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"Uhhh Say What?"

“Uhhh, say what??”


Beginning Reading Design

By: Ali Ingram


Rationale: This lesson teaches children the short vowel correspondence u= /u/. In order to be able to read, children must learn to recognize the spellings that map word pronunciations. In this lesson children will learn to recognize, spell, and read words containing the letter u. They will learn a meaningful representation (saying “Uhhh, say what?”), they will spell and read words containing this spelling in a Letterbox lesson, and read a decodable book that focuses on the correspondence u=/u/.



·      Graphic image of confused man

·      Cover-up critter

·      Whiteboard or SmartBoard letterboxes for modeling and individual letterboxes for each student

·      Worksheet (link attached below) for students

·      Decodable text: Bud the Sub (1990)

·      List of spelling words on poster to read: up, hum, duck, shut, jump, plum, truck

·      Students- letterboxes and letter tiles



             1. In order to become expert readers we need to learn the code that tells us how to pronounce words. When I say /u/ I think of a funny little confused boy saying, "Uhhh, say what?" [Show graphic image]. When you say “uhhh” you make the /u/ sound.” I know this is important to get the student seeing what symbol we are working with and hearing the sound we are going to make with /u/.

   Let’s all say this tongue tickler together: “Uncle was upset because he was unable to put his umbrella up.”

2. Before we learn about the spelling of /u/, we need to listen for it in some words. When we say /u/ our mouth is open, our tongues are down in a spoon shape, and we are making the uhhh sound from the back of our throats. [Make vocal gesture for /u/.] I'll show you first: grump. I heard u say its name and I felt my tongue make a spoon shape. There is a long U in grump. Let’s see if we hear short u in use. Hmm, I didn’t hear the sound our confused /u/ sound in use. If you hear /u/ scratch your head like you are confused like our confused man. Do you hear /u/ in cup or glass? Duck or dog? Trunk or track? Ran or Run? Plump or plot? Stump or stop?

3. Say: “Now let’s look at the spelling of words with the confused /u/ sound that we are learning about today! What if I said, to find the /u/ in dump? I am going to stretch the word out and listen for the /u/ sound. ddd-uuuu-mm-ppp. I’m going to say it again slower, dddd-uuuuuu-mmm-pppp. Both times I felt my mouth open, my tongue made a spoon shape, and I made the sound from the back of my throat. I took my garbage to the dump. 

4. Say: “Now I’m going to have you spell some words in letterboxes. You’ll start out with two boxes-up. The plane went up and away; up. What should go in the first box? What goes in the second box? I’ll check your spelling while I walk around the room. [Observe progress.] You’ll need three letterboxes for the next word. Listen for the beginning sound that goes in the first box. The word is dust. The dust in the house made me sneeze. [Allow children to spell words.] Time to check your work. Watch how I spell it in my letterboxes on the board: d-u-s-t and see if you’ve spelled it the same way. Try another with three boxes: shut; Matt shut the door behind him. ‘Did you remember that the /sh/ sound makes one sound but we use the letters s and h together to make the /sh/ noise. [Have volunteer spell it in the letterbox on the front board. Repeat this step for each new word] (Have students spell plug and fluff). Now let’s try 5 phonemes: skunk; the skunk smelled very badly. Remember to stretch it out to get the big word.”

The other letterbox lesson words include hum, duck, jump, plum, and trunk.

5. Say: Now I am going to let you read the words you've spelled. [Have children read words all together. Afterwards, call on individuals to read one word on the list until everyone has had a turn.] The list will also include pseudowords: lum and gump

6. “You’ve done a great job at reading words with our new spelling for /u/. Now we are going to read a book called Bud the Sub. This is the story of a submarine named Bud. But, Bud is small. Gus is Bud’s boss. When Gus wants to go somewhere he gets in the sub and sets Bud up. Once, he presses go, Bud is off in the water. Bud is humming a lot in the water when he sees a tug. The tug hits some rocks, oh no! Will Bud be able to help the tug? .] Let's find a partner and take turns reading Bud the Sub to find out what if Bud can help. [Children pair up and take turns reading pages while teacher walks around the room monitoring progress. After individual paired reading, the class rereads Bud the Sub aloud together, and stops between page turns to discuss the plot.]

7. Say “Okay let’s review. (Show the word runs.) Say: ruuuuns. (Scratch head and make a confused face while saying the word.) Okay, do you hear /u/ in sssiiiingg or sssuuunnng? Sung.” (Scratch head and look confused while hearing /u/ fluff, soon, sun, stuck.)

  8.  Pass out worksheets on “u.” Students will complete a worksheet which has them draw a line to the picture that have /u/ in them. While students work, I will call back students and see if they can recognize /u/ in words I say to them and recognize u in words I write down.




 Worksheet: http://www.kidzone.ws/kindergarten/vowels/u-begins1.htm 

Allie Black, https://sites.google.com/site/alliesresearchbasedlessonplans/home/uhhh-can-you-repeat-that

Bud the Sub, 1990. Phonics Readers, Educational Insight

Catherine Edwards, http://www.auburn.edu/%7Ecce0004/edwardsbr.htm

Geri Murray, http://www.auburn.edu/~murrag1/BRMurrayG.htm    

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