Balloons Go Up Up Up in the Sky

Beginning Reading Design

Maria Jackson



It is necessary for beginning readers to be able to recognize that letters map out phonemes in spoken words.  Vowels are often hardest for children to learn.  In this lesson, the children will learn to recognize, spell, and read words that contain the correspondence u = /u/.  This correspondence will be learned by giving the children a meaningful representation and by giving them practice with both written and spoken words that contain u=/u/.


- Word cards with the following words printed on it: duck and dog, bat and but, car and cut, mut and pet, mat and run
- Sentence Strip with Tongue Twister: Up up up went the balloons and Uncle Ugg was upset
- Letterboxes per student
-Large cards with the following words written separately on each: cub, luck, pug, slum, hump, grub, plunk, strut, cat, den, sent, cup
-Letters: a, b, c, d, e, g, h, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, u (per student)
- Chalk or White-board, eraser and marker
- Bud the Sub, by: Sheila Cushman (one per pair of students)
- Primary paper and pencil
- Picture page with the following pictures: bug, bed, duck, car, drum, pen  


1.  Introduce the u = /u/ correspondence and how to spot it in written words. Today we are going to work with the letter u in things we read. (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 we make when we see our balloons going u-u-up in the sky.  Let’s all say the /u/ sound and point up like we are seeing our balloon go uuup uuup uuup in the sky.

2.  To practice recognizing the letter u in written text, I will hold up two cards at a time (cards with words duck and dog, bat and but, car and cut, mut and pet, mat and run written on them). Model for them first showing and saying duck and dog.  “I hear /u/ in duck, not dog. The u is here between the d and the c.  Now you all try!” 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 “Which word has the /u/ sound in it?”  Call on students to answer and point out where they see u in the word

3.  Now I want us to practice saying our silly sentence together. Up up up went the balloons and Uncle Ugg was upset. Say it together several times. Now I want us to say our tongue twister, but let’s stretch out the /u/. Uuup uuup uuup went the balloons and Uuuncle Uuugg was uuupset. Point up when you hear the /u/ sound like you are pointing as your balloons go up up up.

4.  Draw Elkonin letterbox on the board for teacher use during this part of the lesson. Give each student an Elkonin letterbox with his or her own letter tiles. Ask the students to make sure that their tiles are 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)-cub, luck, pug, cat, den  (4)-slum, hump, grub, sent  (5)-plunk, strut.  Make sure that each time the number of phonemes changes that the students are prompted to open their letterbox up by one more box. Review words have also been included in this lesson to review the short vowel correspondences already learned.

6.  Get out the letter box words that have been written on the big cards.  Show students the model word.  We are going to read the word cup. Let us start with the /u/, next let’s add the /c/--/cu/. Say it together. Now let’s add the last /p/ - /cup/. Our word is cup. Call on one student to read the word, and then have the class repeat the word as a group.   Repeat the rest of the words calling on students to sound out the word and then repeat the word as a group.

7.  The students will be placed in pairs to read Bud the Sub. Book talk: Bud is a small submarine and his boss is Gus.  Gus and Bud have fun in the ocean water!  One day a tug boat runs into ice and Bud and Gus go help.  But do you think Bud will be big enough to tow such a large boat?  Read the book to 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.

8.  Write a message about what it would be like to be Bud.  Do you think you could pull the Tug? Remember that when we make the letter u that we start at the fence and draw down to the sidewalk, curve over, and back up to the fence. Now, without lifting your pencil, you should draw a straight line back down to the sidewalk.

9.  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 u = /u/ in print and spoken language. I will be using a running record.

10.  References:

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

Braswell, Jaime.  The Tug Says Uhh!.

Murray, Dr. Bruce. Teaching Letter Recognition.

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