Beginning Reading Lesson


  Make a Stinky Face with u_e!


A Beginning Reading Lesson

By Grace Christian


Rationale: This beginning reading lesson will teach students about the vowel digraph u_e= /U/.  In order to understand this concept, the students will learn to recognize words with this digraph.  In doing so, they will be taught a meaningful representation (making a stink face when saying EW), they will participate in a letterbox lesson in which they will use this digraph in the spelling and reading, and they will read a leveled book that focuses on the digraph u_e= /U/.


Material: Graphic image with the stinky face, poster with spruce on it, decodable books of Pig on the Loose, letterbox app on the iPad



1.      Say: Today we’re going to learn about a funny sound that we often make in words.  This looks like u_e and makes /U/.   We have already learned the sound for short u or /u/ which can be found in sounds like jump, hum, and cuff.  Since we are now masters of the short u sound, we are moving to long U mixed with an e, which makes /U/.  This sounds a lot like someone saying “Ew!” so whenever I say a word with this sound in it I want us to make a stinky face (show graphic image).

2.      Say:  We need to see which words contain the sound /U/ now.  When I say words with /U/ in them, I make that ew sound and begin with my lips in an a normal position then bring them closer together.  Let’s try a word and see if it has /U/ in it using these clues: cute.  I heard my lips start out apart and come closer together, I also heard that ew sound.  There is a long U in the word cute.  Now we’ll try cup.  I didn’t hear the ew sound or feel my lips coming together tight, so there is no long U sound in the word up.  Let’s all try together now.  If you hear /U/ then make your stinky face.  If you don’t hear /U/ say, “No, it doesn’t have it.” Is it in tube, face, truck, mute, plain, flute?

3.      Say: Now we need to figure out how to spell a word using the /U/ sound.  The way to spell this is with the letter U and then there is a signal at the end of the word, the letter E, to show you how to say this U (write u_e on the board).  This blank here means we have to put a consonant in there.  Also, something important to remember is that the E in this word is very silent and doesn’t make a peep.  Now let’s try spelling a word together.  Let’s start with the word mute.  “The TV was too loud so Caroline put it on mute.” Mute means to make silent in this sentence.  In order to spell mute in letterboxes we first have to count how many phonemes we hear so let’s listen and count: /m/ /U/ /t/.  I know I hear an mm at the beginning so that is /m/, then the ew sound comes up so I know that is the /U/, and then there is a tttt sound so it must be /t/.  But that’s all I hear.  However, I’m forgetting one letter that likes to stay quiet.  Do remember which letter this is? It’s the E on the end! (Point out letters in boxes as you sound them out)

4.      Say: Now I’m going to have you spell some words in a letterbox.  We’ll start out really easy and spell the word use.  This only requires two letterboxes.  To use something means to have something that helps you carry out a task, “We use a spatula to flip pancakes.” What should go into the first box? (Respond to the child’s answer).  What goes in the second box? What about that silent e, did you put that outside the last box?  I’ll be checking your spelling as I walk around.  Go ahead and draw three letterboxes for your next word.  First, you know that you have to listen for the initial sound the word makes.  Make sure you remember to listen for the /U/ sound and put the silent e that goes along with this sound at the end.  The next word I want you to spell is tube, I bought a tube of toothpaste; tube.  (Allow them to spell the word.)  Moving on, we are now going to check your work.  This is how I am going to spell it in my letterbox on the board: t-u-b-e and you check your work to see if you spelled yours any differently.  Let’s do another word using three boxes: rule, I went to sit in timeout because I had broken a rule. (Ask a child up to the board to show how they did their letterbox.) Do the same with the next word.  Moving on, I’m going to give you a new word and you see if you hear /U/ before you even spell it: jug, I bought a jug of orange juice at the store.  Did you need the silent e in this word? No, because you didn’t hear the stinky face sound so this wasn’t /U/, it was spelled with the short vowel u.  (Ask a volunteer up to spell it in front of the class.) Now we’re going to try some words with four phonemes, I know we can do it! The first word is prune; my grandmother always gives me a prune when I come to her house.  We only have one more word to spell; y’all have done a great job so far! Last word is using five boxes: spruce, before we had friends over, we had to spruce up the house.  Remember to stretch out the word so we can all get this tough one right!

5.      Say: Now we have a chance to read the words that we have spelled.  First, I want to show you how I read these words.  (Place poster on the board with the word spruce on it and model how to read this word.)  Since there is a silent e on the end of this word, I know automatically that the vowel in this word will make its sound.  Now, I’m going to look for the vowel, which is a u, so we know it makes the /U/ sound.  I’m now going to use a cover to sound out each letter at the beginning of the word.  (Uncover each letter, sound them out, and blend in order to understand the beginning of the word before the vowel).  /s//p/= /sp/+/r/= /spr/.  Now we want to blend that with our vowel, /U/=/sprU/.  Now we just need to add the /c/= /sprUc/.  Spruce is our word! Let’s go through all words now, we’re going to sound them out all together.  (Have all the children go through the words in unison, and then call on students individually to read a specific word. Make sure everyone has a turn to do it individually.)

6.      Say: You have done such a great job with spelling in letterboxes using words with /U/: u_e.  Now we are going to read a book called Pig on the Loose.  This story is about two children, Tim and Jan, who’s Aunt Sue is coming to visit.  They love their Aunt Sue and especially love to play jokes on her.  They plan to show her their new pig, Slim, and call it a pink pup.  When Aunt Sue gets there they bring her to the pigpen to show her their “pink pup” but Slim is nowhere in sight! Let’s read to see where Slim has gone!  Turn to your elbow partner and read Pig on the Loose together.  (Walk around the room to make sure each child is getting the chance to read.  Also listen to monitor their progress.   After they read together, read the book as a class and stop frequently to make sure the students understand the plot of the story.)

7.      That was such a silly story! Where did the pig go? That’s right, he was in the tool shed.  How did he get out? Yes, the screw in the fence was loose.  Before we are done with our lesson with /U/= u_e, I want to see how much of a master you are with this sound /U/.  This worksheet is only composed of u_e words and you have to unscramble the letters to make a word with this sound. (Collect worksheets at the end to evaluate individual progress.)


Murray, G. (2004) Pig on the Loose. Reading Genie:

Assessment worksheet: