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 Cr Blend Sort 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 a cake onto the /cr/ recording sheet. This shows me they can isolate the initial sound, but they need more practice at identifying blends as a pair of letters which make a specific sound.

The checklist helps me because the work sample provides me with evidence of students learning as to whether the student met the objectives or not. The checklist helps to convey information to the student’s family as to how well they are doing in class, and finally it helps the student by letting him/her know how he/she did and if there are areas where he/she could improve. 


Make a paper plate Atlantic Blue Crab for display on our bulletin board.

Student sample of paper plate crab 

Students could write a story about Chadwick and one of his friends, or the students could write about which Chesapeake Bay friend they like best.