Elmer the Elephant

Reagan Ellenburg
Beginning Reader


Rationale: In order for children to become skillful readers, they must have a strong understanding of phonemes. Short vowels are among the first letter sound correspondences to be taught in beginning reading. This lesson is designed to help students recognize e=/e/ in written and spoken words. Students will also learn to read and spell words with e=/e/ through practice with a letterbox lesson, and by reading a new book.



Letterboxes: set of 3, 4, and 5 for each student and for the teacher
Letterbox letters for each student and teacher: (e, a, t, n, b, d, w, r, s, l, t, h, p, s,)
Overhead projector
Picture of door opening
Poster with tongue twister: Elmer the elephant enjoys eggs every morning in the excellent elevator.
Primary paper

Copy of Red Gets Red for each student
Worksheet of pictures for assessment (pictures of two choices, which one has the e = /e/ sound in it: egg or bacon, bed or pillow, elephant or gorilla, elf or sleigh).



1. Begin by showing the students the letter e on the overhead projector.  Can anyone tell me what letter this is? Does anyone know what sound this letter makes? Very good! This letter sounds like a squeaky door. Now let’s look at this picture of an old door opening (place on overhead) and imagine the sound it makes while opening. Model the sound for the students while stretching the e = /e/ sound out. Have the class repeat it after me.


2. Next, I will show the students the tongue twister on the projector. Now, I am going to read this silly sentence and want you to listen carefully because I want you to repeat it after me. I will then read the sentence stretching out the e and opening an imaginary door.  Now it’s your turn, read the sentence opening your door. Tongue twister: Elmer the elephant enjoys eggs every morning in the excellent elevator.

3. Next, I am going to say some words and I want each of you to listen for the special e sound in the words.  I will read both words and then call on good listeners who raise their hands to tell me which word has the creaky door sound in it.

Words: Bed or Floor

Blue or Red

          Worst or Best

          Head or Toes

Raise your hand if you can tell me a word that has the e=/e/ sound in it. I will repeat the word and we will say it as a class together. 

4. We are now going to use our letterboxes to practice spelling words with the e sound. Everyone take out their letterboxes and all the lower case letters. Watch me as I show an example of how to use our letterboxes. I have placed three boxes on the overhead, so this means that there are going to be three sounds in my word. This also means that our mouths are only going to move three times to say this word. Here is the first word… bed.

       Let's see I hear /e/ first, what letter makes that sound? e. So e goes in the middle letterbox. Next I hear the /b/ sound at the beginning so the letter b goes in my first letterbox.      
       Last, I hear /d/ at the end so, what letter makes that sound? d. Good job!

      I want you to use the letters you have in front of you to spell the following words. Everyone open his or her boxes to three squares. The words are ten, web, pen, red (I will say a sentence with each word and place the word on the overhead for everyone to check their spellings after giving them sufficient time after each word to spell). Let’s also try a couple of review words: sat, sand. Next let’s try our four letter words: sled, test, help, dress. Last let’s try a big word with five different sounds, blend. Great job everyone on all of your spellings!

5. Using the overhead, I will spell some of the letters they previously spelled, and allow them to read them. I will pay close attention to each student to assess whether or not the child is able to read each word.  If a child cannot read a word, I will use body-coda blending to facilitate reading.  For example, “For the word ten, I first would start with /e/, then add the /t//e/-/n/, and finally add the end of the word /te/n/- /ten/.” Read it with me. Great Job! 

6. Next, I will introduce the decodable text: “Red Gets Fed.”  Have you ever had a pet that liked to beg to eat and get fed lots and lots?  Well in this book, Red the dog begs everyone in his family for food.  Let's read to see if he gets fed. Have the children break up into groups to read “Red Gets Fed”. The students will take turns reading to each other while I walk around and listen to them read. I will watch each child in the room read a page and take notes as they read.

7. Finally, we are going to write a message about Elmer the elephant, whose favorite color is red.  I want you to make up a sentence about why red is Elmer’s favorite color.  Remember (model on overhead), this is how we write our /e/. They can use inventive spelling to write the words.

Assessment: As I go around hearing and noting miscues of each student reading, I will be able to check each child’s reading level by anecdotal notes that I will collaborate throughout the semester to check reading progress.  The students will be given a worksheet with pictures on it, some containing the e = /e/ sound in them.  The goal will be to circle the picture that contains this sound. After they have circled the picture they will write the word of the picture under it to practice writing the lowercase e.  After they have written the word on paper, they will then spell the words into their individual letterboxes.


Murray, B.A., and Lesniak, T. (1999) The Letterbox Lesson: A hands on approach for teaching decoding.  The Reading Teacher, 52, 644-650.

Clark, Kathryne. “Can You Open the Creaky Door” http://www.auburn.edu/%7Emurraba/invent/clarkbr.html

Cushman, Sheila. Red Gets Fed. Educational Insights: Carson, CA. 1990. 

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