Ew, That’s Gross!

A Beginning Reading Lesson

By: Catherine Bonner

Rationale: This lesson teaches children about the long vowel correspondence u_e = /U/. In order to be able to read, children must learn to recognize the spellings that construct word pronunciations. In this lesson children will learn to recognize, spell, and read words containing the spelling u_e. They will learn a meaningful representation, (holding nose and saying ew) they will spell and read words containing this spelling in a Letterbox lesson, and read a decodable book that focuses on the correspondence  u_e = /U/.

Materials: Graphic image of man holding his nose; cover-up critter; whiteboard or smartboard, letter boxes for modeling and individual letter boxes for each student; letter manipulatives for each child and magnetic or Smartboard letters for teacher : u, s, e, m, l, c, b, g, r, f, t, p ; list of spelling words on poster or whiteboard to read : use, mule, cube, club, crude, flute, spruce;   decodable text: Pig on the Loose, and assessment worksheet.


1. Say: In order to become really good readers we need to learn the code that helps us pronounce words. We have already learned to read short vowel words with u, like bug, and today we are going to learn about long U and the silent e signal that is used to make U say its name, /U/. When I say /U/ I think of a stinky smell that makes me want to hold my nose! [show graphic image]. Now let’s look at the spelling of /U/ that we’ll learn today. One way to spell /U/ is with the letter u and a tricky e at the end of the word to tell me to say U’s name. [Write u_e on the board.] This blank line here means there is a consonant after u, and at the end of the word there is a little silent e ( tricky e) signal.

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 my lips make a little circle as if I were going to whistle. [Make vocal gesture for /U/.] I’ll show you first: tube. I heard u say its name and I felt my lips make a little circle [make a circle motion around pursed lips]. There is a long U in tube. Now I’m going to see if it’s in cut. Hmm, I didn’t hear u say its name and my lips didn’t make that little circle like I was going to whistle. Now you try. If you hear /U/ say, “Ew, that’s gross” and grab hold your nose.  If you don’t hear /U/ take a deep breath in through your nose (model),  And say “my nose says no!” Is it in cute, rain, fun, blue , toe, umbrella, mute? [Have children make a circle motion around their pursed lips when they feel /U/ say its name.]

3. What if I want to spell the word huge? “The dog that chased me was huge.” Huge means very big in this sentence. To spell huge in letterboxes, first I need to know how many phonemes I have in the word so I stretch it out and count: /h//u//g/. I need 3 boxes. I heard that /U/ just before the /g/ so I’m going to put an u  in the 2nd box and the silent e signal outside the last box. The word starts with /h/, that’s easy; I need an h. Now it gets a little tricky so I’m going to say it slowly, /h//u//g/.I have one empty box now. [Point to letters in boxes when stretching out the word: /h//u//g/.] The missing one is /g/.


Now I’ll show you how I would read a tough word. [Display poster with spruce on the top and model reading the word.] I’m going to start with the u_e; that part says /U/. Now I’m going to put the beginning letters with it: s-p-r- u_e, /sprU/. Now I’ll put that chunk together with the last sound, /sprU-c/. Oh, spruce, like “We need to spruce up the house for our guests.”


4. Say: Now we are going to spell some words in our letterboxes. We are going to start with just two boxes for the word use. Use means to put something to work, “I will use a pencil to do my homework.” What should go in the first box? [Respond to children’s answers]. What goes in the second box? What about silent, or tricky e, did you remember to put it outside the boxes? I will be walking around checking on all of you. [Observe student effort.] You’ll need three letterboxes for the next word. Listen for the beginning sound to spell in the first box. Then listen for /U/ and don’t forget to put the signal silent e at the end, outside the boxes. Here’s the word: mule, A mule is similar to a horse, mule. [Allow children to spell remaining words: cube, glue, crude, flute, spruce.]

5. Say: Now I am going to let you read the words you’ve spelled. [Have children read words all together. Afterwards, call on individuals to read one word on the list until everyone has had a turn.]

6. Say: You guys have done a great job reading words with our new spelling for /U/: u_e. Now we are going to read a book called Pig on the Loose. This is a story about Tim and Jan. Their aunt was staying with them while their parents went on a cruise. They loved to play tricks on their aunt. While their aunt was staying with them, their new pet pig got loose. What will Tim and Jan do? How will they get their pig back? Will their new pet get into trouble? Each person will be given a partner and we will read Pig on the Loose to find out what happens. [Children pair up and take turns reading. The teacher will walk around the room monitoring progress. After partner reading, the class rereads Pig on the Loose aloud together, and stops between page turns to discuss the plot.]

7. Say: “Before we finish up with our lesson about one way to spell /U/ = u_e, we are going to read Pig on the Loose together as a class. We will take turns, each of us reading a page of the text aloud.” The teacher will note errors in the children’s reading and will grade each child individually.


Murray, G. (2004) Pig on the Loose. Reading Genie: http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/bookindex.html

Letters on the Loose by Cathryn Albright http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/realizations/albrightbr.htm

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