E-e-e-e-eh... what did you say?

Beginning Reading
Elizabeth Bush

Rationale:  In order to read and spell words, children must have the knowledge of the alphabetic principle, the idea that letters represent phonemes and spellings map out phonemes in spoken words.  Knowledge of letter-sound correspondences must be present in order for children to successfully decode words and have future reading success.  Furthermore, being able to decode words with appropriate speed and ease is essential for fluent reading.  Short vowels are among the first letter-sound correspondences taught in beginning reading instruction.  The most difficult phonemes for children to recognize are vowels. This lesson is aimed at helping children identify the correspondence e = /e/.  Children will learn the sound that short e makes by learning a meaningful representation, and they will learn to identify /e/ in spoken words.  In addition, children will learn to spell and read words with the e = /e/ correspondence through the use of a letterbox lesson and by reading a new book.


Materials: dry erase board, markers for board, sentence strip with tongue twister on it (Ed fed the elephant eggs), primary paper, pencils, a copy of the decodable book, Red Gets Fed, for every student, Elkonin boxes for every student, letter manipulatives for every student ( p, e, n, r, d, b, t, l, l, m, s, f, c), Elkonin boxes with magnets on back to put on board, letter manipulatives with velcro and magnets to put on board (p, e, a, g  n, r, d, b, t, l, l, m, s, f ,c), and worksheet of pictures for assessment (click here)


  1. Introduce the lesson by explaining to the students that they are going to learn about the letter i and its corresponding sound.  "We are going to learn e = /e/.  The letter e is a vowel that we see in many words.  I am sure that you remember the other vowel that we learned, a.  Do you know why the letter e is so important?  We find e in so many words like red, best, and pet.  Today, we are going to learn how to spell and read words that have e = /e/."
  2. Show children a gesture for remembering e= /e/.  "Have you ever noticed that when someone is hard of hearing and they don’t always hear what you say. What sound do they make when they put their hand to their ear when they didn’t hear you? Right, they make the /e/ sound as they hold their hand to their ear.  Well, to remember the /e/ sound, I want you to make this motion with your hands.  (Model putting your hand behind your ear and say /e/. Now, y’all try it.)  Great! 
  3.  Practice finding /e/ in spoken words.  "I want you to practice finding /e/ in spoken words.  Let’s do the first one together. Do you hear /e/ in bed or bath? (model: Let’s sound it out using our gesture.  bbbeeeddd or bbaaaath. I hear /e/ in bed.) Now your turn: Do you hear /e/ in cast or restelephant or lionset or sat? Very good!"
  4.  Have children direct their attention to the tongue-twister chart.  "To practice our /e/ sound, let's say a tongue-twister. I am going to write the tongue-twister on they board, and every time you hear /e/ in a word, I want you to put your hand behind your ear like you didn’t hear what someone said." (Model the tongue-twister and get the students to repeat. Ed fed the elephant eggs.)  Let's say it again, but this time, I want you to really stretch out the /e/ in each word. (For example, I would say Eeeeed for Ed.) Let’s say the whole sentence together.  Eeeed feeeed the eeeelephant eeeeggs.  Did everyone hear the /e/ sound?  Great!"
  5.  “Now I want you to get out your boxes and letter.  We are going to spell some words.  Remember only one mouth move goes in each box.”  I will first model how to put each letter sound in the box and then give the students different words to put practice on their own.  “Okay, for the word ten I am going to put each letter/sound, mouth move, in one letterbox. /t/ /e/ /n/. I am going to put the  /t/ sound in the first box, tttteee, the /e/ sound in the second box, ttteeennn, and the /n/ sound in the third box. Now I want you to try it.”  2-[Ed, at], 3-[pen, bag, red], 4-[best, smell, left] 5-[slept, spend, craft].  Remember to put each word with a sentence. Monitor the students to make sure they are putting the correct letters in the boxes.  If they spell the word wrong read it the way they spelled it and see if they can correct it on their own.  If not then provide the word by modeling an explaining the correct spelling.
  6.  After spelling all of the words, have students read the words as the teacher spells them.  "I am going to use my large letters to spell the words, and you will read them."  The teacher should 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, the teacher should use body-coda blending to facilitate reading.  For example, “For the word pen, I first would start with /e/, then add the /p//e/-/pe/, and finally add the end of the word /pe/n/- /pen/.” Read it with me. Great Job!
  7. Read Red Gets Fed: “Now, we are going to read a book and listen for the /e/ sound.  We are going to read Red Gets Fed.  This is Red and he is Meg’s dog.  Red is always hungry. Red will go lick Meg to try to wake her up to get some food, and then he will be sneaky and try to wake up the rest of the family. But, you will have to read to find out if Red gets fed.
  8. Give the students the following topic to write a message about. “If you could have any animal as a pet what would it be and why? What would you name it? Why?

Assessment: For assessment, each child should individually come up to the teacher's desk. I will have worksheet with pictures of words on it.  I will tell the students to “Circle all of the pictures that show words containing /e/."  For other assessment, the teacher could have each student individually read Red Gets Fed.  I will take a running record of the student's miscues.  


      Eldredge, J. Lloyd, Teaching Decoding in Holistic Classrooms. Upper Saddle River, NJ. 1995.

      Murray, B.A., and Lesniak, T. (1999) The Letterbox Lesson:  A hands-on  approach for teaching decoding. 
Reading Teacher, 52, 644-656.

      Red Gets Fed. Phonics Readers Short Vowels. Educational Insights, 1990.

            http://www.auburn.edu/rdggenie/connect/tippettbr.html “Let’s Help the E  Out!”
                        by Dorsey Tippett.

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