Red Gets Fed

Beginning Reading Lesson Design

Haley Davis

There are prerequisites to becoming a fluent reader. One being children must have the knowledge of the alphabetic principle, or the idea that letters represent phonemes and spellings map out phonemes in spoken words.  Another prerequisite is knowledge of letter-sound correspondences. This allows children to be successful in decoding words. Another is being able to decode words with appropriate speed and ease.  Short vowels are one of the first letter-sound correspondences taught in beginning reading instruction.  This lesson is aimed at helping children identify the correspondence e = /e/.  Children will learn the sound that makes by learning a meaningful representation, and they will learn to identify /a/ in spoken words.  In addition, children will learn to spell and read words with the e = /e/ correspondence through the use of a letterbox lesson and by reading a new book.

1. Primary paper and pencils for each child
2. Letterboxes and letters (e, g, f, d, p, t, w, b, n, h, l, s, t, c, r) (1 set per child)
3. Chart with the tongue twister—"Everyone saw Eddie and the Eskimo enter the elevator on the elephant"—written on it.
4. Large Elkonin letterboxes and letters for teacher
5. Copies of Red Gets Fed for each student (Educational Insights)
6. List of words used in letterbox lesson (2-{eg}, 3-{fed, pet, web, ten}, 4-{help, dent, nest}, 5-{crept, blend, spent})
7. Chalk
8. Handout with pictures of the color red, eggs, a web, the number ten, and a nest (also include pictures of words without the e = /e/ correspondence)

1. Introduce the lesson. Explain to the students that they are going to learn about the letter e and its corresponding sound. Write the letter e on the board.  "Good morning boys and girls! Today we are going to learn about the letter e and the sound it makes; e says /e/.  The letter e is a vowel that we see in many words and that makes it a very special letter!  I am sure that you remember the other vowel that we learned last week, a.  Does anyone know why the letter e is so important?  We find the letter e in so many words like red, nest, ten, and smell.  Today, we are going to learn how to spell and read words that have an e who makes the sound /e/."

2. Show children a gesture for remembering e = /e/.  "Has anyone ever been trying to talk to someone that is far away, like outside or in another room? Well, I have too, and sometimes I have a hard time hearing them that far away. Have you ever had a hard time hearing someone? What do you do to try to hear them better? Well, I usually cup my hand behind my ear and say /e/ (model the gesture for the class). Have you ever done that? Of course you have! I want everyone to do that together. I am going to say something really low and if you can’t hear me cup your hand behind your ear and say /e/. (Pretend to say something really low.) Good! Perfect! Well that just happens to be the exact sound the letter e makes. So every time you hear the /e/ sound I want you to cup your hand behind your ear. Okay! Is everybody ready to start? I am going to read a tongue twister so you can practice.”

3. Practice finding /e/ in spoken words.  "Before we do our tongue twister, I want you to practice finding /e/ in spoken words. Listen carefully to the words I say. Do you hear /e/ in eggs or apple? In help or hurt? Ten or eleven ?  Wonderful!"

4. Direct the children’s attention to the tongue-twister chart. First, model for them. Read the tongue twister aloud and make the hand gesture every time you hear /e/. Then have them practice saying it with you a couple of times. Remember to stretch the /e/. Remind them to make their hand gesture when they hear /e/.  "Now we are going to practice the /e/ sound by saying a really goofy tongue twister together.  I am going to read it once to you and then you say it with me. Remember to cup your hand behind your ear every time you hear /e/. Perfect! Now let's say it again, but this time, I want you to really stretch out the /e/ in each word.  Everyone saw Eddie and the Eskimo enter the elevator on the elephant. Did everyone hear the /e/ sound?  Great!"

5. Hand out the letters and the letterboxes to every student. Explain that each box represents a sound. Tell the students that every time you say a word, they are to listen to the sounds in that word and place the appropriate letters in the boxes to make the word you say. Model this for them by placing the letter b while saying /b/ in the first box, e while saying /e/ in the next box, and d while saying /d/ in the last box to make the word bed. "Today, we are going to do a letterbox lesson using e = /e/.  Everyone turn your letters over so that only the lowercase sides are showing.  Each of your boxes represents a sound in a word.  Be sure to listen so that you can hear how many boxes you will use for each word.  I will show you an example of how to spell a word.  I will spell bed. For my word, I have three sounds.  So, I am going to use three boxes. First I hear /b/, so b goes in the first box. Next, I hear /e/, so e goes in the second box. Finally, I hear /d/, so d goes in the last box.” Proceed with the letterbox lesson.  Start with two phoneme words and move up to five phoneme words.  Say the words—egg, pet, web, ten, help, dent, test, crept, blend, and spent—one at a time, allowing the students to create the words in their letterboxes. Remind them again that the boxes are not necessarily for individual letters, but for sounds. Be sure to give students enough time to attempt each spelling on their own. Walk around the room and observe, assisting any students who need help. If a student misspells a word, pronounce the word as it appears and ask the student to fix the word. After checking each student’s work, model the correct spelling for each word (just like you did bed) in your large letterboxes to the entire class. Remember: Do not have the students read the words while in the letterboxes.

6. After the students have spelled the words, have them read the words as you spell them. Make each word with your large letters and have the class read it aloud. Do not use the letterboxes for this part of the lesson. (You may decide to write the word on the chalkboard if it is inconvenient to make it with your letters.) "Okay boys and girls, now that all of you have spelled the words, you are going to get to read them.  I am going to spell them for you. After I spell them I want you to read them."  Pay close attention to each child and assess their ability in reading the words.  If a child cannot read a word, the teacher should use body-coda blending (vowel first) to facilitate reading. 

7. Hand out copies of Red Gets Fed to each student. Give a brief book talk.  "Boys and girls now for the really fun part! You are actually going to read a book all on your own! Today we are going to read Red Gets Fed. Red is Meg’s dog and he gets hungry, but Meg is sleeping. Red goes into Meg’s room and begs for her to get up and fed him. So finally Meg does get up and fed Red. Well, there is one problem. Red is still hungry after eating what Meg fed him so now he goes to dad’s room, but dad is sound asleep. To find out if Red gets fed again, you’ll have to read the book Red Gets Fed.


8. Have students read Red Gets Fed. Walk around the room to observe. "Now, I want everyone to read the book, and while you read I will be walking around the room to listen to your reading."

9. Pass out the picture handout and help the students identify them.  "Everyone look at the picture handout.  Let's see if we can help one another identify the pictures."  The teacher should walk around the room and make sure each child identifies the pictures.

10. Have each student write a message while other students are being called to the teacher's desk.  "I am going to pass out the primary paper and you will need a pencil. I want you to think about a food that you really, really like to eat just like Red who loved his dog food. After you’ve thought about it, write a message about what it is and why you like it so much.”

For assessment, each child should individually come up to the teacher's desk.  Each child should bring the picture handout and a pencil. According to the teacher’s instructions, each student should be assessed on the understanding that e = /e/.  The teacher should say, "I want you to circle all of the pictures that show words containing /e/.  Then, I want you to look at the pictures that you’ve circled and choose one word that you would like to write. For example, you would write red for this picture (pointing to the picture of the color red)." Be sure to provide primary paper. The teacher should grade each child according to their ability to identify the pictures representing words with /e/, as well as their ability to recognize and write a word that includes the letter e.  For other assessment, the teacher could have each student individually read Red Gets Fed and take a running record of the student's miscues. 


1. Red Gets Fed. Educational Insights, 1990.
2. Eldredge, J. Lloyd, Teaching Decoding in Holistic Classrooms. Upper Saddle River, NJ. 1995.
3. Murray, B.A., & Lesniak, T. (1999). The Letterbox Lesson: A hands-on approach for teaching decoding. The Reading Teacher, 52, 644-650
4. Jennifer Adams, Jack the Fat Cat 
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