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Emergent Literacy Lesson

Go "Uh, Uh, Uh" with Uncle U

Lauren Tolleson



Rationale: This lesson will help students identify /u/, the phoneme represented by U. Students will learn to recognize /u/ in words using a meaningful representation (scratching their head when they say /u/) and the letter symbol U, and apply phoneme awareness with /u/ in phonetic cue reading by distinguishing rhyming words from beginning letters.


Materials: Primary paper and pencil; picture card with the letter U, large chart with the tongue tickler: “Uncle was upset because he was unable to pull his umbrella up”, drawing paper and crayons, Dr. Seuss’s Hop on Pop (Random House, 1974), word cars with MUD, PUP, FUN, LUCK, and DUCK, and assessment worksheet identifying pictures with /u/ (URL Link below).




1. Say: The alphabet is really cool because it is like a secret code. We can break the code by learning what sounds the letters stand for. Today we are going to work on spotting the mouth move /u/. We spell /u/ with the letter U (show picture-sound card). When we write a U it looks like the mouth on a smiley face. When we say /u/ it sounds like the sound you may make when you are confused: /u/…/u/, /u/?


2. Let’s pretend we are confused, /u/, /u/, /u/. [Pantomime scratching head while saying /u/.] Do you notice where your lips are? (Wide open)/ When we say /u/, we let our mouth open with lips apart and let the air come out of our mouths.


3. I am going to show you how to find /u/ in the word cluck. I am going to stretch the word out very slowly and you listen for the /u/…../u/. Cccc-llll-uuuu-ckk. Slower: C-l-uuuu-c-k. There it was! I felt my lips apart and air being pushed out. I can hear myself say /u/ in cluck.


4. Now let’s try and tongue tickler [on chart]. “Uncle was upset because he was unable to put his umbrella up.” Let’s say it three times together and I want you to scratch your head each time you hear /u/. Now let’s say it again, and this time, stretch the /u/ at the beginning of words as I point to them. “Uuuncle was uupset because he was uuunable to put his uuumbrella uuup.” Try it again, and this time break it off the word: /U/ncle was /U/pset because he was /u/nable to put his /u/mbrella /u/p.”


5. Say: Now let’s take out primary paper and pencil. We use letter U to spell /u/. Capital U looks like the mouth in a smiley face and lowercase u looks like the mouth with a stem on it. Let’s write the uppercase letter U. Start at the rooftop, draw a line down to the sidewalk, and then curve back up the rooftop. Now let’s try lowercase u. Start at the fence, draw a line down the sidewalk, curve back up to the rooftop, then draw a straight line down to the sidewalk. After I come check your first ones, I want you to make five more just like them.


6. Call on students to answer and tell how they knew: Do you hear /u/ in mud or mad? Stuck or Stack? Crab or Crush? Stump or Stomp? Gruff or grow? Let’s see if you can spot the mouth move /u/ in some words. Scratch your head when you hear /u/: dog, slug, fish, umbrella, home, duck, unhappy, munch


7. Say: “Let’s look at a book, Hop on Pop. Dr. Seuss tells us about a dog. What do you think the dog is doing?” (show picture). Now read students pages 3-5, drawing out /u/. Have students scratch their head each time they hear /u/. After you are done reading, ask them what words they heard /u/ in. Then have students choose a word with the sound /u/ from the story, write the word with invented spelling, and draw a picture of it. Display their work.


8. Show MUD and model how to decide if it is mop or mud: The U tells me to scratch my head and put my lips apart, so this word is m-uuu-d, mud. Now you try some: PUP: pup or pop? FUN: fun or fan? LUCK: lack or luck? RUCK: ruck or rack?


9. For assessment, distribute the worksheet. Students are to match unhappy faces to objects that start with /u/ and color the pictures that start with U. Call students individually to read the phonetic cue words from step #8.






Bruce Murray, Wallach and Wallach’s Tongue Tickler






Assessment Worksheet:




Dr. Seuss, Hop on Pop. 1963


Caveman Clip Art