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Uh...I Don't Know

Uh…I Don’t Know?

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A Beginning Reading Lesson

By: Jaime Preston


Rationale: This lesson teaches students about the short vowel correspondence u = /u/. For children to be able to read, they must learn to recognize spellings that map word pronunciations. In this lesson, students will learn to recognize, spell, and read words containing u in the spelling. They will learn a meaningful representation (confused students saying Uh…), they will spell and read words containing this spelling in a letterbox lesson, and read a decodable book that focuses on our target correspondence, u = /u/.


Materials: Image of confused student; cover-up critter; letterboxes; letter manipulatives: t, u, b, c, f, n, g, m, s, k, d, p; list of spelling words printed out in bold to read: tub, cut, fun, gum, stuck, stump; decodable text: The Tug; and assessment worksheet (URL below).



1.    Say: In order to become fluent readers, we need to learn the code that tells us how to pronounce words. Today, we are going to learn about short u. Short u says /u/. When I say /u/, I think about a confused students saying, “Uh…I don’t know?” after they’ve been called on to answer a question. [Show image].

2.    Say: Before we learn how to spell with /u/, we need to listen for it in words. When I listen for /u/ in words, I picture the confused student and my mouth opens wide like this [Make vocal gesture for /u/]. I’ll show you first: lump. I heard /u/ and I felt my mouth open wide [model an open mouth]. There is a short u in lump. Now I’m going to see if it’s in prune. Hmm, I didn’t hear the confused student say /u/ and my mouth didn’t open wide. Now you try. If you hear /u/ say, “Uh…I don’t know?” If you don’t hear /u/ say, “That’s not it.” Is it in pun, lame, book, stuck, chump, or thrift? [Have students drop their jaw when they feel the sound /u/.]

3.    Say: Now, let’s look at the spelling of /u/. It’s simple, really. The way to spell /u/ is u. [Write this for students to see.] What if I want to spell stump? “I tripped over the stump when I was running.” Stump means a small remaining part of a tree in this sentence. To spell stump in letterboxes, first I need to know how many phonemes I have in the word, so I stretch it out and count: /s/ /t/ /u/ /m/ /p/. I need 5 letterboxes. I heard the /u/ right before the /m/, so I’m going to put u in the third letterbox. The word starts with /s/, so I need an s. I put the s in the first box. Now it gets tricky. I heard /t/, so I’m going to put a t after s in the second box. I know I heard /m/ after that /u/, so I’ll out an m after the u in the fourth box. I have one empty box now. [Stretch out stump again while pointing to the boxes.] The missing one it /p/ = p.

4.    Say: Now I’m going to have you spell some words in the letterboxes. You’ll start out easy with three boxes for tub. A tub is something you bathe in, “I took a bath in a tub last night.” What should go in the first box? [Respond to student’s answers]. What goes in the second box? What about the last one? I’ll check your spelling as I walk around the room. [Observe progress.] Keep three boxes out for the next word. Listen for the beginning sound that goes in the first box. Then listen for /u/. Here’s the word: cut, I got a paper cut yesterday; cut. [Give time to spell word.] Time to check your spelling. Watch how I spell cut in my letterboxes. Did you spell cut like I did? Try another with three boxes: fun, I have fun with letterboxes. [Have volunteer demonstrate on the board. Repeat for each new word.] Next word. Listen to see if this word has /u/ in it before you spell it: flute; the flute sounds beautiful in the band. Did you hear /u/? That’s right, you didn’t. This says /U/ not /u/. [Volunteer spell with assistants from teacher.] Now, let’s try four phonemes: stuck; my foot got stuck in my shoe. One more and then we’ll be done spelling. You still need four boxes for this one: dump; we went to the garbage can to dump our trash. Remember to stretch out the word to help you spell it.

5.    Now I am going to let you read the words you’ve spelled, but first I’ll show you how I would read a touch word. [Display poster with stump on the top and model reading the word.] First I see that there’s a u in this word; that’s my signal that the vowel will say /u/. I’m going to use my cover-up critter for the first part. [Uncover and blend sequentially before the vowel, then blend with the vowel.] /s//t/ = /st/. Now I’m going to blend that with our vowel /u/: /u/ = /stu/. Now all I need is the end, /m//p/ = /mp/. Stump; that’s it. Now it’s your turn, everyone together. [Have students read words together. Afterwards, call on individuals to read one word on the list until everyone has had a turn.]

6.    Say: You’ve done a great job reading and spelling words with our correspondence u = /u/. Now we are going to read a book called The Tug.

a.    Book talk: This is a story of a man named Gus, his dog, Sam, and boss, Bob. Gus is instructed to report to the sub with Bob to go out on the water. Sam goes with Gus to the dock but Bob won’t let Sam go with them. While Gus and Bob are on the water, they run into a lot of fog and can’t find their way back to the dock. But what about Sam? Let’s read to find out if Gus and Bob find their way back to the dock and find Sam again.

[Children pair up and take turns reading alternate pages while the teacher walks around the room monitoring their progress. After individual paired reading, the class rereads The Tug aloud together and stops between page turns to discuss the plot.]

7.    Say: That was an exciting story. Did Gus and Bob find their way back to the dock where Sam was? Right, they did and they were safe. Before we finish up with our lesson about our u = /u/ correspondence, I want to see how you solve these reading problems. On the worksheet I am about to hand out, there are five pictures. Look at the picture, determine what you think the picture might be; then, go to the first box of words and circle the ending that each word has in common [Model how to find the common ending]. Next, you are going to go to the second column and circle the ending that you chose. Now your job is to write the word that goes with the corresponding picture and ending. Be sure to reread and check all of your answers to make sure they make sense. [Collect worksheet to assess individual progress.]




Murray, B. Reading Genie. Invitations: http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/invitations/whitebr.htm


Sims, Matt (1999). High Noon Books. Novato California. The Tug


Assessment worksheet: http://www.education.com/worksheet/article/meet-word-family-short-u/

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