Beginning Reading

“Eeee! A Beetle!”

Elizabeth C. McGee

Rationale: This lesson will focus on learning the vowel correspondence ee=/E/ using activities that will help learners connect the visual alphabetic code (ee) with the /E/ sound. Activities will include teacher modeling for recognition, spelling, and reading words with the ee=/E/ correspondence using a whole text and letterboxes. The graphic representation of this spelling and sound is a person frightened by a beetle with the “ee” grapheme imbedded in her mouth, the origin of the sound. 


  • class set of Elkonin letterboxes and letters (e, e, f, d, p, l, r, b, c, h, n, m, t)
  • class set of decodable reader: The Bee and the Flea
  • large display of practice words
    • feed, peel, deer, eel, breed, cheer, need, meet, feep 
  • anchor chart with previously learned vowel correspondences
  • word journals and pencils


  • Say: “We’ve been learning about how different vowels make different sounds. Does anyone remember which letters are vowels? [Responses, scaffolding if needed] Which vowel sounds have we learned about so far? [Point to anchor chart of long vowel correspondences. Wait for response.] This is our toolbox for being able to read and spell different words, which is really important as we develop as readers and writers. We’re learning new spellings and for vowel sounds so that we can read more and express ourselves more clearly in our writing. Today, we are going to add to our toolbox! We’re going to look at what ee does [write on anchor chart], and I think you will find that a lot of words with the ee spelling will sound familiar!”

  • Say: “When I say /E/, you can think of a person being afraid of a beetle saying ‘Eee! A beetle!’ [Say theatrically, but not too loud. Show anchor image.] I hear /E/ in the person squealing /E/ and in the word beetle, and I can feel in in my mouth when I say those words. /E/, /E/… [repeating sound] Do you see how my mouth makes a wide opening from left to right and doesn’t open up much up and down, almost like I’m smiling? [Wait for response.] If you feel ready to practice saying /E/, you can do it with me. [practice] /E/, /E/, /E/, /E/… Now that we have the hang of making the sound, lets see how well we can recognize the sound. I’ll say a word, and if you hear /E/ in it, give me a thumbs up. Ready? Teen, reed, Ben, mite, greed, meet.”

  • Say: “I’m going to show you how we can spell the /E/ sound in real words. What spelling did I write into our toolbox [anchor chart] a minute ago? [Wait for response.] Right, the spelling for the /E/ sound that we’re focusing on today is ee, so we know that every word with the /E/ sound that we’re practicing today will have that spelling. I want to spell the word feed. ‘If I don’t feed my plants, they will die.’ Feed means to provide food for a living thing, like a plant. Before I spell this, I need to chew it up and break up with sounds [pretend to chew] and pull out the sounds: [pull from mouth] /f//E//d/. That was three sounds, so I need three letterboxes. My first sound was /f/, which is made with f, so I will put an f in my first letterbox. My second sound was /E/, and since I know that today we’re spelling /E/ with ee, I will put two e’s in my second letterbox to represent that /E/ sound. What was my last sound? /f//E//d/… Oh! Right, it was /d/, and I will spell that with a d, so my last letterbox has a d. My word feed is spelled f-e-e-d.”

  • Say: “What if I want to spell peel? ‘Rachel has to peel her orange before she can eat it.’ Can you chew the word peel with me and help me pull out the sounds? [Chew time] /p//E//l/. How many sounds are in /p//E//l/? [Wait for response; scaffold if necessary.] Right, there are three sounds, so I don’t need to change my amount of letterboxes because I already have three. My first sound was /p/, so what letter do I need in my first letterbox? [Wait.] Right, p says /p/, so I will put p in my first letterbox. The middle sound what /E/, which is what we are learning about today. How should I spell that sound? [Wait.] Right, /E/ is spelled ee for this word, so I will put both e’s in my second letterbox. And finally, my last sound was /l/. What letter do I need to make that sound? [Wait.] Exactly! I need an l. Now my word peel has been spelled. How did we spell it? [Let class as a whole read spelling.]”

  • Say: “Now it’s your turn to spell some words in your own letterboxes. Give me a thumbs up when you’re ready with your letterboxes and letters, and I can read your words to you. [Wait.] Okay, your first word is deer. ‘A graceful deer frolics through the woods.’ A deer is a woodland animal. [Walk around classroom for one-on-one assistance during this activity.] Chew up the word, and pull out the sounds in a whisper to yourself. How many sounds do you have? Which letters do you need to make those sounds? [Give time.] The next word we’ll practice is eel. ‘The scuba diver saw an electric eel in the ocean.’ An eel is a snake-like fish that lives in the ocean. Eel. [Give time. Repeat this pattern for the remaining words: breed, cheer, need, meet.]

  • Say: “I saw a lot of you carefully counting sounds and learning how to correct your spelling based on what we’ve learned. That’s great! Do you know that you’ve learned new words through this? I think you’re ready to practice familiarity with these words by reading them. Let’s look at our poster of our words. [Show poster, and use pointer for focusing on individual words. Call on groups to answer.] Red group, what does this word say? [etc… Include pseudo word: feep

  • Say: “After all this great practice with spelling and reading /E/ words spelled with ee, I think we might be ready to read a story with these kinds of words. I have a book here for you, The Bee and the Flea. [Project on SmartBoard.] This story is about a bee and flea who live together, and they are great friends even though they are different. The flea has lots of fun with the bee, but one day the bee catches the flea acting like a bee! The bee yells at him because fleas can’t eat from flowers like bees! Oh, no! Is this the end of their friendship? Will the flea be able to do what makes him happy? Let’s read and find out.” [Pass out classroom set.] “We are going to whisper read to ourselves at our groups, and I’m going to come around and listen in as you read. You can start whenever you get your book.”

  • Say: [Wait until everyone is just about finished reading.] “After you read the book, we’re going to be detectives and search our book for words that have the /E/ sound spelled with ee! In your word journal, write the evidence of ee=/E/ that you found in the story. You may draw pictures to show me as well! I’ll play some music for you while you do this, and when the music stops, we’ll take a break from being detectives. Are there any questions about what we’re doing? [Wait and respond.] Alright, detectives, let’s get started!” [Begin playing music.]


Images: Frightened Lady. Scary Bug.

Text: Ryan, Cheryl, and Catalina Rankin. The Bee and the Flea. Learning A-Z. Print.

Other Resources: “Mike Likes Kites” by Amy Locklier

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