Lyndsay Stegmann

Beginning to Read

We All Scream for Ice Cream!


Rational:  As teachers of reading our goal is for our students to be independent, fluent readers.  To do this we must explicitly teach them a number of frequently seen correspondences.  In this lesson the students will review the correspondence ee=/E/ and they will learn that ea is another way to make the /E/ sound (ea=/E/).  The goal of this lesson is for my students to be able to pronounce and identify /E/ when they see ea, and that they will be able to read words that include the ea correspondence.


Materials: Elkonin letterboxes (Murray) (for each pair of students), cut out letters (a set for each pair of students), Letterbox worksheet, pencils, chalkboard, chalk, student copies of Tea for Three.



  1. Begin by reviewing the ee correspondence.  Have students think of words that have ee in them.  As they recall words with this correspondence write them on the board.  If you need to help get them started with "seed."
  2. Then discuss the /E/ phoneme.  Tell students (or remind them) that there is more than one-way to make the /E/ sound.  Have students brainstorm words that they hear the /E/ sound in and write them on the board as they say them.  If they do not come up with any that have ea in them throw in a few (i.e. neat, fleet).
  3. Underline the graphemes in each of the words that create the /E/ phoneme.
  4. Write this tongue twister on the board "I scream you scream we all scream for ice cream."  Say it together as a class (make sure to emphasize the /E/ as you say it).  Ask students, "Did you all hear the /E/ sound in the sentence?  Let's say it again together and this time keep track of how many times you hear the /E/ sound."  As a class repeat the tongue twister.  Then ask, "How many did you hear the /E/ sound?"  Wait for the right answer.  Underline the words as students call them out.
  5. Explain that ea works together to make the /E/ sound just like the ee.  Have students say the tongue twister again at different speeds, start slow and gradually get faster. This with be a fun way for them to have practice saying the /E/ sound.
  6. Draw Elkonin letterboxes on the board to do a class letterbox lesson. (Murray)  Explain to the class that we will be doing a lesson that includes words with the ee correspondence as well as the ea correspondence.  This is a good way for students to review and have practice deciphering between the two correspondences.
    1. Have pairs of students get out their letterboxes and letters.  Have them get out the letters t, ee, ea, a, b, f, l, n, s, d, c, r, m and turn them to the lowercase side.
    2. Ask students, "If two letters work together to make one sound do they go in one box or two?"  Make sure all students answer one!  Do an example word: tree.  "That is apple tree."  Demonstrate by putting the t in the first box, the r in the second box, and the ee in the third box.
    3. Tell students that just as the ee works together to make the /E/ sound the ea works the same way.  Example word: beat. "I beat my brother in soccer."  Demonstrate by putting the b in the first box, the ea in the second box, and the t in the third box.
    4. In pairs(one more advanced reader with one struggling (poorer) reader), have students work with the letterboxes to spell out the words in the word list below.  Make sure to give a sentence with each word because some of these words could be spelled with both correspondences (i.e. tea or tee). Have the pairs of students spell each word, and then call on a pair to tell which letter/letters go in each box as the teacher write it on the board.
Review words: see, keep, cheep

·tea, eat ­2 boxes

·flea, neat, seat, team ­ 3 boxes

·dream, treat - 4 boxes

·scream- 5 boxes

              *Make sure students know when to add a letterbox!


8.Assessment: Have students independently fill in a letterbox worksheet (see attached copy).  As you call out the words below use them in a sentence!  Remind them again that if to letters work together to make one sound they go in the same box!


1. pea 2. sea (2 letterboxes)

3. peak  4. meat  5. seat  6. beam (3 letterboxes)

7. bleak 8.cream (four letterboxes)

9. stream (five letterboxes)

9.Have students read Tea for Three (they will read with the partner they worked with on the letterboxes).  Ask students, "What are some thing to remember when we buddy read?"  These things include such things as strategies to use when we are stuck on a word and so forth.  This is a good time for the teacher to go around the room and listen to different children as the read aloud.  As the children read the book have them make a list of words with the ee correspondence and a list of the words with the ea correspondence.  Have the children write down a prediction as they read and have them write a few sentences about if their prediction was right.




Murray, B.A., & Lesniak, T. (1999). The letterbox lesson: A hands-on approach to teaching decoding. The Reading Teacher, March 1999. Pp. 644-650.


Marilyn Jager Adams (1990). Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning About Print, A Summary by Steven A. Stahl, Jean Osborn, and Fran Lehr.  Urbana, IL: Center for the Study of Reading.


Hill, Tonya. (2002). "The Rain in Spain Stays Mainly in the Plains"


Click here to return to Elucidations

For further information send E-Mail to: