Letter O Sound


The letter /o/ is the fourth vowel in the alphabet and in most Jolly Phonics programs. While this sound is quite important in English words and blending, it is also usually easier for students to learn and pronounce. Be sure to remember the letter o sound, as it appears in English quite a lot! With a little bit of practice and positive reinforcements, your students will be blending with the letter /o/ in no time!

Be sure to checkout some phonics books in case your child has trouble with this sound.

Phonics Pronunciation of the Letter O Sound

The letter /o/ is usually taught to students in phonics with a wide open mouth, in the shape of an /o/, while saying the o-o-o sound. Do this while pretending to switch a light on and off. Be sure that you are saying the correct /o/ sound as in “lot” or “hot”, and not the long /o/ sound as in low or boat. You should emphasize on the short o-o-o sound, and repeat the actions on and off, until the students can remember and repeat the sound. Take more time if the students have a hard time, or cannot remember which sound goes with the letter /o/.

A different way to help the students remember this sound is say the letter name o(oh) o(oh), o-o-o. This is said as the letter name twice, followed by the letter sound three times. This approach is used for students to help them remember the letter name, followed immediately by the sound it makes. This technique allows students to learn both of these when studying, which sometimes can be overlook in a purely Jolly Phonics curriculum, where they often do not teach the letter name. And of course you can use this technique with other letters as well, such as ay, ay, a-a-a or dee, dee, d-d-d.

Checkout this video for the letter o sound!

Visual hints

For students who struggle with saying or remembering the /o/ sound, you can focus on the shape of your mouth when saying this sound. You may need to reinforce this by reviewing the other vowel sounds, as /a/, /e/ and /o/ can have similar shapes of the mouth. You can try to draw a circle around the shape of your mouth to show the /o/ shape. 

You may also make an /o/ shape with your hand, and connect your thumb with your fingers in an /o/ shape. Do this while repeating the sound /o/, and even adding in the action of turning a light on and off.

Handwriting Help with letter /o/

Writing the letter /o/ can prove challenging for some students, especially younger children or those who are not natural at sitting down and focusing on their work. This more common with young children as their pencil grip and hand muscles are not developed yet, so they physically cannot draw a good circle yet. We would suggest to practice some pencil grip techniques or hand muscle development, and work with tracing the circle shape with them.

They may also be struggling as they cannot identify or see the circle shape well. Practice by exposing them to many circles with drawing or tracing. You can even show them circle shapes in everyday life, and try to trace them while walking about. This will become useful and more important later on, as drawing a circle will help them with other writing and for themselves in general. Even though most people cannot draw a perfect circle, it’s not too early to try!

If your child still struggles with this sound, checkout some ABC books to help them out.

Activity hints

As some students can have difficulties with the letter /o/, a fun activity for them can be to trace the letter /o/. You can also incorporate cutting out circles in different colors, and have them rearrange them to make different things or funny animals.

Another technique for students can be to cut out a large piece of paper in the shape of a circle. At first, draw a circle on the outside of the paper with a marker or crayon. Then draw another circle around the edge, but a bit inside, making a slightly smaller circle. Repeat this and have the student join you to draw circle after circle, until you have reached the middle. This activity can be really fun for students, and its great practice for them to practice drawing circles.

For the phonics pronunciation, you can use flashcards of different /o/ words for the students to see and pronounce, such as on, off or pot. With more practice and exposure to the vowel /o/, students should be able to pronounce it in no time!

Letter /o/ Blending

The letter /o/ is a very important letter for students to learn and understand, as it is one of the 5 vowels in English. This vowel /o/ will be foundationals when learning phonics and also blending words. After the students can remember how to say the letter /o/ well, move on to using this sound in blending.

As many words have the letter /o/ in them, you can start slowly by using very basic words with /o/, such as o-n, o-ff, o-p. From this, you can move on with the three letter CVC words as in l-o-t, m-o-p, b-o-t. It’s good to introduce these letters with /o/ in the middle, as it will change the way how students blend. It’s also important as most vowels /o/ appears in the middle of words and not the beginning. With these words, you can remind the students that every word must have the letter /o/ in them, which will help them understand that each word in English must contain a vowel.

Once the students can remember and blend the /o/ sound well, incorporate listening in your lessons by saying different letter /o/ words, and have students repeat them to you. You can also say different words, and have the students find which vowel you are saying. This is important as it’s beneficial to reinforce their listening and decoding skills, as many students have a hard time hearing which vowel sound it is. You can take more time to practice this listening, and even say a word and have them find the picture of it.

Everyday English

Many words in English have the letter /o/ in them. This is why it’s important to make sure the students can say and remember the /o/ sound well, before introducing them more everyday words. Practice these words to help your students learn more English vocabulary!

Many foods start with the letter /o/, such as orange, onion and olives. You can start an orange and even talk about other fruit as well!

There are some fun animals that start with the letter /o/, like octopus, ostrich and otter. You can spread your arms and legs and pretend to be an octopus.

Other students names may start with the letter /o/, as in Oscar, Olivia and Owen. Do you know anyone with a name starting with /o/?

Letter /o/ sentence reading

After learning how to say and blend words with the letter /o/, it’s good to introduce basic sentences to the children to read. These sentences are meant to be basic for students learning the alphabet letters and phonics as their second language.

Here are some short sentences you can read together with the students.

A big pot.

A lot of pots.

On or off?

Tom got a pot.

Tom got a mop!

It’s important your students practice reading short sentences, so they gain the confidence and can practice their blending skills. Therefore, encourage your students to read these sentences to improve their phonics and blending with the letter /o/ !

Letter O tongue twisters

As the letter /o/ is more common in the middle of words, you can use popular songs to help your students understand the /o/ sound. Try this singing this song with your students.

O for On top of Spagetti (With the tune of “On top of old Smokey”)

On top of spaghetti, 

All covered with cheese,

I lost my poor meatball, 

When somebody sneezed.

It rolled off the table,

And on to the floor,

And then my poor meatball,

Rolled out of the door.

It rolled in the garden,

And under a bush,

And then my poor meatball,

Was nothing but mush.

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