E-e-e-e-e? Can’t Hear You Sonny!

Beginning Reading Lesson

By Kristin Herren



In order to become successful readers, students need to understand phonemes and develop phoneme awareness.  This goal is best achieved through explicit instruction in the classroom.  This instruction will allow them to better understand that written words are made of sounds and those sounds are phonemes that are mapped onto letters.  They also need to know the correspondences associated with the phonemes.  The easiest phonemes to teach beginning readers are short vowels because they are commonly heard and are found in all words.  Through this lesson, students will review e=/e/ and practice the vocal gesture associated with that phoneme through a series of exercises.  They will use letterboxes to write and read /e/ words.



·       Chart with tongue twister “Ned fed Ed red eggs and he fled the shed” on it.

·       Letter Manipulatives in baggies

·       Letterboxes (Elkonin boxes)

·       Large manipulatives and letterbox

·       Multiple copies of the book Pen Pals by Shelia Cushman.  Educational Insights.  1990.

·       Worksheet with /e/ pictures on it (pen, bed, cat, shed, dog, pig, egg, and can)



1.  This lesson would start by explaining to the class that reading words is mapping sounds (phonemes) to letters.  The /e/ sound one of the sounds that the letter “e” makes and we call that short e.  To help us remember this sound, think of your old aunt or grandmother that is old and cannot hear very well.  She might say /e/ or make the short e sound, like this (model for the class).  Let’s practice that sound together and when we say it, cup your hand behind your ear like this like you are trying really hard to hear me.  Ready. Good Job.  Let’s keep practicing when we say our tongue twister “Ned fed Ed red eggs and he fled to the shed.”


2. Now practice words with the students that have /e/.  Ask them to name words that they think have that sound and write them on the board.  “Now that you have given me some words, lets practice some more.  Take out your letterboxes and the letters in your baggies.  We are spelling some short e words using these letterboxes like we have in the past.  Remember to put only one sound in each box, like this (modeling the correct way on the board with large manipulatives).  Let’s practice one together.  Everyone spell bed ([b][e][d]).”  As the students are spelling the words, the teacher would walk around and check to see that each child has spelled the word correctly and correctly scaffold those who have not.  Have students keep spelling words.  Start with 3 phoneme words like, bell, den, end, and fed and then move on to 4 phoneme words like fled, send, and rest. 

3. Then have the students read the words that they just spelled.  “Now I am going to spell the words that you spelled earlier and I want you to read them to me.  Ready.”  Then spell the words that the students spelled.  You might want to do them in a different order for a challenge.  As the read the words, make sure that they recognize the /e/ in the words and that they have grasped the concept. 


4.  Next, have the students read Pen Pals to reinforce the learned correspondence.  You can read the book as whole group or in small groups.  I would have them read in small groups so that you can better check for miscues by just listening or by keeping a running record. 


5. For assessment for the lesson, you could give the students a worksheet with words on it, some with /e/ and some with other correspondences (pen, bed, cat, shed, dog, pig, egg, can).  Have the students circle or color the pictures that have /e/ in the words and leave the others alone.  Use this worksheet to check for mistakes and see if further instruction is needed or if the students are ready to move on to the next correspondence. 



 Murray, Bruce and Lesniak, T. “The Letterbox Lesson: A Hands-On Approach to Teaching Decoding.” The Reading Teacher. Volume 52, 1999.


Eldridge, J. Lloyd.  Teaching Decoding in the Holistic Classroom.  Pg. 23-31

Ludlum, Anna. “E-e-e-e-eggs in Be-e-ed???????” 


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