Mystery Word | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA GK:S1:C3:L18

Mystery Word

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Daily Learning Target

  • Opening A: I can identify the name and sound for the letters “c” and “n.”
    • I can identify the name of each lowercase letter.
    • I can identify the name of each uppercase letter.
    • I can look at each consonant and say its sound.
  • Work Time A: I can search in a text (poem) and find a word with one letter in it.
    • I can count the number of letters in a word.
  • Work Time B: I can use clues from the text (poem) to identify a mystery word.
    • I can count the number of letters in a word.
    • I can count the number of words in the poem.
    • I can point to words in the poem.
    • I can recognize and read many high-frequency words in a text and in isolation (alone).

Ongoing Assessment

  • Observe students during Opening.
    • Determine whether they can say the sounds for each letter correctly. Refer to Articulatory Gestures chart needed.
    • Also determine whether they demonstrate one-to-one correspondence with words.
  • Record students’ progress on the Snapshot Assessment.

Agenda

Agenda

1. Opening (5 minutes)

A. Poem: Articulatory Gestures

2. Work Time (10–15 minutes)

A. Clues to the Mystery Word

B. Mystery Word: “the”

3. Closing and Assessment (2 minutes)

A. Reflecting on Learning

4. Differentiated Small Group Instruction and Rotations (40-45 minutes)

In Advance

  • Prepare:
    • Enlarged poem: “My Cat, Noodles” (or write on chart paper/poster)
    • Poetry notebooks: Each student needs a spiral or composition book with a copy of the poem glued or taped inside, or else a loose copy of the poem in a plastic sleeve
    • Hand mirrors (optional; one per student or pair to see mouth movements)
    • Snapshot Assessment (optional; one per student)
  • Gather materials for differentiated small group instruction (see Differentiated Small Groups: Work with Teacher).

Vocabulary

Key: Lesson-Specific Vocabulary (L); Text-Specific Vocabulary (T)

  • clues, mystery word (L)

Materials

  • Enlarged poem: “My Cat, Noodles” (or handwritten on chart paper; to display; from Lesson 16)
  • Large pointer (optional; for teacher to point to words in poem as the class recites)
  • Articulatory Gestures chart (enlarged version to post; from Lesson 16)
  • Poetry notebooks (one per student; see Teaching Notes)
  • Poem: “My Cat, Noodles” (one per student in poetry notebooks)
  • Hand mirrors (optional; one per student or pair to see mouth movements)
  • Snapshot Assessment (optional; one per student)

Opening

OpeningMeeting Students' Needs

A. Poem: Articulatory Gestures

  • (Suggested transition song, sung to the tune of “I’m a Little Teapot”):

“Now let’s say the letters that we know. Think of the sounds and go, go, go. Open up your mouth big and wide. Sometimes your breath comes from deep inside. As we say the letters we will know, our letter sound skills will grow, grow, grow!”

  • Begin the Poem: Articulatory Gestures instructional practice:

1. Teacher reads the Enlarged poem: “My Cat, Noodles” once or twice, pointing to each word as he or she reads it (with a finger or a pointer).

2. Teacher says: “We’ve been practicing saying and writing the letters ‘c’ and ‘n.’ Today, we are going to concentrate on the way our mouths feel when we say the letter sounds.”

3. Teacher says: “Watch while I concentrate on how my mouth feels as I say the sound /k/ for cat.”

4. Teacher pronounces the sound /k/ and says: “When I make that sound I feel the back of my tongue humped and in the back of my mouth.” (referencing the Articulatory Gestures chart).

5. Teacher says: “Great! Now it’s your turn to try making the /k/ sound with your mouth.” (/k/)

6. Teacher asks:

“What do you notice about the way your mouth feels when you say the sound /k/?” (back of tongue is humped at the back of the mouth)

7. Repeat steps 3–7 with /n/ for “Noodles.”

  • To provide support or practice with left-to-right directionality and one-to-one matching, consider inviting individual students to approach the enlarged poem and point to the words as the class chorally recites.
  • Consider providing students with hand mirrors to watch their mouths as they make each sound.
  • Observe students as they make each articulatory gesture. Provide feedback to help shape their mouth correctly if needed.

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Clues to the Mystery Word

  • Begin the Clues to the Mystery Word instructional practice:

1. Teacher says: “High-frequency words are words that authors use a lot in their writing. We know that our poem has one of these words, but we don’t know which word it is, so we called it a mystery word. Today, we are going to use clues to try to figure out the mystery word. Listen for each clue so we can work together to figure it out.”

2. Teacher says: “The mystery word has three letters in it. I see ‘cat’ has three letters.”

3. Teacher points underneath each “cat” in the enlarged poem and counts the number of letters aloud.

4. Teacher asks:

“Can you find any other words with three letters in it?”

5. Students refer to their poetry notebooks to search their copy of the poem: “My Cat, Noodles” individually or with a partner. Students point to a word that they think has three letters in it.

6. Teacher chooses a student volunteer to say or point to which word has three letters in it (examples: “the,” “was,” “and,” “for,” “one,” “day,” “saw,” or “but”).

7. Teacher points underneath each letter of the chosen word and counts the number of letters aloud.

8. Teacher reads poem again.

9. Teacher says: “Clap your hands each time I say a word with three letters in it.”

10. Teacher reads poem as students clap.

11. Teacher says: “Wow! You clapped 18 times. There are nine words that have three letters in them. I wonder which word is the mystery word. Now we will find out.”

  • Observe students as they search the poem. Make sure they practice the left-to-right sweep. Encourage them to use their pointer finger to underline words as they search.
  • Consider giving students hand mirrors to look at their mouths when they say the word “the.”

B. Mystery Word: “the”

  • (Suggested transition song, sung to the tune of “Three Blind Mice”):

“Let’s solve the mystery, let’s solve the mystery. Clue by clue, clue by clue. The clues will tell you what to do. To make the word become clearer to you. We’ll know the word; we’ll figure it out. Clue by clue, clue by clue.”

  • Begin the Mystery Word instructional practice:

1. Teacher says: “We have been trying to figure out what the mystery word in this poem is. So far, we know it’s a three-letter word that’s used a lot in this poem.”

2. Teacher says: “Now we’ll use more clues to find out what the mystery word is. It starts with the letter ‘t’ and ends with the letter ‘e.’”

3. Teacher asks:

“Can you see any words that start with the letter ‘t’ and end with the letter ‘e’?”

4. Students look through their copy of the poem individually or with a partner. Students turn to an elbow partner and point to the word they think is the mystery word.

5. Teacher calls on a student to share an idea.

6. Teacher says: “You think the mystery word is ‘the’? Let’s check.”

7. Teacher says: “Wow! ‘the’ might be the mystery word. One way to make sure is to count how many times it’s in the poem. Remember, the mystery word is a high-frequency word, which means it’s used a lot.”

8. Teacher and students count the word. Teacher circles the word each time it is counted.

9. Teacher says: “Yes! ‘the’ is the mystery word because it’s used a lot in the poem, has three letters, and starts with the letter ‘t’ and ends with the letter ‘e.’”

10. Teacher says: “This is an important word you will practice. It’s a word that doesn’t play fair, so to help you remember, stick out your tongue whenever you see this word, because that’s what your mouth looks like when you say /th/.”

Closing & Assessments

ClosingMeeting Students' Needs

A. Reflecting on Learning

  • Emphasize that successful learners think about what they’ve learned and why it’s important. Consider using a metaphor, such as a baseball player learning to keep his or her eye on the ball to know exactly when to hit it.
  • Ask:

“When we see the letter ‘c,’ how can we remember the sound it makes?” (Think about how our mouths feel when we say the sound; the back of the tongue is humped and at the back of the mouth)

“How will that help us with reading or writing?” (Responses will vary.)

  • For students who need additional support organizing their ideas: Provide sentence frames. Example:
    • “When I said the word ‘cat,’ I _____.”

Differentiated Small Groups: Work with Teacher

Suggested Plan: Teacher works with the Pre-Alphabetic and Early Partial Alphabetic groups. Teacher may meet briefly with the Late Partial and Early Full Alphabetic groups to get them started on independent work.

Note: Groups not working with the teacher at a given time should be engaged in purposeful independent rotation work. Refer to the Independent and Small Group Work guidance document (see K–2 Skills Resource Manual) for more details.

Pre-Alphabetic:

  • Practice activity: Teacher leads students in a Letter-Picture Sound Identification Matching Memory game.
    • Teacher cuts apart Letter-Picture Match Cards.
    • Teacher places all cards facedown on a flat surface.
    • Students turn over two cards at a time, looking for a match (letter matching a picture with that beginning sound).
    • Teacher encourages student to say the name of the letter each time and the name of the picture, identifying the first sound.
    • Student tells the teacher if the picture and letter match. If they match, the student keeps the pair of cards.
    • Repeat until all cards have been matched.
  • Alternative practice activity: Teacher leads students in a Letter Name Matching activity.
    • Students are given a stack of Student Name Cards with their classmates’ names and Alphabet Cards.
    • Students match the beginning letter of each name to the matching Letter Card. Repeat until all names and letters are matched.
  • Additional Supporting Materials:
    • Letter-Picture Match Cards
    • Student Name Cards (teacher-created)

Early Partial Alphabetic:

  • Practice activity: Teacher guides students in a Mystery Word Search and Rainbow Write.
    • Students find the word “the” in their copy of the poem: “My Cat, Noodles.”
    • Students circle the word every time they see it.
    • Students practice writing the word with different-colored markers, crayons, or colored pencils.
  • Additional Supporting Materials:
    • Poetry notebook or copy of poem: “My Cat, Noodles” (one per student)
    • Writing tools (for Rainbow Write; colored pencils, crayons, markers)
    • Lined writing paper (for Rainbow Write)

Late Partial and Early Full Alphabetic:

  • Practice activity: Students complete a Mystery Word Write.
    • Students count all of the “the” words they find in the poem and record them.
    • Students write a story using the word “the” as many times as they can, reinforcing the idea that “the” is a high-frequency word used often by authors to communicate ideas.
  • Additional Supporting Materials:
    • Poetry notebook or copy of poem: “My Cat, Noodles” (one per student)
    • Lined writing paper and writing utensils (one per student

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