Beginning Reading Lesson Design

Uhh I don’t know!

By: Carly Dumas

To become successful readers, students must learn to identify letter symbols and the sounds that those letters make.  Short vowels are very difficult for children to learn because several short vowel phonemes sound very similar.  In this lesson, the children will learn the correspondence u=/u/.  The students will learn meaningful representation of u and have practice identifying written and spoken words containing the correspondence u=/u/.


- Letterboxes (made out of multi-colored card stock)

- Letter tiles in ziplock bags (pre-picked for lesson—b, c, d, f, g, j, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, u, y)

- Phoneme picture

-Index cards with words containing u=/u/ and other short vowels on them: (bug, camp, sun, crust, jump, sin, big, luck, nut, nit, flunk, flag)

- Chart paper with tongue twister written on it ("The unusual ugly ducking is upset.")

- Copies of Fuzz and the Buzz

- Word cards: (up, yum, cut, fun, tug, junk, bug, club, jump, scum, bump)

- Primary writing paper

- Pencils


 1.Introduce the u=/u/ correspondence and explain how to find it in words.  "Today we are going to find the letter in words that we hear and words that we see. The letter u makes the /u/ sound. Watch how my mouth moves when I say the letter u.  Now, you watch each other say the sound and see the mouth moves made. This is like the sound we make when we don't know what to say.  When we say the /u/ sound everyone put their hand up, scratch your head,and look confused as you say "Uhhhhh?"

2. "Now let's scratch our heads like when we don't understand something while we say /u/.  Like this. (teacher models /u/ by scratching head and saying the sound /u/ makes). The teacher says, “uhhh, I don’t know! Now you try!  Ready?  "uuuhhhh!"  Very good!"

2.To practice recognizing the letter u in written text, I will hold up two cards at a time. (One with a u word and one with a different vowel, ex: duck and deck.) I will model how to find the word with the /u/ sound.  I'm going to ask myself "do I hear /u/ in su-u-u-u-n-k or si-i-i-n-k?  I hear the uhhh /u/ sound in sunk, not sink.  Now it's your turn!"  Ask the students which word contains the /u/ sound.  Tell them to put their hands up and look confused when they hear the /u/ sound in the words (ex: buck or block, nit or nut, flunk or flag).

3."Now, let's practice saying a funny tongue twister together. "The unusual ugly duckling is upset.” Say it together several times. "This time lets stretch out the /u/ sound and act confused each time you hear /u/.  "The uuuunusual uuugly duuuckling is uuuupset.”

4. Letterbox lesson: "Do you think you can listen for the /u/ sound?  Now we are going to use our letter boxes.  Each box represents each sound you hear in a word.  We are going to spell words that have the /u/ sound in them. Give each student a letterbox and letter tiles.  Tell the students to turn the letterbox tiles on the lower case side.  "We are going to practice spelling words with the /u/ sound.  Look at the letterbox mat and see how there are three spaces for three mouth moves. Right now, I am going to use the four-box mat to spell the word plug.  The first box is for the first sound in plug, the /p/. The second box is for the second sound, the /l/. Remember how the /u/ sound makes the sound we say when we don’t know an answer, the /u/ goes in the third box.  The last box is for the last sound in club the /g/.  Now, you can practice with the following words: (2) - up (3)- tug, cut, fun, bug, yum, sat, big. (4)-bump, scum, club, jump,bunch." Have the students do it at their desks at the same speed you do it on the board.  Say the word, count the sounds, make the number of boxes on the board, and have the students tell you the sound they hear.

5. Get out the letterbox words that are written on cards.  Show students the model word. "We are going to read the word bunch.  Let's start with the /u/, now let's add the /b/ - /bu/. Say it together.  Its time to add the last sound /n/ - /bun/. Last we will add the digraph /ch/ - /bunch/.  Now, let's say the whole word "bunch." That's it! "Continue doing this with all the word cards after the letterbox lesson.

6.The students will be placed in pairs to read Fuzz and the Buzz.  I will give a book talk before splitting the class up. Booktalk: Fuzz is a bear cub. One day Fuzz runs from his mama and their hut to get nuts. He tries to get the nuts but he runs into some bugs. Fuzz is very mad. You and your partner will have to read to find out what happens when the bugs chase Fuzz.” Give one book to each pair of students.  One child will read pages 1-4 and the other 5-8.  Listen and walk around while the students read the book to each other.

7.Say to students, " Tell me what you would do if bug started chasing you. Remember that when we write bug we will be writing the lowercase "u”. We will start at the fence, jump down onto the ground run and jump back up onto the fence and then jump back down once again" (model writing the u as you explain it).  Pass out lined primary paper and pencils for the children and give them some time to write their message.


Give the students a picture page where they should circle the word for each /u/ sound picture. Have the children print the names of the pictures under each one after they have finished finding the /u/ sounds.  While the students are completing the worksheet, I will call students up to my desk one at a time to read pseudowords containing the /u/ sound.  


Long, Lauren. “Uhh” is When We Don’t Understand!


Phonics Readers: Short Vowels: Educational Insights Activity Pages. 1990.

Phonics Reader Short Vowel, Fuzz and the Buzz.  Carson, CA (USA): Educational Insights.     1990

Tingas, Heather. Uh, I don’t Know!

Click here to return to the Edifications index