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Beginning Reading Design

Say “Uh” With The Caveman Dug!

Beginning Reading Design

Sarah Nelson


Rationale: This lesson teaches children about the short vowel correspondence u = /u/. In order to be able to read, children must learn to recognize the spellings that map word pronunciations. In this lesson children will learn to recognize, spell, and read words containing the letter correspondence u = /u/. They will learn a meaningful representation (the caveman says uh), they will spell and read words containing this spelling in a Letterbox lesson, and read a decodable book that focuses on the correspondence u = /u/.

Materials: Graphic image of caveman; cover-up critter; whiteboard or smartboard, Elkonin boxes for modeling and individual Elkonin boxes for each student; letter manipulatives for each child and magnetic or smartboard letters for teacher, list of spelling words on poster or whiteboard to read: bus, bull, truck, brush, hunt, skunk; decodable text: The Mutt and the Bug, and assessment worksheet.


1. Say: In order to become expert readers we need to learn the code that tells us how to pronounce words. We have already learned to read short vowel words with o, like top, and today we are going to learn about short u says /u/. When I say /u/ I think of a funny little caveman who says “uhhh” [show graphic image].

2. Say: Before we learn about the spelling of /u/, we need to listen for it in some words. When I listen for /u/ in words, I hear U say its name /u/ and I open my mouth and make a sound in my throat. [Make vocal gesture for /u/.] I’ll show you first: jump. I heard u say its name and I felt my throat make a /u/ noise.  There is a short u in jump.  Now I’m going to see if it’s in screw. Hmm, I didn’t hear /u/ sound in that word. I don’t think there is a short u in that word. Now you try. If you hear /u/ scratch your head like a confused caveman.” If you don’t hear /u/ say, “That’s not it.” Is it in lunch, dinner, sting, stung, punch, hit? [Have children scratch their head like a caveman when they hear /u/ in the word.] 

3. Say: Now let’s look at the spelling of /u/ that we’ll learn today. Use a whiteboard to spell the word brush. “I use a brush on the horse.” In this sentence the word brush is talking about combing the horse’s hair. To spell brush in letterboxes, first I need to know how many phonemes I have in the word so I stretch it out and count: /b//r//u//sh/. I need 4 boxes. I heard that /u/ just before the /sh/ so I’m going to put an o in the 3th box and the silent sh in the last box since those two letters are making one sound. The word starts with /b/, that’s easy; I need a b. Now it gets a little tricky so I’m going to say it slowly, /b//r//u//sh/. I think I heard /r/ so I’ll put an r right after the b. Now I hear that /u/ like the caveman so I will put a u next. I have one empty box now. [Point to letters in boxes when stretching out the word: /b//r//u//sh/] The missing one is /sh/ like what a mom tells you when you are too loud, so I need to put a sh in the last box.

4. Say: Now I’m going to have you spell some words in letterboxes. You’ll start out easy with three boxes for bus, like what some people ride to school in, “We took the bus when we went on the field trip.” What should go in the first box? [Respond to children’s answers]. What goes in the other two boxes? I’ll check your spelling while I walk around the room. [Observe progress.] You’ll need three letterboxes for the next word. Listen for the beginning sound that goes in the first box. Then listen for /u/ sound in the word. Here’s the word: bull, there was a bull on the farm.  [Allow children to spell words.] Time to check your work. Watch how I spell it in my letterboxes on the board: b-u-ll and see if you’ve spelled it the same way. Notice how my word has two ll’s but they are in the same box because they only make one sound. Now try one with four boxes: truck; my dad drives a truck. [Have volunteer spell it in the letterbox on the front board for children to check their work. Repeat this step for each new word.] Next word. Listen to see if this word has /u/ in it before you spell it: crop; corn is an example of a crop. Did you hear the /u/ sound? Why not? Right, because we don’t hear the caveman say /u/. We spell it with our short vowel o. [volunteer spells it on the front board.] Now let’s try hunt, I do not like to hunt. One more then we’re done with spelling, and this time you need five boxes: skunk; When I was in the woods I saw a skunk. Remember to stretch it out to get this tough word. 

5. Say: Now I am going to let you read the words you’ve spelled, but first I’ll show you how I would read a tough word. [Display poster with skunk on the top and model reading the word.] First I see there’s a ck at the end. There’s the vowel u. It must say /u/. I’m going to use a cover-up to get the first part. [Uncover and blend sequentially before the vowel, then blend with the vowel.] /s/ + /k/+/u/+/n/+/k/= /skunk/. Skunk; that’s it. Now it’s your turn, everyone together. [Have children read words in unison. Afterwards, call on individuals to read one word on the list until everyone has had a turn.] s k u n k

6. Say: You’ve done a great job and reading words with our new spelling for /u/ = u. Now we are going to read a book called The Mutt and the Bug. This is a story about a mutt, a mutt is a dog. The mutt is very friendly. One day when he is going on a walk he meets a kind bug. The mutt and the bug decide to go on an adventure together. Let’s pair up and take turns reading read the book to find out what mutt and the bug does! [Children pair up and take turns reading alternate pages each while teacher walks around the room monitoring progress. After individual paired reading, the class rereads The Mutt and the Bug aloud together, and stops between page turns to discuss the plot.]

7. Say: That was a fun story. What were some things that the mutt and the bug did together? Right, they went on a picnic. Do you think the mutt was a good friend? Right, he was, he carried the bug around on his back. Before we finish up with our lesson about one way to spell /u/ = u, before we finish up with our lesson about one way to spell /u/ = u, I want to see if you can pick out short u words from a word list and then put them in ABC order.First try reading all the words in the box, then choose the word that has the /u/ sound in it. Reread your answers to see if they make sense. [Collect worksheets to evaluate individual child progress.]


Murray, Geri. “Oh, I didn’t know!”: file:///C:/Users/Sarah%20Nelson/Downloads/BeginningReadingSample.pdf

Ryan, Cheryl. The Mutt and the Bug:


Super Teacher worksheets