“Ou” That Hurt!

Beginning Reading Design

Jamie Sanford

A very important component of learning how to read is being able to identify words.  One simple technique that teaches children how to blend letters together in a manner that makes it easy for them to decode written words is body-coda blending.  This lesson will focus on words with the ou phoneme.  Students will learn to use body-coda blending so that they can easily decode less familiar words.  Then, they will practice this skill during a Letter Box Lesson.

    Class set of plastic or laminated paper lowercase letters (there should be multiple copies of each letter for all students); Elkonin boxes (at least 5 boxes per student); book:  If You Take A Mouse To School by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond, published by Scholastic © 2002; overhead projector.


  1. Introduce the lesson by explaining that in order to read words, we first need to learn how to identify them.  One way to do this is by breaking the words apart.  Today we’re going to practice this skill with ou words. 
  2. Ask students:  Have you ever bumped you arm and yelled “Ou, that really hurt!”  Say that with me /ou/.  Whenever you see ou together it makes the /ou/ I heart my arm sound.  Those 2 letters make up just 1 phoneme or sound. 
  3. Let’s try a tongue twister.  “Mouse’s blouse blew over his house but with a bounce and a pounce he caught it.”  Everyone say it 3 times together.  Now say it again, and this time, stretch the /ou/ that you hear in the words.  “Mououse’s blououse blew over his hououse but with a bouounce and a pouounce he caught it.”  Try it again and this time let’s break the part with the /ou/ off of the rest of the word.  /Mou/ se’s /blou/ se blew over his /hou/ se but with a /bou/ nce and a /pou/ nce he caught it.
  4. [Have students take out Elkonin boxes and the following letters:  (b, c, d, e, f, h, l, n , o, p, s, t, u).  [Note:  you will need the letters:  (d, n, o, r, u) so that you can model the word round on the overhead in the next step.]  The correspondence that will be taught during this lesson is ou=/ow/.  The word list, including the number of phonemes in each word, is as follows:  2:  [ouch], 3:  [house, stop], 4:  [bounce, found, cloud].  Say to the students:  I’m going to tell you a word and I want you to put the appropriate letters in the boxes for each of the phonemes or sounds that you hear.  Go through the list giving a sentence with each of the words.  For example, house—I will go to Tommy’s house after school—house.  Walk around and observe before moving on to the next word on the list.
  5. Once you have gone through the list of words, have students put their Elkolin boxes away.  Say to the students:  Now I’m going to show you how to break  words apart so that you can read them when you see them in books.  (Model body-coda blending on overhead projector).  Take out letters for word round.  Say to the students:  Say I come to this word in a book and don’t know how to read it.  First I look at the vowel in the middle ou (push letters ou above the other letters).  That looks familiar, ou, oh yeah, it’s the “Ou I hurt my arm sound.”  Let’s add r to the beginning.  Rou, not quite a word yet.  Now let’s add the nd to the end.  Rou-nd.  Oh, round, like I saw a big round balloon in the sky.  
  6. Go through the word list and have students use body-coda blending to tell you the word.  You might call on students or ask them as a group.
  7. Read If You Take a Mouse to School and talk about the story.  Read it again and have the students raise their hands when they hear words with /ou/.   List their words on the board and have them come up with more words.  Have students raise their hands and call on them to read the words using body-coda blending.  Have students pick an ou word from the book, draw a picture and write a message using invented spelling.
  8. For assessment, the teacher can make an ou word using letter manipulatives and have each child use body-coda blending to read the word.   [Be sure to devise a possible word list and gather all of the letters before starting this assessment]. 


For more information on how to teach body-coda blending refer to the Reading Genie website:

 For more information on how to teach a Letter Box Lesson refer to the Reading Genie website:

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