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Sounding Out Words With Stretchy Snake

Sounding Out Words

Sounding out words is one of the most important reading strategies you will teach your students. My favorite way to help children remember this skill is to introduce them to Stretchy Snake. Stretchy the Snake tells children to stretch out each sound in the word. Using Beanie Babies to help students remember key reading strategies is a great guided reading tool. Let’s get into it!


This is part three of a six-part blog series. If you haven’t already, make sure to check these out:

  1. Tracking Words
  2. Eagle Eye
  3. Lips the Fish

How Does Stretchy the Snake Help with Sounding Out Words?

Stretchy the Snake reading strategy is all about sounding out words. Stretchy the Snake reminds children to stretch out the sounds and then blend them together. This reading strategy works really well with new readers who have a solid understanding of letter sounds. 



In order to teach children how to sound out words, they must know their letter sounds. You will also want to introduce other reading strategies prior to this, such as Eagle Eye and Lips the Fish. These strategies are great for our new readers, but there comes a point when you need to do more in order to decode words. That is when we teach them how to sound out words. Remember, you want to start with the easiest form of words there are for students to sound out, and that is cvc words. If you want to know more about cvc words (consonant-vowel-consonant), make sure to check out these posts before you read any more.



Introducing Stretchy the Snake Reading Strategy

Using Beanie Babies to help children remember their reading strategies is an excellent technique. They tend to think of these characters as their reading buddies. And with remembering the characters, children can make the connection to the reading strategy. It’s a win-win!

I refer to each Beanie Baby as our “Reading Buddies.” Whenever I introduce a new reading buddy I follow this routine:


  • Show students the actual Beanie Baby and introduce them by name.
  • Explain the reading strategy that this particular Beanie Baby wants us to remember. This is what it would sound like:

This is our new reading buddy and his name is Stretchy the Snake. He wants us to stretch out each sound until we can hear the word.

  • Model using the strategy. I display an appropriately leveled text on our smartboard for this.
  • Give children a Stretchy the Snake reading strategy “watch” to wear. This gets them excited and wanting to use their new strategy. You can see a picture of my son rocking the Eagle Eye watch below!


  • Do a group activity that encourages children to try the new strategy.


Sounding Out Words Game and Activities

So now let’s talk about the kinds of activities we can do to help support the Stretchy the Snake reading strategy.  Here are some examples of Stretchy the Snake reading activities.

1. Sounding Out CVC Words

One reading strategy I teach my students is to touch each letter in the word as they make the sound. After touching each letter and making the sound, they drag their finger under the letters as they blend them together. This helps them with tracking and not omitting any letter sounds.

Below is an example of a guided reading warm-up that I use while teaching about Stretchy the Snake. The snakehead images are a visual reminder for children as to where they should put their fingers. The arrow reminds them to blend the sounds together to form a word.


2. Sounding Out Words Phonetically

Here’s another Stretchy Snake reading strategy activity that I like to use in small groups. It’s the same concept as the above activity, but slightly harder. Children will look at a picture and stretch out the sounds to write the word.


I’ve laminated these boards so that we can use dry-erase markers and then wipe them clean. This allows us to practice over and over again.


Stretchy the Snake Visuals

Providing visuals is a helpful tool for children. I like to hang up posters, provide desk plates, bookmarks, and more, to help children easily access our reading strategies.


Teaching Children to Sound Out Words

When it comes time to start working on sounding out words with your students, there are a few things you can do to guide them.

  • Remind children of all of their reading strategies
  • Model getting stuck on the word and trying prior strategies. When those don’t work, stretch out the word to sound it out. 
  • Have children ask themselves, “Does this word make sense?”

I typically follow the above at the start of our guided reading lessons. This provides an opportunity to remind children of important strategies, but it also gives me a chance to work closely with individual children.


What’s Next?

While working with children in small groups, make sure to collect data so you understand which children need more support, and which are ready to move forward.

It is imperative that you find a system to help you monitor and track reading and comprehension progress. This will help you determine the next steps and plan the appropriate reading lessons to help them grow.

Taking notes during one-on-one reading conferences doesn’t have to be difficult. It can be a matter of jotting down keywords or phrases.

For me, these are the main things I want to collect data on:

  • The date, name, and level of the text they are reading at the time of the conference
  • The strategies they are using independently (with or without success in deciphering the word).
  • Specific decoding observations. Example: “Attempts to sound out words but struggling with blending the sounds.”
  • Specific comprehension observations. Example: “Answers recall questions easily”
  • Goals and next steps. Determine what you want to work on with this specific child in order to push them to the next reading level.

Here’s an example of the I use to track this information.




If you’re interested in learning more about these reading strategies, grab the free guide now!


Interested in having the resources and activities shown in this post, grab the Stretchy Snake unit here!


Up Next is Chunky Monkey. Click here to read!



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Hi, I’m Michelle! I’m a teacher, mommy, and curriculum designer from Long Island, NY. I’ve taught both general and special education, with a focus on grades pre-k through first. My passion is hands-on learning, and finding ways to make all things engaging and fun!

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