“Eddie the Excited Elephant”

Emergent Literacy

Jennifer Falls

Rationale:  In order for children to learn how to read and spell words, they need to be able to recognize each letter in the alphabet and the phoneme it makes.  For children to recognize phonemes in spoken words and their corresponding letters or spelling maps they must be able to distinguish phonemes in their oral contexts (Adams).  Short vowels are probably the most difficult phonemes for children to recognize.  This lesson teaches students how to identify the phoneme /e/ (short e).  They will learn to recognize the grapheme e in text, hear the phoneme /e/ in spoken words, and be able to write the lower case letter e.  At the end students will practice and be assessed on finding the /e/ in words.   

*Primary paper enough for every student and pencil
*Primary lined sentence strip with “Everybody saw Eddie the elephant exit the elevator excitedly.”
*Big picture of an elephant with Eddie written at the top; drawing paper and crayons
*Smiley face stamp (or stickers)
*Ink pad
*Enough cards with question mark of one side and /e/ on other for all students
*Book: Red Gets Fed (Educational Insights)
*Picture page with bed, sent, car, neck, box, nest, well, ant, bus, fish, dust, and pet (pictures are printed off the computer or I will draw them).


1. Start the lesson off by explaining to students that written language can be difficult to learn.  It is difficult because we have to learn what the letters are that stand for the mouth movements we make when we speak.  Then move on to reviewing over previous letters that we have studied a,b,c,d, by holding pictures up with words that start with those certain letters.  The students at one time will say out loud to the class what the letter is by saying the word.  Then I will begin to introduce the new letter: “Today we are going to learn a new letter that comes after the letter “d” that we have studied.  Does anyone know what that letter is? Correct it is the letter e.  Listen and watch me say Eddie.  Did you hear the /e/ sound in Eddie?  Now everyone altogether say the /e/ sound with me.”

2.  Holding the picture of Eddie the elephant up, I will talk about him.  Say to student:  “Has anyone ever heard an old person say Eehh….What did you say?  Well when an old person makes the /e/ sound there mouth opens and there tongue goes behind there bottom teeth.  Can everyone see my picture of Eddie the elephant?  Well this elephant is very old.  Let’s pretend that we are an old elephant who can not hear very well and when we say the /e/ sound we will cup our hand behind our ear.  I will demonstrate.  Now everyone say Eehh….What did you say? and put your hand behind your ear.”     

3.  Displaying the tongue twister in the front of the classroom say: Let’s try a tongue twister (written on sentence strip and taped on board).  “Everybody saw Eddie the elephant exit the elevator excitedly.”  I will say it first then ask the class to say it with me three times all together.  Then the next time I will say it by stretching the /e/ sounds out at the beginning or the words.  “Now everyone say it together like I just did.  Eeeeverybody saw Eeeeddie the eeeelephant eeeexit the eeeelevator eeeexcitedly.  Try it again and this time break off the word: “/e/ verybody saw /e/ ddie the /e/ lephant /e/ xit the /e/ levator.”  Eehhxcellent work!”

4.  (Hand out primary paper to the students and have them get pencils out) say: “We can use the letter e to spell the mouth move /e/.  Now we are going to write the letter e.  Start halfway between the fence and the sidewalk.  Draw a straight line towards the right window and curve up and touch the fence.  Go towards the left window and draw a curve down to the sidewalk.  Go towards the right window with a little curve.  You should finish halfway between where you started the e and the sidewalk.”  (I will model it for the class.)  “I want to come around and see everyone’s eehhxcellent letter e.  When I stamp it with a smiley face, then I want you to make six more just like it.  Now whenever you see the letter e all by itself in a word that is your clue to say /e/.” 

5. Next I am going to show everyone how to find /e/ in the word spent.  I am going to stretch spent out in a very slow motion so you can listen for the eehh? S-p-s-p-s-p-e-e-n-t. S-p-s-p-s-p-e-e-e-e.. There, finally, that is the sound. I hear the eehh… in the word spent. 

6.  Now we are going to see how well everyone can use their skills to hear /e/ in spoken words.  Hand out cards with /e/ on one side and question mark on other side.  Then say: “Whenever I call out a word with the /e/ sound I want everyone to put up the side of the card that has /e/ on it.  If you do not hear the /e/ sound in the word then turn the card to the question mark side.”  Demonstrate by showing them an example.  Say: “Do you hear /e/ in bed or car? desk or table? dry or wet? deck or rust? sled or slant?  Now let’s see if you can spot the mouth move /e/ in some words.  Put your hand up to your ear when you hear /e/.  Everybody, saw, Eddie, the, elephant, exit, the, elevator, excitedly.” 

7.  To help apply this lesson read Red Gets Fed and give the class a brief book talk.  Tell them: Red is a dog who is very hungry and sneaky.  Red goes around the house trying to wake up Meg and other family members in order to get some breakfast.  Do you think that Red will get fed?  When reading the story and talking about it remind the students of the /e/ phoneme that is presented.  Then read it again and have the students raise their hands when they hear words with the sound /e/ in them.  Then after reading have the students try to remember the words with the /e/ phoneme by asking them: what are some of the words in the book that you all raised your hand to?  When I call on them and they answer I will write them on the board.  Go back through book to see if any are left out.  Next have the students draw Eddie the elephant or a picture from the story and write a message about it using invented spelling.  Display their eehhxcellent work in the room.                   

8. To assess the students on the lesson, distribute picture page expressing and not expressing the e=/e/ sound.  Help students name each picture then ask each student to identify and sound out the picture and circle those pictures that are expressing the e=/e/ phoneme.  I will walk around while they are working on this sheet to observe their ability to recognize and correctly sound out the e=/e/ phoneme, while also providing help if they need to be reminded of the visual motion or any other thing that they learned at the beginning of the lesson.


Red Gets Fed, Carson, CA. Educational Insights, 1990.

Adams, Marilyn Jager. (1990) Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning about:  A Summary

            Center for the Study of Reading Research and Education Center University of Illinois at

            Urbana-Champaign.  Print. University of Illinois.

Huff, Nicole.  "Eehh?" is for eleven elephants."  http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/innov/huffel.html

Burns, Kim.  "Ehhh...What'd you say?"  http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/breakthroughs/burnsel.html

Murray, Bruce.  “Example of Emergent Literacy Design: Sound the Foghorn.” 

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