Uhhh. I'm Thinking

Rebecca Schofield



Before children can read and spell words, they must understand that letters stand for phonemes in spoken words. From there, students must then recognize that spellings map out the phoneme sequence in spoken words. Children must recognize phonemes in order to learn correspondences. Phonemic awareness is a prerequisite for phonics knowledge, spelling development, and word recognition, and is a predictor of later reading and spelling achievement (Eldredge p.27). It is crucial for teachers to help their students become phonemically aware. This lesson is designed to teach children to identify the short u, u = /u/, sound. Often, short vowels are the hardest phonemes to understand; by focusing on the short u sound, u =/u/, my goal is to provide my students with a meaningful representation of that sound in hopes that it will make the sound and letter easier for them to recognize in the future



Laminated chart paper with the phrase, "Judd runs and hums until his pup Bud jumps  up"

Dry erase marker

Students will need 3 pieces of  primary paper

      a pencil, and a white sheet of paper

The book The Mutt and the Bug

U letter alphabet cards

Assessment worksheet

Bug stickers


1. Introduce the lesson by explaining that each letter has a sound. When we are talking about letters, you (the class) are supposed to be detectives who are trying to figure out what sounds those letters represent. When we talk, sometimes we make sounds with our lips (/m/), sometimes in the back of our throats (/g/), and sometimes the sounds seem like they are coming from our noses (/ng/)! Today, you are going to work with the letter u and the short u sound, u = /u/. Notice the way your mouth moves as you say /u/. Your lips should stick out very little and your tongue should lie flat in your mouth.


2. Ask students, Has anyone ever asked you a question and you had time sit and think about the answer?  Did you make a sound when you were unsure? allow time for students answers Often I hear students go uuuuuuuuuhhh when they are thinking. Can you make this sound with me and put your pointer finger to your head like you are thinking? This is the sound that we are looking for in words today. Let's see how to spot /u/ in a word. You have to stretch out the word as you say it and look for the sound /u/. Let's try the word bus, b u u u u u u u u s. Great! That is the /u/ sound; the sound in bus is the same sound that is often made while students are thinking when you say uhhhhhh. 


3. Let's try a tongue twister (on chart paper laminated).  Judd runs and hums until his pup Bud jumps up. Everyone say it together now, Judd runs and hums until his pup Bud jumps up. Now let's say it again but make the /u/ sound longer like you do when you are thinking. "Juuuuuuuud ruuuuuuuns and huuuums uuuuuuntil his puuuuuuup Buuuuud juuuuuuuumps uuuuuuuuup." Did everyone hear the /u/ sound like you say when you are thinking? Now lets say it one last time but separate the /u/ sound off each word. J /u/dd r /u/ ns and h /u/ ms /u/ ntil his p /u/ p B/u/ d j /u/ mps /u/. Can someone come up to the board and circle letter U in the first word with a dry erase marker? Repeat this step until all of the u's have been circled. That was great thank you for following directions and being such good listeners. Thank you for being such good listeners and following directions.


4. Now that you all have the short u sound, I want everyone to practice using the letter u to spell /u/. Each of you needs to take out your paper and a pencil. We are going to start with the correct way to write the letter u on your paper. I am going to hand you each a U letter card. I want you to look closely at the way the U looks and is written. Pass out the card and give students time to look at it. (Teacher modeling on board) First we start in the sky and go straight down to the ground, curve around, and straight back up to the sky. This makes a capital U. Have students sky write the letter capital letter U. Now we are going to do the lower case u. Look closely at the card at the little u. (Teacher modeling on board) First we start at the fence, go straight down to the ground, curve around, go straight back up to the fence, and straight back down to the ground. That makes the lowercase u. Have students sky write the lower case u. Now, I want you to make the upper case u on the first two lines and the lower case u on the bottom two lines. Make sure you follow the example on your paper. I will come around and look at your letters. When you have made the letters correctly I will put a bug sticker on your paper. The /u/ sound and letter u are in the word BUG!

*Providing the students with a tactile experience by making letters in shaving cream, sand, and salt can help further ingrain the formation of a letter into their memory bank. This is a good idea for a center activity.


 5. Ok now I want you to all turn on your listening ears and get your hands ready to clap. Lets clap three times. 1-2-3 Good! First, I want you to listen close to this sentence: My stubby uncle said my dog was an ugly mutt but not to be upset. I want you to clap when you hear the /u/ sound in the beginning of the word. Repeat (students should clap when the words uncle, ugly, and upset are said). Ok great! Now, I want you to clap when you hear the /u/ sound in the middle of the word. Repeat sentence (students should raise their hand when the words stubby, mutt, and but are said). Perfect! Finally, I want you to clap when you hear /u/ in any position (students should clap when the words stubby, uncle, ugly, mutt, but, and upset are said). Now I am going to say some words and I want you to raise your hand when the words rhyme. Read the following pairs of words.

                pup/cup  rub/rob  run/fun  truck/crack   cut/hut   gum/bum

Students should raise their hands when pup/cup, run/fun, cut/hut, and gum/bum are said. Excellent!


6. We are going to read a book called The Mutt and the Bug. This book is about a bug that is looking for a friend to play with. The little bug first wants to play with the mutt, but the mutt is mean. Do you think the bug will ever find a friend to play with? We will have to read this book to find out! Read the story aloud and discuss it with the students. Reread the story and have the students put their pointer finger to their head (like they are thinking) when they hear the /u/ sound. *This will tie in the uuuhhh· I am thinking.  Write the /u/ words on the board. Thanks for listening so closely! Now I am going to pass out some paper and I want you to write and illustrate a story about what you like to do when you play with your friends. The students should write using invented spelling. Let a few children share their stories and illustrations with the classroom. Display all of the students' work.


I am going to pass out a worksheet. I am going to read the words to you when you hear the /u/ sound, I want you to circle the word. Then I want you to write the circled words on your paper.




Eldredge, J. Teaching Decoding in the Holistic Classrooms. Prentice Hall Inc., 1995. p. 27

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