Sound Out

The Circus Ship Tales2go Audio Books

Standards and Objective

Giving children opportunities to play with and manipulate words is an excellent way to reinforce awareness of individual sounds in words.


  • A list of words featuring consonant blends and clusters

Tales2go Titles

  • The Circus Ship
  • Dream of Trains
  • Grotski and the Magic Wheat


After having listened to a short story, such as The Circus Ship, find a place where you and a small group of children can sit comfortably in a circle on the floor. Talk about what they just heard and ask what they noticed about the sounds of certain words the author used to tell the story. Did they notice that the story was told using words that rhyme?

Using words from the story, demonstrate what happens when you manipulate sounds to make new words. Say the word crash. Now say it again but without the /r/. What happened to the word? It’s been changed to cash. Next, ask a child to say the word crash. Now ask him to say it again without the /k/. (Remember not to ask the child to leave out a sound by naming the letter, but to leave out the sound the letter makes.) Now the word is rash. Give each child in the circle the opportunity to change a word. Move around the circle a second time, this time a little more quickly.

If you want to continue the fun and let things get a little silly, remove sounds that leave children with nonsense words. Ask the group if the word made is a real word and ask them to defend their answers. Some Seuss fans may offer good arguments!

Word list from The Circus Ship
steam crash spring
smash ship stand
still stew stop
flew pray drown
stack flame plan

Extensions and Variations

Have children listen to the Author’s Note at the end of the story. While The Circus Ship is not a true story, it is based on a real historical event that involved a The Royal Tar, a ship that was carrying circus animals and wrecked off the coast of Maine in 1836. Discuss with children how a story can be based on the lives of real people or actual events but still be a work of fiction. Talk about a recent neighborhood or community event or activity or a current national news item that children are familiar with. Decide together on an event that is of interest to the group and provide children with time and opportunity to research more about the event. Provide a Venn Diagram and Story Map to help children organize their ideas about a fictional story based on the real event that was researched. Give children time to think about their story and have each verbalize his story aloud for the group.

Instead of manipulating just one word, challenge listeners to add and subtract sounds to make new words. For example, say the words steam and crash. Then demonstrate what happens when you leave out the /k/ in crash and replace it with the /t/ from steam. Now you have trash. You can also make cream, scream, stream, and stash. You may want to pair children up so that each student can keep track of the sounds of one word and work together to manipulate sounds and share new words with the group. Children may find it challenging to keep track of their words and sounds, but because this is about sounds, and not letters or spelling, no paper and pencils allowed!


Venn Diagram (PDF download)

Basic Story Map (PDF download)

About Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic Awareness is when a reader knows that spoken words are made up of individual sounds in a specific order. When a child can manipulate individual sounds, or parts of a word, and a stream of speech, that child is demonstrating phonemic awareness. Learning through listening on Tales2go allows both emerging readers and proficient readers to hear those individual sounds that make up both familiar and new words, read by storytellers and professional narrators, enabling them to have practice with this fundamental reading and pre-reading skill. Unlike computer-generated speech, or even text read by a peer or teacher, the titles on Tales2go are recorded with quality and expressive spoken language. Phonemic awareness is one of the building blocks to literacy that is reinforced every time Tales2go is accessed.