Closing Door E
Michael Kellum
Emergent Literacy

Rationale:  In order for children to learn to spell words, they need the alphabetic insight that letters stand for phonemes and spellings map out the phonemes in spoken words.  But before children can match letters to phonemes, they have to recognize phonemes.  B.  The short vowels are generally the hardest phonemes to identify.  This lesson will help children identify /e/ (short e).  They will learn to recognize /e/ in spoken words by learning a meaningful representation and a letter symbol, and then finding /e/ n words.

Materials:  Primary paper and pencil; chart with “Evelyn wanted everyone to get a wet pet who didn’t sweat, who looked like an elephant”;  class set of cards with e on one side and ? on the other; drawing paper and crayons; Pen Pals (Educational Insights); picture page with bed, jet, wet, fret, crept, swept, test, stress, pet, shed (Modern Curriculum Press Phonics, Level A).

Procedures:  1. A fun way to introduce phonemes and our alphabetic code is to make the children think our language is like a secret code.  So many of our letters look the same but sound different.  In today’s lesson we’re going to work on our decoding skills so that we can spot a very important character in the secret code.  We are going to learn /e/.  /e/ is hard to say because it is hidden a lot, but as you work with it, it will get better.  Move in troops!

2.  Ask students:  Have you ever heard a door closing and say /e/?   Well, today that is the mouth move we are going to be looking for.  Lets pretend that we are closing doors and all you can hear is /e/.  Now say it.  This is great.

3.  Now that you guys think you know what you are doing, are you ready for a challenge?  Lets try a tongue twister!  (Written on chart) “Evelyn wanted everyone to get a wet pet who didn’t sweat, and looked like an elephant.”  Everyone say it three times together.  Now we are going to say some more words with short e.  Try saying the words and dragging out the /e/.  Weeeeeet,   Meeeeeet,  Beeeeet,  Veeeeest…..  Doing great class!

4. (Have students get their primary paper and pencil).  We can use letter e to spell /e/.  Students write it on the paper while I write it on the board.  Draw a horizontal line from left to right in the middle of the fence and the sidewalk.  Go up to the fence and curve around down to the sidewalk, like you are making a lowercase c.  I want to see everybody’s e.  Once I have told you it looks good I want you to draw 9 more.  When you see letter e by itself in a word, that’s when you know to say /e/ like it “beeeeet.”

5. Call on students to answer and tell how they knew to find /e/.  I will model first.  Example “do you hear /e/ in wet or dry?”  Do a few of those, now see if you can spot the mouth moves.  Show me if you hear /e/ or not by writing down either a /e/ or a question mark.

6. Teacher reads Pen Pals and discuss the story.  Read it a second time and have students raise their hands when they hear words that have short e in them.  List all words on the board.  Then have each student draw an elephant and have him or her write a message about it using invented spelling.  Display their work on a class wall.

For assessment, distribute the picture page and help students name each picture.  Ask each student to circle the pictures whose names have /e/.

8. Reference:  Byrne, B., & Fielding-Barnsley, R. (1990).  Acquiring the alphabetic principle:  A case for teaching recognition of phoneme identity.  Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, pages 805-812.; Metsala, L. and L.C. Ehri (Eds.) Word Recognition in Beginning Literacy.  Mahwah, NJ; Erlbaum.

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