The Old Man says, “Eh”

A Beginning Reading Lesson

Marcy Price

Rationale: This lesson will help children understand and identify the short vowel correspondence e = /e/. It is important to give students explicit instruction when learning a new vowel correspondence. Students must learn to recognize, spell, and read words containing the spelling /e/. It will also help students associate the phoneme /u/ with the letter U. This lesson will help students remember what sound /u/ makes by using something to help their memory. We will use a meaningful correspondence (old man saying, “Eh, what’d you say?”). They will spell and read words with /e/ in this lesson during a letterbox lesson and through a decodable book that concentrates on e = /e/. This lesson will help with phoneme awareness.


Materials: Picture of old man saying, “Eh, what’d you say?”, cover-up, whiteboard, letterboxes, letterbox letters for students, list of short /e/ words on a poster, the book “Pen Pals”, and the assessment.

Words: ed, ten, pet, men, stem, rest, lend, trend

Letters: e,d,t,n,p,m,s,l,r,


1.We need to become expert readers and how we do that is by learning our special code that tells us how to pronounce words. We have already learned our short vowel /a/ like in tap, and today we are going to learn our short vowel /e/. When I say /e/ I think of an old man who can’t hear very good saying, “Eh, what’d you say?” [show meaningful representation]. Write the letter e on the board so the students know what letter we are discussing today. That is how we write the letter e.


2.Now we are going to listen for our sound /e/ in these words. When I listen for /e/ in words, I hear the sound of the old man who can’t hear. When I say words with /e/ in them my mouth opens and the sound is made in the back of my throat. I’ll show you first egg. I heard our old man e and I felt the sound come from the back of my throat. There is a short e in egg. Now let’s see if it’s in the word book. Well, I didn’t hear our old man e and I didn’t feel the sound in my throat. Now you try. If you hear our old man /e/ say, “Eh, what’d you say?” if you don’t hear it say, “That’s not it.” Is it in leg, rain, jam, mess, get?’’ [Have students put their hand up to their ear when they hear short e.]


3.What if I want to spell the word spend? “What will happen if I spend too much money?” To spell spend in letterboxes, first I need to know how many phonemes I have in the word so I sound it out while I count. /s//p//e//n//d/. I need five letterboxes. I heard the /e/ right after the /p/ so I will put the /e/ in the third box. The word starts with /s/ so I will put that in the first box. Then I heard /p/ that’s what I will put in the second box. I already have my third box filled. Now, it gets a little tricky. So, I am going to say it again really slow. /s//p//e//n//d/. I think I heard /n/ so I will put that next. After that I heard /d/. Model how to read a hard word. Write word in letterboxes on the board before modeling. Then, once you have modeled, read the word in a sentence. I will model the word chest. First, I am going to break the word into smaller sounds. I hear the sound /ch/ like choo-choo so that must be ch. Now I hear /e/ like when an old man can’t hear. And lastly, I hear the sound /st/. I will read this sentence: The boy had a bird on his chest.


4.Now you are going to get to spell some words in your letterboxes. You will start out easy with two boxes. Spell the word Ed. Ed like a persons name. “Ed likes to go fishing.” What should go in the first box? What goes in the second box? I’ll walk around the room and check your spelling. Now we will need three boxes for our next word. Listen to all the sounds to help you spell our next word. The word is neck. “My neck is hurting today.” Spell these words: went, rest, spent, ten, red.


5.Now, you get to read the words you have spelled. [The students will read the words aloud together.] Then, call on individual students to read one word aloud on the list until everyone has gotten a turn.


6.You all have done such a wonderful job reading words with our new spelling /e/. Now we are going to read a book called “Pen Pals.” This book is about a boy named Ben. Ben is inside his pen and cannot get out. Ben is yelling for his pet to come help him out. Let’s pair up and take turns reading “Pen Pals” to find out if Ben gets out of his pen. [Teacher walks around room monitoring students while they take turns reading to their partner. After partner reading the class will read aloud the book together. During reading we will stop to discuss what is going on.]


7.Before we finish I want to see how you can solve a reading problem. We are going to do a worksheet and you are to circle the correct spelling of short /e/. You will circle the word that corresponds with the picture in that box. First try reading all of the words. Make sure you hear the old man e in the word that you circle.


Resources: Worksheet for assessment.


“Pen Pals” (Education Insights, 1990).


Holcomb, Joanna, Ella Elephant Says “Ehhh?”


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