Beginning to Read

 umbrella man

Uncle’s Umbrella

Emily Wheeler

Rationale: Recognizing correspondences in words is a trait of a fluent and skillful reader. Reading fluency is an important step toward the improvement of reading comprehension, which is the goal of reading instruction.   In this lesson, students will learn to recognize the u=/u/ correspondence.  This correspondence will be enhanced by spelling and reading words with the /u/ sound.


Student copies of Bud the Sub
Elkonin letterboxes and cutout letters for students
Letters:  a, b, c, d, f, g, j, l, m, p, r, s, t, and u.
Elkonin letterboxes drawn on board
Chalk or white board marker
Primary paper


1.                  Introduce the u=/u/ correspondence and how to spot it in written text. “Today, we are going to work with the letter u in written text.  Can anyone tell me what mouth move is made when we say /u/?  That is right, our mouth is open and our tongue stays still.  Great job!  The /u/ sound is the sound like a foghorn makes. A foghorn is the horn a captain of a boat blows so that other boats will know that they are coming. I want everyone to act like they are tooting their horn. (Show students the arm movement)  Now I want everybody to make the sound /u/.  Good!  Let’s make of words that contain /u/ on the board.  I know a word, bug.  Now I want help from everybody to make our list. Everyone did a great job of thinking of words with the /u/ sound.”

2.                  Use the list of words on the board and have each student come up and underline u in one word on the board.  “Now, I am going to call people up to the board to underline u=/u/ in each word and then read the word.  I will go first, bug, I underlined the u because it makes the /u/ sound and then I say bug.”  I want everyone to have a chance to come up to the board and underline the letter u then say the word.”

3.                  Write the tongue twister, Uncle was upset because he was unable to open up his umbrella, on the board. “Now, we are going to say a tongue twister. I am going to say it, and then I want everyone to repeat it after me.  Uncle was upset because he was unable to open up his umbrella. Now everyone repeat it.   Can anyone raise their hand and tell me a word that has /u/ in it?  Yes!  That is right uncle has the /u/ sound.  Let’s all say uncle and draw the u out uuuuncle.  Great job!  Continue this process until every word has been called out.”

4.                  “Now, let’s play a game. I am going to say several words. If you hear the /u/ sound in them, I want you to raise your hand.   Does everybody understand?  Okay, now let’s play the game.”  List of words may be lug, ran, snug, rung, fun, sat, bump, get, rush, etc.

5.                  Draw Elkonin letterboxes on the board to do letterbox lesson.  Explain that we are going to spell words with /u/ sound using /u/.Have the students get out their own letterboxes and letters to work at their desks. They will need the following letters:  a, b, c, d, f, g, j, l, m, p, r, s, t, and u. Remind the students to turn their letters over to the lower case side.  Remind students that each box holds only one mouth move. ”Watch closely, I am going to spell a word in my letterboxes. I am going to spell the word bump. I have a bump on my head.  I will only use four letterboxes, because there are only four different mouth moves. Listen “b”  “u”  “m”  “p”.  So in the first box I will put a b, in the second I will put a u, in the third I will put an m and in the last box I will put a p.  Now let’s try one as a class.  Let’s use the word bug.  “I hear a bug buzzing in my ear.”  How many boxes will we need for this word?  How many sounds does our mouth make?  Good, three.  What will we put in our first box?  B will go in our first box and then U and then G.  You guys did that wonderfully!”  Now the students will practice spelling the words below in the Elkonin boxes.  Give a sentence with each word. Have the students spell the word and then have a volunteer to come up and spell it on the board.  Inform the students when a letterbox is added. The list should also include some words that have sounds that the students have already learned. The words include:

·        cup -3 letterboxes

·        fun- 3

·        rush-3

·        rag -3 (review word)

·        jump – 4 letterboxes

·        ramp- 4 (review word)

·        club- 4

·        drum- 4

·        smug-4

·        lump- 4

·        clump- 5 letterboxes

6.                  Now, I will write each of the words on the board.  I will have the students read the words orally.  “Class, we are going to read some words that I write on the board.  I want you to raise your hand and then I will call on you to answer” Use the words from the letterbox lesson. If you aren’t sure about a word, just sound out all of the sounds and blend them together. Write the word lump on the board. “To read this word, I would say llll uuu mmm ppp” (uncover the letters one by one while saying the sounds.

7.                  Children will read the book Bud the Sub.  I will do a book talk to get the children interested. This book is about a sub named bud. He is small and one day a tug boat gets hit and the people on board need help.  Do you think bud can save them?  Let's read an find out!  Children get into your reading pairs and each of you read the book to each other.  The teacher will walk around and observe and assist.

8.                  Assessment: I will call some words out to the children and have them write the word that contains the /u/ sound. In what word do you here /u/?  Bud or bed? Duck or cat?  Drum or stick? Thump or hit? Next, I would have the students come up one by one and do a one minute read of Bud the Sub.


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

Lindsay Boshell. Fall 2003. Unopened Umbrella.

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

Randi Lipscomb. Summer 2003. Taking a cruise to u=/u/.

Wallach and Wallach’s Tongue Twisters.

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