''Uuuuuuuuhhhhh? I Don't Understand''

Beginning Reading Lesson Plan

By: Maribeth Ward



Having an understanding of the alphabetic code and of small units of sound is the starting point for learning to read words and spell them correctly. Letters represent these small units of sound, or phonemes. One must understand what phonemes sound like in spoken words in order to understand what they look like in writing. In teaching phonemes, one should start with the short vowel sounds, because these are the hardest to pick out. This lesson will help children identify the short a phoneme, /u/. They will learn how /u/ sounds in spoken words, and be able to connect this sound to a meaningful representation and a letter symbol. They will also practice identifying /u/ in written words.


 - Picture of a man scratching his head to hand out to students.

- A printed out copy of the picture to display on overhead projector.

- Letter boxes - one for each student

- Letter manipulatives: one set for teacher and each student -(b,c,d,e,g,h,j,k,l,m,n,p,p,,s,t,u).

- Primary paper

- Pencils - enough for everyone

- Chart Paper with the sentence - ''Uncle was upset because he was unable to put his umbrella up.''

- Bud the Sub - one copy per every two students.


 1. The first thing that we will do is to review a, e, i, and o sounds before learning the u sound. I will hold up a picture that represents each of these sounds, and the letter representative that goes along with it. I will also write the letters on the board, and get the students to come up with example words for each letter. After reviewing, I will display the picture of man scratching his head that includes a representative of the letter u on the overhead projector, and we will talk about what sound the man is probably making. After modeling the /u/ sound and the gesture of scratching my head, we will all scratch our heads together and make the ''uuuhhh'' sound. I will then tell the children that this sound represents the letter u and its short vowel sound is /u/.  We will then practice it together as a class for several minutes until all of the children seem to be able to say it together. I will then say that this sound is spelled with a ''u.'' I will demonstrate how to spell the letter on the board saying, ''down, curve up, and straight down for a stem.'' I will then pass out primary paper to each student, and I will talk them through how to say it again. I will walk around and check their work as they write it ten times in a row.

 2. Next, I'll introduce a tongue twister for the class to practice saying to help them use the phoneme. The chart paper with the example sentence on it will be displayed on the board and then I'll read it slowly so that all of the children can hear it clearly. ''Uncle was upset because he was unable to put his umbrella up.''  After I say it aloud, the students and I will say it together twice. Then we will say it over again very slowly, stretching out the /u/ sound every time we hear it: ''Uuuuncle was uuuupset because he was uuuunable to puuuut his uuuumbrella uuuup.''  We will say the tongue twister again, and add the gesture of scratching the head while making the /u/ sound

3. After the tongue twister I will help the students find the /u/ sound in several different spoken words. The students will listen as I say two words: ''under'' and ''over''. After they hear the words, they will have to tell me which of the two words contains the /u/ sound in it. The students must listen to see if they can hear it on their own. Then I will tell the students that I hear the /u/ sound in uuuunder, not over. I will be sure to stretch out the /u/ sound when giving the answer to the students. I will then ask if the students if they hear the /u/ sound in the following words: Up or down? Stuck or slap? Undo or redo? Brush or comb? Hug or kiss? Run or walk? Budge or bridge?

 4.  Before giving out the letter boxes and letters, I will model how to hear and correctly spell the sounds in each word in our exercise. I will then show them three boxes and say that each colored box will represent a different sound I hear.  My word will be ''bud'' and I will start by saying it once and then slowly stretching it out listening to the different sounds my mouth will make as I say the word ''bud.'' I will then show them how to place each letter in each of the three letter boxes. I will start with ''bbbbud,'' and I hear the /b/ sound in bud so I will model putting the b in the first box. Now let's listen for the next sound, buuuud. There is the /u/ sound that we have been talking about, which means that there is the letter u in that part of the word. I will then put a ''u'' in the second box of the letterboxes.  Now let's listen for that last sound in budddd. That sound is the letter ''d'', so I will model by putting the letter ''d'' in the third box. Last, I will remove the boxes and then read the word ''bud'' aloud to the students. They will repeat saying the word two times after I say it.

 5.  I will give the students their letterboxes and letters.  I will read them the following words slowly, one at a time, and then check to see that each group of students fully understands by watching them place the different letters for each word in their letterboxes. The words will be: up, get, mud, sub, hat, spud, club, junk, cash, plump, stunt, trunk.

 6. After completing the letterbox practice, I will check for the students' understanding by seeing if they can read the words that they had just spelled out in their letterboxes, but this time they will spell them without the letterboxes.  I will write each word on the board and encourage the students to sound out each phoneme and read the word. I will randomly call on students to read the words.

 7. Next, I will give each studetnt the book, Bud the Sub.  I will tell them about the book and try to give them interested in reading it by giving a book talk. Students will each have a book, and a partner to read to. They will take turns reading their books to one another.  If they finish early, they can read the book again for extra practice.

 8. After they have all read the book at least one time, I will hand out more primary paper so that the students can write a creative message about an ''Ugly Umbrella.'' They will make up a story about an ugly umbrella trying to use words that include the /u/ sound their own invented spellings. They should write at least five sentences for this creative message.


Each student will read their stories aloud to the class. They will be required to list the words that contain the /u/ sound.


- Educational Insights. Bud the Sub. 1990.

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

- Winton, Cortney. Uuhh ... What? http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/navig/wintonbr.html

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