EEEEkkkk! I Saw a Snake!

A beginning reading lesson

By Lydia Hinshaw

This lesson was designed for a student that is an emergent reader in the full alphabetic stage (usually beginning first grade).  Through the lesson students will learn the ea = /E/ such as in bean.

Rational: This lesson uses research based methods to teach the long vowel correspondence ea = /E/.  Students must learn to read, pronounce, and spell long vowel words to expand their reading abilities.  This lesson is designed to help student learn to spell, say, and recognize the ea spelling in commonly used words.  The students will learn the correspondence in a meaningful way (Eeeekkk! I saw a snake!) and be able to practice the correspondence with a letterbox activity.  They will also get a chance to work with the correspondence by reading a decodable text and through a writing activity. 


One graphic image of lady standing in chair yelling

Worksheets for all the students present at class

Critter cover-up

Whiteboard and markers for modeling

Letterbox and letter tiles for all students in the class plus the teacher

Word list on a white poster with the words: sea, team, mean, stream, bean, steam

Decodable text titled: The Mean Geese

The letter tiles: s, e, a, t, m, r, b, n, g, e, p, l for every student


1. Say: Everyone wants to be able to read about cool stuff they like right? (Teacher asks) What are some things you like and want to read about? (have students tell some of their favorite things).  To read all the cool books you talked about we need to learn more of the secret code of writing.  You already know what the short vowel e sounds and looks like right?  Here is an example of the short e sound in s word: elephant.  Well now we get to learn one way the long vowel E is spelled.  When I hear the long E sound I think of a lady standing in a chair screaming “EEEEEkkk! I saw a snake!” E says its name when you see an ea in a word like the word bean. 

2. Say: Now we need to learn to hear the ea sound in words.  When you say /E/ what does your mouth do?  When I say the /E/ sound my tongue feels like it is behind my teeth and I use my voice to make the sound.  When I say bean I hear the long e sound and I feel my tongue press the back of my teeth.  Now you try!  If you hear /ea/ in a word I want you to jump up just like the lady that yelled EEEEEkkkkk! I saw a snake!  I’m going to say a word and if you hear the /ea/ then jump up.  House, bent, bean, steam, loft, seam, help.

3. Say: Great class, now you have learned how to hear the sound in a word and now it is time to learn how to spell the ea sound.  What if you want to write about when you tried eating red beans, you would need to know how to spell the word beans.  “My mom made me eat red beans and I did not like them.  I only like black beans”.  Let’s pull out our letterboxes and learn how to spell the ea sound.  The first thing we need to do is figure out how many sounds are in the word bean.  Let’s slowly say bean and stretch out the sounds that way we can hear all of them.  B/ea/n, I hear three sounds that means I need three boxes.  Now let us figure out what letter goes in the first box.  /B/ that sound is made with the letter b, good.  Now for the /E/ sound, the two letters go in the same box because the a is silent and makes the e say its name.  So we have /b/ea/ and we need the last sound /b/ea/n/, n is the last letter and it goes in the last box.  Now let us read the word we just spelled.  First I am going to look at the vowel which is ea, so I know that makes the sound /E/.  Now I am going to look at the first letter and blend that sound with the vowel.  /b/ea/ I’m just missing the last sound which is /n/.  Blend it altogether and you get bean! 

4. Say: Now it’s your turn to spell some words with the letterbox.  Try an easy one, how about team.  “I played on a soccer team and loved it”.  You need three boxes for this word.  What should go in the first box? What goes in the second box and the last box?  Once you have finished your word leave it on your desk for me to look at.   Don’t forget to put ea in the same box because a is silent and makes e say its name.  Here are the words I want you to spell using your letterbox (teacher holds up the poster with letterbox words).  Don’t clear your boxes until I have seen the word you spelled. 

5. Say: Class read me the word you just spelled.  Now have class spell more words off of the list and call on students to read the words they have spelled until everyone has had a turn. 

6. You have done a great job learning how to spell words with ea in them.  Now it is time you put that knowledge to use!  Here is a book for you to read that has ea words in it.  You know how to read those words because you have already spelled and read them with the letterbox.  The book is called The Mean Geese by Geri Murray.  The book is about a cat, a dog named Lad, and geese.  The cat takes her kittens to the stream but the geese do not like that and chases them.  Lad sees the cat being chased and chases the geese but the geese are not afraid of Lad.  The geese actually chase Lad.  What will Lad do?  Will he get away from the mean geese?  We will have to read to find out!  I want everyone to whisper read the book to themselves and once you are finished we will reread it has a class.  The class will stop every page to discuss the plot. 

7. Say: Class you have done a great job reading now let’s do one last thing before we finish.  Teacher hands out worksheet and holds it up while saying: I want you to read the words at the top of this page and write them under the picture they match.  When you finish turn it in to me so I can check it. 



Free Phonics

Murray, G. (2006) The Mean Geese Reading Genie:

Reading Genie, further lesson information:

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