CTRD 3710: “Yucky U” - Beginning Reading Lesson Design: u =/u/

“Yucky U”

Beginning Reading Lesson Design: =/u/

Anna Kochenour

Rationale: The goal for this lesson is to learn the short vowel u=/u/. In order to learn how to read, children must learn to recognize the spellings that map out word pronunciations. Short vowels are essential in the beginning stages of reading. The goal of this lesson is to help children learn to recognize, spell, and read words containing /u/. They will use the picture of the baby making the "yuck" face to represent the sound the short u makes. The students will learn to spell and read words containing this spelling in a Letterbox lesson, and read a decodable book that focuses on the u=/u/ correspondence.



  • Image of a "yuck face" (see attached picture)
  • Letterboxes (class set)
  • Whiteboard or smart board
  • Elkonin boxes for modeling and individual Elkonin boxes for each student
  • Letter manipulatives for each child and magnetic or smart board letters for teacher: (t,h,u,m,p,f,n,r,g,d,c,s,b,a,e)
  • List of spelling words on poster or whiteboard to read (thump, up, fun, rug, drum, crust, scrub, tab, ten)
  • Decodable text: Fuzz and the Buzz (Educational Insight, 1990) (enough for small group)
  • Assessment worksheet (attached)



“In order for you all to become great readers we need to learn the code that tells us how to pronounce words. We have already learned that a says /a/ like in tap, e says /e/ as in bed, i says /i/ as in big, and o says /o/ as in pop. Today we are going to learn how u says /u/. When I say /u/ I think of a child with a "yucky face" saying "yuck"! Lets all try our YUCKY face together while we say "yuck"! Listen for the /u/ sound as we say "yuck"!” Show the students the graphic image of the yucky face representing the /u/ sound.

Say“Before we learn about the spelling of the /u/ sound, we need to listen for it in some words. When I listen for /u/ sounds in words, I hear u says our yucky /u/ sound and my lips open and my tongue sits at the bottom of my mouth. (Here I will make the vocal gesture for /u/). I'll show you first: pump. I heard u says yucky /u/ and I felt my lips open and my tongue flatten on the bottom of my mouth. There is a short u in pump. Hmmm, let's see now if we hear short u in fume. Nope. I didn't hear our yucky /u/ sound in fume. If you hear /u/ say "YUCK." Do you hear /u/ in cup or sip? truck or track? rabbit or bunny? tub or tube? lick or luck?”

“Now let's look at the spelling of words with the yucky /u/ sound that we are learning about today!” Demonstrate how to spell a word in a letterbox lesson with Elkonin boxes.

“What if I want to spell the word thump? As in: When I jumped off my bed I made a loud thump. Thump means a loud sound in this sentence. To spell thump with letterboxes, first I need to know how many phonemes, or different sounds, I have in this word so I can stretch it out and count: /th/ /u/ /m/ /p/. I need 4 boxes. Each box represents a "sound." One sound can be made up or one or more letters. BUT REMEMBER, each individual sound gets one letterbox. I heard /u/ just before the /m/ so I am going to put a "mooing m" in the 3rd box. I know my /u/ comes before my /m/ so my u goes in the 2nd box. The word starts with the /th/ sound, and I know that the /th/ sound is made up of a t and h put together, th. So I will put th in the 1st box. Hmmm… what sound do we have missing /th/ /u/ /m/… we are missing our /p/ sound! So we will put a p in the 4th box.”

“Now it's your turn to try!” Conduct the letterbox lesson as if it were one on one.

“First we are going to start easy with only 2 letterboxes with the word up. "Hot air balloons fly up high in the sky." What should go in the first box? (Respond to students' answers). What goes in the second box?

Walk around the room and check everyone's spelling. Observe progress informally.

“Ok, for our next word you will need three letterboxes. First, listen for the beginning sound that will go in the first box. Then listen for our yucky /u/ sound, then listen for our last letter sound to finish the word. Here is our word: fun. "It is fun to go to the park in the summertime." Allow kids to spell words this time.

“Time to check your word. Watch how I would spell this word in my letterboxes on the board: f-u-n. Did you spell it this way? Let try another word with three letterboxes: rug. "The rug in my living room is very soft and cozy to walk on." Have a child volunteer to model correct spelling on the front board to check students' work. Repeat this for each new word.

“Next word. Now let's try 4 phonemes: drum. "I love to play the drum." One more and then we are doing with spelling. This time you will need 5 letterboxes. Our word is: crust. "The crust is my favorite part to eat in my dad's homemade pizza." Stretch this word out and listen for your yucky /u/ sound and all the other letter sounds in this word so you can get it right! This one is a little harder, but you can do it!” This will continue with even more practice if necessary.

“Now I am going to let you read the words that you have spelled, but first I will show you how to read a tough word that has our yucky /u/ sound in it. (Show the poster with scrub at the top of it). I see my u in this word, and in this word it says the yucky /u/ sound. I am going to use a cover-up critter to get the first part. (I will uncover and blend sequentially before the vowel, then blend with the vowel.) /s/ /c/ = /sc/ + /r/ = /scr/. Now lets blend the yucky /u/ = /scru/. Now all I need is the last letter, /b/ = /scrub/. Scrub! That's it! Now it's your turn, everyone together.” Have the children read the words aloud in unison. Then, call on individual students to read one word on the list until everyone in the class has had a turn.

“You all have done a great job spelling and reading words that have our yucky /u/! Now we are going to read a book called Fuzz and the Buzz.” Start off by giving the children a book talk.

Fuzz and the Buzz is about a bear who is hunting for nuts. The bear finds a tree and decides to shake it to see if some nuts fall out. Do you think the bear will get some nuts? Break the tree? What do you think is going to happen? We have to read the book to find out what will happen! Everyone turn to your shoulder partner. You are going to partner read and take turns alternating reading pages with each other. Every time you hear the yucky /u/ sound you will make a "yuck" face like you did earlier. You do not have to say "yuck" but I want to see your "yuck" face as I walk around the classroom.” The "yuck" face will be one way of assessing if the each child is hearing the /u/ sound or not. Cover-ups may be helpful for the children who might struggle with some of the words. After individual paired reading, the class will reread Fuzz and the Buzz aloud together, and stop between page turns to discuss the plot.

“That was a fun story! Now we are going to work on a worksheet by ourselves! I want you to practice hearing our yucky /u/ sound when you read the three different words beneath each picture. Make sure to choose the word that has the yucky /u/ sound in it. This is going to help me know if you all understand our yucky /u/ sound!” The assessment sheet has three words beneath each picture that relate to the picture. The students have to read each word and choose the word that has the short /u/ sound in it!



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