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/u/ is the Ugly Yuck Face

Beginning Reading Design

Rationale: This lesson is designed to teach children in the beginning reading stage of development about the short vowel correspondence u=/u/. Children must learn to recognize the spellings that map word pronunciations in order to master the ability to read. The objective is for students to learn to recognize, spell, and read words containing the spelling u. They will use a meaningful analogy (the ugly yuck face) to connect to the vowel correspondence. Students will also spell and read words containing this spelling in a letterbox lesson, and also read a decodable book that focuses on the correspondence u=/u/.


  •            Graphic image of a kid with a yuck face
  •            Smartboard Elkonin boxes for modeling
  •           Smartboard letter manipulatives: a, b, c, f, g, h, k, l, m, n, p (2), r, s, t, u, y, z (2)
  •            Individual Elkonin boxes for each student
  •            Letter manipulatives for each child: a, b, c, f, g, h, k, l, m, n, p (2), r, s, t, u, y, z (2)
  •             List of spelling words written on chart paper in large print:

1. lug    2. tub    3. fuzz    4. pluck   5. thump  6. drug

7. crust  8. think  9. park  10.  leaf  11.  happy  12.  fluff

  •             Decodable text: Fuzz and the Buzz
  •             Assessment: match the picture with the word worksheet


1.      Say: In order for us to become expert readers we need to learn the codes that tell us how to pronounce words. We have already learned the short vowel correspondences a=/a/, e=/e/, i=/i/, and o=/o/. Today we are going to learn that u=/u/ When I hear /u/ I think of the word yuck, as in something tastes yucky. Can anyone give me an example of something that they think tastes yucky? (Allow the children to give you a few answers.) Proceed by asking them, what kind of faces do you make when something tastes yucky? After allowing the students to make faces show them the yucky face baby. Say: when I hear the sound /u/ I think of this little fellow.

2.      Say: “Before we learn about the spelling of the /u/ sound, we need to learn to listen for it in different words. When I listen for the /u/ sound when I say words, I feel my lips open and my tongue sits at the bottom of my mouth; I then hear u says our yucky /u/ sound. [Model vocal gesture as you talk through the process] I’ll show you first: plug. I heard u says yucky /u/ as my lips opened and my tongue flatten on the bottom of my mouth. There is a short u in pump! Well I wonder if /u/ is in sock. Sock. Hmm, I didn’t hear u say its yucky /u/ in sock, and my lips didn’t open and my tongue didn’t sit at the bottom of my mouth. Now I want you to try. If you hear /u/ in the word I want you to make a yucky face. If you don’t hear /u/ I want you to say: “Nuuuuull that’s not it.” Do you hear /u/ in plug? Play? Luck? Lake? Buck? Bank? Dodge? Duck? Mine? Mush?”

3.      Say: “Now let's look at the spelling of words with the yucky /u/ sound that we are learning about today. What if I want to spell the word scrub? “Sally’s had to scrub the floor.” Scrub means to rub hard with a brush in this sentence. To spell scrub in letterboxes I need to know how many phonemes I have in the word so I stretch it out and count: /s//c//r//u//b/. I need 5 boxes. Each sound will get its own box. When I counted my phonemes I counted /u/ 4th; so /u/ will go in my fourth box. The word starts with /s/, so I need an s for the first box. Now it gets a little tricky so I’m going to say it slowly, /s//c//r//u//b/. I think I heard /c/ so I’ll put a c in the second box. One more before the /u/. Hmm . . .  /s//c//r//u//b/, I think I heard roaring /r/.  I have one empty box now. The missing one is /b/.

4.      Say: Now let me show you another example, using a different spelling method. This method is called vowel-first, body-coda blending. My word is fluff (write the word fluff on the board). In order to spell this word, I start by isolating my vowel, which is our yucky /u/. I have four boxes this time. I heard our yucky /u/ near the end so I am going to put it in the third letterbox. Next I need to add the phonemes, the body, that come before our yucky /u/. When I stretch out the word fluff, fff-llll-uuu, I hear a /f/ and /l/ before our yucky /u/. So I put an f and an l in the first two boxes. Next I have to add the phonemes, the coda, that comes after our yucky /u/. When I finish stretching fluff, fff-lll-uuu-fff I hear /f/. The word fluff has two f’s in it so I put two f’s in the last letterbox. Then I go back and check my work, fluff. The fluff on the pillow was soft.    

5.      Say: Now it’s your turn! I’m going to have you spell some words in letterboxes. We will start out easy with three boxes for lug. “I had to lug the suitcase up the stairs.” In this sentence lug means to pull with force. [Teachers should walk around the room to check your spelling to observe the progression of students] Our next word will also need three letterboxes. Listen for the beginning sound to spell in the first box. Then listen for the /u/ sound.  Here’s the word: tub. “My mom filled the tub with water.” [Allow children to spell remaining words, giving sentences for each word: fuzz, drug, thump, pluck, and crust.] 

6.      Say: Now I am going to let you read the words you’ve spelled. [Show students the words lug, tub, fuzz, drug, thump, pluck, think, leaf, park, happy, and the pseudoword splug. First, have children read words in unison; then allow students to reread the words one at a time giving each student a turn.]

7.      Say: Boys and girls you all have done a great job spelling and reading words that have our yucky /u/ sound in it! Now we are going to read a book called Fuzz and the Buzz. This book is about a little bear on a mission to find nuts. He finds a tree and decides that maybe if he shakes it nuts fall out. Will bear make nuts fall out of the tree? Or will it be something else? We’ll have to read the book to find out! Everyone turn to your shoulder partner. You are going to partner read and take turns alternating reading pages with each other. [Teachers should walk around to monitor students as they read. After individual paired reading, the class rereads Fuzz and the Buzz aloud together, and stops between page turns to discuss the plot.]

8.      Say: As we wrap up our lesson about u=/u/, I want to see if each of you can figure out which words have our yucky /u/ in them. On this worksheet you will be given a picture and three words to choose from. You must read each word, listen to and feel for the /u/ sound that matches the picture. [Say: REMEMBER, I feel my lips open and my tongue sits at the bottom of my mouth when I hear our yucky /u/ sound] You can make your ugly yuck face if that helps. Reread all of your answers to make sure the word matches the picture. Good LUUUUUUUCK! [Teacher makes the ugly yuck face. When everyone has completed the worked sheet take up the sheets to evaluate the student’s progress]


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