Kristin Acuff

Emergent Literacy Lesson Design

Juggling Bugs


Rationale: Recognition of phonemes in a word is an important step in learning to read.  Children must understand that each letter of the alphabet represents a phoneme and that the spellings of phonemes are mapped out in words.  They must learn to recognize phonemes in spoken language as well.  This lesson will help students identify the short u sound (u = /u/).  Students will learn to recognize /u/ in spoken words by learning a meaningful representation and a letter symbol, and then practice finding /u/ in spoken words.


Materials: primary paper and pencil; chart with "Three bugs juggled plums under an umbrella;" class set of flash cards with a picture of a bug on one side and an X on the other; drawing paper and crayons; book that incorporates /u/, Fuzz and the Buzz by Sheila Cushman; picture page with illustrations of bug, nut, bed, plum, tub, sun, pan, cup, rug, & pig.



  1. Introduce the lesson by explaining that each letter of the alphabet has its own special sound as well as its own special way of being spoken by moving our mouth a certain way.  Then ask the students if they know how to write the letter u and if they know what sounds it makes.  "Today we are going to learn about the letter u.  The letter u has two different sounds, just like all the other vowels, a long sound and a short sound.  The short u makes the /u/ sound.  Today we are going to be looking for /u/ in all kinds of words."
  2. Ask students: "Does anyone know what a foghorn is?  Tugboats sound a foghorn to warn other boats that they are coming through the fog.  It makes the /u/ sound."  Model for them how to do the pulling of the foghorn motion while saying /u/, then ask them to do the same.  "That is the sound we will be looking for in words today.  As I say bug, listen for the /u/.  bbb-u-u-u-u-u-u-gg.  When you find a word with the /u/ sound in it, I want you all to do the foghorn motions with your arms, like we just did."
  3. "Now let's try a tongue twister (on chart).  'Three bugs juggled plums under an umbrella.'  Good job!  Let's all say it together again, only this time, let's stretch out the /u/ sound in the words—and don't forget to sound your foghorns!  'Three  b-u-u-u-u-gs  j-u-u-u-u-ggled  pl-u-u-u-u-ms  u-u-u-u-nder  an  u-u-u-u-mbrella.'  Great!  Let's try it one more time, but this time we are going to break off the /u/ from the words.  'Three  b /u/ gs  j /u/ ggled  pl /u/ ms  /u/ nder  an  /u/ mbrella.'  Nice job!"
  4. Have students take out primary paper and pencil.  The teacher will model every step of the letter making process as it comes.  "The letter u represents /u/.  Let's write it.  Start at the fence, draw straight down to the sidewalk, curve over, and back up to the sidewalk; now, without lifting your pencil, draw straight back down to the sidewalk.  I am going to walk around to see everyone's u.  After I put a sticker on your paper I want you to write a whole row of u's just like the one we wrote together.  Don't forget—when you see the letter u in a word, that means it makes the foghorn sound (/u/)."
  5. Pass out flash cards to students.  "I am going to say some words one at a time.  If you hear /u/ in a word show me the side of the card with the bug on it; if you don't hear /u/ in a word then show me the side of the card with the X on it."  Say words one at a time: bug, nut, bed, plum, tub, sun, pan, cup, rug, & pig.
  6. Read Fuzz and the Buzz aloud to students and talk about the story.  Read it again stretching out the /u/ in words, each time having the students do the foghorn motion.  After reading the story a second time, list all the words in the story that have the /u/ sound in them on the board.  Finally, have the students draw and color a picture to illustrate the story and write a short message to go along with it (they may use inventive spellings).
  7. For assessment, the teacher will help the students identify the names of images on a picture sheet.  The students will circle the pictures with the /u/ sound and then use inventive spellings to write the names of the circled pictures.



Adams, Marilyn-Jager. (1990). Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning About Print. Center for the Study of Reading and The Reading Research and Education Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Pg. 12.

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