Beginning Reading Design

"Uhhh, do U know?"

Kelly Crumrine


Rationale: This lesson will help students identify the short vowel correspondence u=/u/. Students will learn to recognize /u/ in spoken words by learning a meaningful representation (scratching their heads, like they’re confused). By using a letter box lesson, students will learn how to spell and read words containing this correspondence. Students will practice decoding /u/ words by reading a decodable book which focuses on u=/u/.

Materials: Letter boxes for each student, document camera, letters for each student (b, c, f, G, j, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, s, t, u), flashcards with (slush, fun, cut, sub, Gus, truck, jump, luck, slump). Bud the Sub, assessment worksheet (URL below).



1. Say: Our written language is like a code. In order to be the best readers we can be, we have to learn how to read the code. We have to learn how each letter sounds. Today we’re going to learn about short u. When I say /u/, I think of a person who is confused and doesn’t know the answer. Have you ever been asked a question that you didn’t know and said /u/. Well every time we hear that sound I want you to think of the letter u, and I want you to scratch your head like you are confused and don’t know the answer.


2. Before we start trying to spell /u/ words, we need to listen for it in some words. When I listen for /u/ in words, I think of that confused person, saying "Uhhh" (scratch your head). When I say /u/, I feel my jaw drop and my mouth open. For example, when I say cup, I hear /u/ like the confused person says, and I feel my mouth open up and my jaw drop down. Now I am going to see if /u/ is in cute. I didn’t hear /u/ in cute. My jaw didn’t drop and my mouth made more of a kissy face than opening up. Now let’s all try. I want you to scratch your head like the confused person if you hear /u/ in a word. If you don’t hear /u/, then don’t scratch your head. Do you hear /u/ in cut? Paste? Walk? Run? Jump? Skip?


3. I’m going to show you how to spell the words for our letter boxes. We are going to use the word slush. "The snow had melted with the rain and now there was an icy slush on the roads." To spell slush in letterboxes, we need to recognize the different sounds we hear in the word.  Lay out four boxes for your letterbox on the document camera to model, because this word will have four sounds, we have to stretch it out to hear those sounds. Sssllluuush. I heard the /u/ right before that last sound /sh/, so let’s put that U in the third letterbox. Then let’s look at the beginning of the word. First I heard that /s/, and we know that sound is made by s. Then I heard the /l/ sound. That sound is made by the letter l. So now we have /s//l//u/ and all we have left is that one sound /sh/. Now remember, even though it is only one sound, doesn’t mean it is only one letter. What makes that /sh/ sound? It is the letters sh. If I were to encounter this word in my reading and I didn’t know how to say it, I would first look at the /u/ because we know it makes that "Uhh" confused sound. Then I would go to the beginning of the word and stretch out the sounds of each of those letters. In slush, I would go ssslll, there’s that "uhhh". Then finally I would move on to the last sound, that sshh. Slluuusssh, slush! That’s it! "There was slush on the road that made it dangerous to drive."


4. Now you are going to try and spell some words in the letterboxes. We are going to start with 3 boxes, and your word is fun. "It is fun to play games with my friends." Do you hear that confused /u/ somewhere in run? Good, that’s right, it’s in the middle! So now we stretch out the word. What do you think goes in the first box? Right! You heard /f/ and knew that f went in the first box. Ok, so now you just have the last box. N, good job! (Make sure to take a quick mental record, making sure you check that each student is following along and assessing who is understanding the task). Ok, the next word is cut. "I cut my finger on the sharp knife". (Follow the same procedure as above for this word as well as sub, Gus, truck, jump, luck, and slump.)


5. Good work everyone! I like the way you all were able to identify that /u/ sound in your reading words! Now we are going to read a story called Bud the Sub. This book is about a submarine, can anyone tell me what a submarine is? That’s right, its like a ship that is made to go underwater. Well this sub’s name is Bud. And bud has a job to help other ships that are in trouble. Bud learns of one ship that has been hit! Let’s see what Bud can do to help. Do you think he’ll be able to save the ship? You are going to get with a partner and buddy read to find out what Bud does. (Students buddy read as the teacher goes around to check the student’s reading. After everyone finishes, the teachers reads Bud the Sub to the class and stops before she turns each page to ask questions, talk about the plot and review u=/u/ words.)


6. For assessment, the students will be given a handout. Say: Each student is going to work independently on this worksheet. I want to see what you learned today! On the sgeet there are some pictures with words written in. I want you to color the pictures that have that short u, /u/ sound. You should not color the pictures that don’t have that /u/ sound in the words. Are there any questions before you begin? No? Okay then you can start. I will collect the worksheets when you are done. (collect and analyze each student’s work to determine their knowledge of u=/u/.



Bud the Sub. Carson. Educational Insights, 1990. p. 1-9.

Collier, Daniel. "Uhh I Don’t Know"

Short U, Set 04.



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