Kristin Acuff

Beginning Reader Lesson Design

What Do Seals Eat?


Rationale: For children to comprehend what they are reading they must become fluent readers.  In order for a child to become a fluent reader, he or she must learn to decode many different correspondences.  In this lesson, the children will learn to recognize the ea=/E/ correspondence in spoken and written words through a group letterbox lesson, reading a book, and a writing activity.  "Children need a word identification strategy to help them when their word recognition skills are limited" (Eldredge, pg.107).


Materials: chalkboard & chalk; Elkonin letterboxes for each student; laminated letters a, c, e, h, k, l, m, p, r, s, & t for each student; class set of the book What Will the Seal Eat? by Sheila Cushman and Rona Kornblum; list of pseudowords on chart: splear, inteaf, jeading, preather, geafing, kreath, reabes, & feack.



  1. The teacher will review with the class what correspondence(s) they have been working on before going on to the next.  "We have been learning all about the letter e and the sounds it makes.  It makes the short e sound, (e=/e/), and it also makes the long e sound, where it says its name, (ea=/E/ or ee=/E/)."
  2. The teacher will continue with the new correspondence to be learned. "So far, you all have learned one way the letter e says its name--when there are two e's together in a word.  Another way the e says its name is when it is followed by the letter a."  The teacher will write ea on the board.  "When you see an e with an a right behind it, you only hear the first vowel, the e, and the a acts like a silent letter, you don't hear it at all."
  3. Pointing to the ea written on the board, the teacher will say, "When I see these two letters together, I am going to know that they make the /E/ sound.  For example, if I write this word on the board (write the word hear), I'm going to look at it and think, 'Hmm, I see that this word has an e and an a together.  I know that those two together say /E/, so I can say /h/ /E/ /r/--hear!"  Model cover-ups while thinking aloud.  "What if I see this word?  (Write the word seat.)  Let's see, ea says /E/, so /s/ /E/ /t/ -- seat!"
  4. Have the students practice sounding out words written on the board: eat, flea, and cream.
  5. "Okay, now I would like for everyone to get out their letterboxes.  The letters that I have written on the board are the only letters you need to get out, because these are the only letters we are going to work with today.  Okay, I am going to say some words one at a time and I want you to really think about how they are spelled, then I want you to spell the word in your letterboxes.  I will do the first one with you all.  The first word only needs two boxes; it is tea.  /t/ /E/.  Remember that the e and the a go in one box because they only make one sound when they are next to each other in a word."  The teacher will only model this one time, then repeat the process (telling the students how many boxes each word needs and sounding out each word so every phoneme is enunciated) without modeling with the words: ear (2), seat (3), team (3) hear (3), seal (3), smear (4), speak (4), & scream (5).
  6. Next, the students will practice reading with each other in pairs.  They will take turns reading one page at a time.  "You all are going to read this book.  It is a book about a little seal who is looking for something to eat.  You will have to read the story to find out what seals eat.  Now I want everyone to get with their reading buddies and spread out around the room.  I want you to buddy read with each other, where you take turns reading each page.  Okay, get started."


Assessment: The teacher will have individual students read pseudowords with the ea=/E/ correspondence in them (splear, inteaf, jeading, preather, geafing, kreath, reabes, & feack).



Cushman, Sheila and Rona Kornblum. (1990). What Will the Seal Eat?. Carson, CA: Educational Insights.

Eldredge, J. Lloyd. (1995). Teaching Decoding in Holistic ClassroomsEnglewood Cliffs, NJ: Merrill. Page 107.

Jordan, Caroline. "Seals Eat What?"

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