The Tug says Uhh!

Beginning Reading Design


Jamie Braswell



It is necessary for beginning readers to be able to recognize that phonemes and letters correspond with each other in order to become a proficient reader. Through the knowledge gained in this activity, students will learn to recognize, spell, and read words that contain the correspondence u = /u/.


-  Single card with a u printed on it

-  Word cards with the following words printed on it: cut and cat, duck and dog,    tub and sink, rug and mat

-  Sentence Strip with Tongue Twister printed on it: Uncle was upset because he was unable to put his umbrella up.

-  Elkonin Letterboxes per student

-  Letter manipulatives (s, u, n, c, b, h, g, m, a, t, d, r, j, p)

-  Chalk or White-board erase marker

-  Bud the Sub, by: Sheila Cushman, Educational Insights. (one per pair of students)

-  Primary paper and pencil

-  Picture page with the following pictures: bug, truck, rug, brush, lock, bed, and flag.



1. Introduce the u = /u/ correspondence and how to spot it in written text. Today we are going to work with the letter u in written text (hold the letter u card for the students to see). The letter u makes the /u/ sound. How does our mouth move when we say /u/? Our mouth is open and our tongue stays still. This is like the sound that a tugboat makes when its horn is blown.  Everyone practice making the /u/ sound and pulling on your tugboat horn.

2. To practice recognizing the letter u in written text, I will hold up two cards at a time (cards with words cut and cat, duck and dog, tub and sink, and rug and mat). Ask students which word contains the letter u. Hold up one card and as a group say it together, then do the same with the second card. Ask the following questions: Which word has the /u/ sound in it? and Can someone point the letter u in this word? Student’s should raise hand, call on one student.

3. Now I want us to practice saying our funny sentence together. Uncle was upset because he was unable to put his umbrella up. Say together several times. Now I want us to say our tongue twister, but let’s stretch out the /u/: Uuuncle was uuupset because he was uuunable to put his uuumbrella uuup. Pull on your boat horn when you hear the /u/ sound.

4. Draw Elkonin letterbox on the board for teacher use during this portion of the lesson. Make sure that each student has an Elkonin letterbox with his or her own letter tiles. Ask the students to make sure that each student’s tiles on lower-case side up. We are going to practice spelling words with the /u/ sound. Look at the board and notice that I have two boxes drawn—this is for two mouth movies. Right now, I am going to spell the word up. The first box is for the first sound in up, the /u/, which is like our tugboat horn. The second box is for the /p/. Now you are going to practice with the following words: {3} sun, cub, hug, rush, mat; {4} drum, jump; {5} grunt. Make sure that each time the number of phonemes changes that the students are prompted to open their letterbox up by one more box. (A review word should be included.)

5. Write each word from the letterbox lesson on the board one at a time. Model for students how to read a word written on the board. We are going to read the word pup. Let us start with the /u/, next let’s add the /p/--/pu/. Say it together. Now let’s add the last /p/ - /pup/. Our word is pup. Call on one student to read the word, then have the class repeat the word as a group.

6. The students will be placed in pairs to read Bud the Sub. Book talk: Bud is a sub who has an important job to do when a tug gets hit. Can Bud save the tug? We will have to read and find out. Pass out one book per pair of students. The students will take turns reading the book to each other. I will walk around, listen, and observe each pair of students.

7. Write a message about what you would do if you were in charge of a sub. Remember that when we make the letter u that we start at the fence line and draw down to the sidewalk, curve over, and back up to the fence. Now, without lifting your pencil, you should draw a line back down to the sidewalk.  (Children should use invented spelling.)

8. Assessment:

- Students will be provided a picture page where they should circle the pictures with the /u/ sound.

- While students work on the picture page, I will call students up one at a time to assess their reading of Bud the Sub and their understanding of the correspondence u = /u/. I will be using a running record.



Cushman, Sheila. Bud the Sub. Educational Insights: Carson, CA, 1990.

 Murray, B.A. and Lesniak, T. (1999). The Letterbox Lesson: A hands-on approach for teaching decoding. The Reading Teacher, 644-650.

Boshell, Lindsay. Unopened Umbrella.

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