Sh - Shadow

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

Big Idea

Writing words on a shadow shape helps students recognize a common blend - /sh/, 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 they are going to watch a short video about shadows.

“Boys and girls today I am going to show you a very short video about shadows.”

“Can anyone tell me why we might be learning about shadows today?”

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

“Nice one Joshua; we are learning about shadows because we read about a groundhog yesterday.”

“What was special about shadows yesterday?”

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

“Very good Clara; a groundhog used a shadow to predict the season. If it sees its shadow there will be six more weeks of winter and if it does not see its shadow them spring will be early.”

“Let’s go ahead and watch our short video clip. Remember to use your good observing skills to see what new information you can learn.” By telling the students to use their “good observing skills,” I am reminding them to listen for new information and to watch for interesting facts.

The video clip I use to introduce our Shadow unit is Sid's Smile clip number one from the PBS Learning Media website.   

I use this short video clip to arouse their curiosity and set them up with some prior knowledge before reading the book about shadows. Having some prior knowledge helps students make sense of what is being read and can also help them decode unknown vocabulary words. 

When the short video clip 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.   


45 minutes

“Today’s book is called What Makes a Shadow? It is written by Clyde Robert Bulla and illustrated by June Otani.”

“Can anyone tell me what type of punctuation mark they see at the end of the title of the book?”

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

“Well done Kallee; this is a question mark. What type of sentence is a question mark used for?”

Again I select a student following the correct protocol.

“Yes Justin it is an asking sentence. There is another clue that this is an asking sentence. Can anyone tell me what it is?”

Once again I select a student following the correct protocol.

“Good work Emily; the asking sentence does begin with a question word. Does anyone else know any other question words?”

This time I use the fair sticks to select students to respond. I select as many fair sticks as I need to cover the many question words. Words such as – what, when, why, who, where, how and can.

I like to take advantage of the fact this book's title is a question. It is a quick way to review what a question is as there are several questions within the text itself. This conversation helps my students recall question words and reminds them that we use questions to discover new information or to clarify a point. 

“Let’s go ahead and read this book and see what new information we can learn.”


During reading I will stop and discuss new vocabulary words such as transparent, translucent and opaque. I have a book, a lid to a Glad ware container, a glass dish handy and a flashlight handy so I can demonstrate the word meanings right then and there to the students. This helps to clarify the words which aids in comprehension.

There is a section in the book where the author discusses how the rotation of the Earth upon an axis creates day and night and how nighttime is actually a shadow. I keep the globe close by so we can practice using the flashlight to show how one side of the Earth is in light and the other side is in shadow. This reinforces the information in the book and creates a clearer representation for those who have difficulty following the book. This activity also helps to build prior knowledge which will be used later on during our Space unit.  

Another section of the book mentions how the size of the shadow is affected by the distance relating to the light source. I use the flashlight and a student volunteer to demonstrate how this phenomenon works which once again clarifies the point for those who need a materialistic experience rather than just a pictorial visualization.  


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 shadows and how they are made.”

“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; shadows can only show us shape not details.”

Having students summarize the book and recall a detail from the video clip prompts students to recall information about the current topic. This keeps my audience focused on the lesson at hand just in case they get called upon. 

“Now can anyone tell me the blend they hear at the beginning of the word “shadow”?”

I select a student to respond.

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

“Right Ava; /sh/ is made up by the letters s and h.” 

Why Blends?

“Today at one of the integrated work stations you are going to take a shadow outline and use it to record at least four /sh/ blend words. Today your /sh/ blend does not necessarily have to be at the beginning of the word like in the word “shadow.” You might choose to use a word like “brush.” Where do you hear the /sh/ blend in the word “brush”?”

I select a student to respond.

“Good listening skills Shelby; the /sh/ blend is at the end of the word. Sh–adow has the /sh/ blend at the beginning, but bru-sh has the blend at the end.”

 “At this station you will find all the materials you need. There is the shadow outline, some white crayons and white pencils.”

“Why do you think there are white crayons and white pencils here?”

I select a student to respond.

“That’s right Owen; I am going to use white writing tools so my work shows up on the shadow outline.”

“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 shadow? Are there at least four /sh/ blend words drawn on the shadow outline? Is the student’s work neat and tidy?”

Checklist overview for students.

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 /sh/ shadow 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. 

Student working on sh blend on a shadow shape.      Student working on sh blend on a shadow shape 2.       Student working on sh blend on a shadow shape 3.       Student working on sh blend on a shadow shape 4.      Student working on sh blend on a shadow shape 5.

Students sharing their sh blends.


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 of sh blend on a shadow shape. In this sample you can see the student has taken some familiar items and used them on his shadow shape. His attempt at spelling the word "shorts" shows we need to work on vowel controlled r sounds.     

Student sample of sh blend on a shadow shape 2. I like this students attempt at spelling the words "shoo fly." This came from a book we had read the previous day during Be Excited About Reading (B.E.A.R) time. 

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

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

“Now I am going to give you about ten seconds to think of your /sh/ blend words. Remember your /sh/ 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 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 /sh/ 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 /sh/ blend word together.

Sh blend exit ticket.


I use the Sh Blend on Shadow Outline 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. For example a student may select to put the image of a sock onto the shadow shape. 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. 


Make a /sh/ blend book from the Making Alphabet Books to Teach Letters and Sounds. By Dorothy P. Hall and published by Carson-Dellosa Publishing Company, Inc. ISBN: 0-88724-694-X

Student sample from sh blend book.     Student with her sh blend book.


Students create a shadow picture using black construction paper.

Sample of a shadow picture.      Student working on his shadow picture.


Students can play the interactive Sid’s Shadow Game on the laptops or the SMARTBoard.


Later on in the day we will watch other clips from the Sid’s Smile Shadow videos.