Our first post for the sss is for sound series, sss is for snake is a fun exploration of the letter “s.” We spent three days exploring “s” and hissssing around the yard! If you’re ready to start learning letter sounds and preparing your child for reading and writing, “s” is the perfect letter to start with! If you’re not wanting to talk about snakes, you can explore the letter s by cooking scrambled eggs, playing in sand, or learning about snails.
I started off during outdoor time asking the children to repeat the word “snakes” after me, with emphasis: “sssnakes.” I asked them if they could hiss like a snake, “sss.” I asked them how snakes move through the grass and they wriggled and hissed and laughed on and off for about 20 minutes. The children loved discovering the connection between the hissing noise and the starting sound.
During circle time, I showed the children our lower case “s” sandpaper letter and made the phonetic sound — “sss” — while tracing the letter with the my index and middle finger together. I passed it around for each child to try, and one inevitably said, “‘s’ is like the shape of a snake!” I repeated, “sss is like the shape of a sssnake,” and we made a game of trying to turn any “sss” sound into a hiss for the rest of the day. If I heard a child say a word beginning or ending with “s” I jokingly repeated the word back with emphasis. I didn’t emphasize “s” when it fell in the middle of a word unless it was a short or simple word, so as not to confuse them, but this would be a good twist to add on the third day of exploring “s.”
We took long strands of yarn (you could also use string) and made squiggly paintings on white paper, just like the path a snake would leave. This was a great activity for colour mixing and practicing pincer grasp. I also laid the “s” sandpaper letter out on the table in case any of the children might want to attempt to make a “s” with their yarn painting.
We had spaghetti with pesto, which I called “snakes in the grass” and the kids loved it! I had intended to make some breadsticks with the kids and have them shape them into squiggly snakes or “s” shapes, but it was a gorgeous day so we prioritzed having a bit more outdoor time instead. I made up a little song while I served, “I like to ssslurp ssslurp ssslurp ssslippery ssspaghetti.” With a bit more forethought I’m sure I could have come up with something more creative, but sometimes, just going with a silly idea in the moment really works.
In addition to slithering around in the grass, we learned “cobra pose.” Adding the “sss” hissing noise is a great way to breathe out in a controlled manner during yoga practice.
Just the above five activities are enough to really have fun with the letter “s” and become familiar with its phoneme, but if you wanted to delve into a proper unit on snakes you could also:
- use 3-part cards to learn about different types of snakes, the lifecycle of snakes, and the parts of snakes
- match pictures (or 3-part cards) to a collection of snake miniatures from the Toob Reptiles collection*
- place snake miniatures on a map, using an information book to determine where the different snakes can be found all around the world (or your own continent)
- have children draw the letter “s” and dress it up to look like a snake
- set out books about snake habitats,* and if you are really adventurous, go for a walk somewhere where children might be able to find discarded snake skin or look for signs of snake nests (but even if you are in an area with only safe snake varieties, like we are, please encourage children to keep a safe distance). Alternatively, some pet stores or petting zoos have snakes that children can visit and observe
- look at x-rays of snakes* on a DIY light table
- play snakes and ladders* — the board game or draw a giant one outside on the pavement — or Hisss colour matching card game*
- look at the history of snakes in literature; religious texts, the Jungle Book,* Harry Potter,* etc. Snakes as characters and symbols both provide interesting new ideas to explore
- roll some play dough into the shape of the letter “s”
Would you teach your child the “s” phoneme with a unit on snakes?