The Creaky Door Says "ehhhh"

Beginning to Read

Stephanie Broach


One of the most accurate predictors of reading success later in life is the ability to recognize different phonemes in spoken words.  As this is an extremely important part of beginning to read, it is imperative that teacher spend time providing their students with in depth phoneme awareness instruction.  The goal of this lesson is for the students to be able to identify the phoneme /e/ in spoken words and to be able to read words that use /e/.  This will be accomplished through teacher modeling and student practice with making words that have the phoneme /e/ as well as through reading words within a story context.


Primary paper


Chart paper with chant written on it: "Every Eskimo entered the exciting elevator on an elephant."

Picture of an old door with the upper case E making the door and the lower case e as the doorknob (see below)

White board

Dry erase marker

Elkoin letterboxes for every student

Letter manipulative pieces (paper or tile) for each student [a, b, d, e, f, g, h, l, l, n, p, r, s, t, and t]

Copies of Red Gets Fed (one per student)

Activity sheets for students with nonsense words: ped, mell, dend, feck and helt


1. Begin by introducing the students to the sound /e/.  Ask them if they can make the sound of a creaky door.  "Sometimes when we open an old door it says /e/.  Can you make that sound while pretending to open the door with me?"  While you are saying this make the motion of turning a doorknob and opening a door.

2. Next put the chant on the board and read it aloud to the students.  "I'm going to read you a silly tongue twister and I want you to listen carefully for our creaky door sound, okay?"  After you have modeled it one time, have the students read it with you.  Then say, "Good job making your /e/ sounds!  Now we're going to say it again and this time lets stretch out the /e/ every time we hear it.  When we're stretching it out lets pretend to open our doors so we remember that e says /e/."  When you read it this time make the hand motions and say, "Ehhhvery Ehhhskimo ehhhhntered·"

3. "Now we are going to make some words with our letterboxes like we did last time with the sound /a/!"  Give each student their own letterboxes and the letter manipulative pieces listed in the materials.  Before they begin model for them what they will be doing.  Draw four boxes on the board.  Write the lower case letters a, b, t, e, d, n and s on the board.  "I want to spell the word 'bend.'  Lets see.  B-b-b-e-e-e-e-n-d-d-d.  Okay, I hear /b/ at the beginning so I'm going to put the b in the first box.  And I hear /d/ at the end, so I'll put the d in the last box.  Now what goes in the middle?  B-e-e-e-n-n-n-d.  Oh!  I hear the creaky door - /e/!  So I need e in the middle and then I need the sound /n/ and thatâs n  After finishing the word, take away the letter boxes and write the word "bend" on the board.  Read it for the students so that they can see how to read it without letterboxes.  When you finish modeling for the students read them the words one at a time and walk around the room to make sure that they are making the words correctly.  After giving them sufficient time on each word allow a volunteer to come to the board and make the word in the letterboxes on the board.  When all words have been made write them one at a time on the board and have the students read them.  Words (some will be reviews of the short /a/): 2 ö [at], 3 ö [pet, bell, red, fat, beg], 4 ö [send, bled, snap, tent], 5 ö [slept, trend], 6 ö [strength]

4. When you are finished with the letterbox lesson tell the students that they are going to read a story that has a lot of creaky door sounds in it.  Give a short book talk while showing pictures: "Red is a dog that needs his food.  First he goes to Meg.  He has to wake Meg up in bed so that he can get fed.  After Meg feeds Red, he goes in to beg Dad.  I wonder if Dad will wake up and feed him or tell him to go away?  We'll have to read the story and see what happens!"

5. After finishing the book, the students will be instructed to write a message.  "Okay everyone take your piece of paper and a pencil and write a message telling me your favorite part of the story that we just read."  This exercise will help with handwriting skills, invented spelling and comprehension of the story, which is important.  As the students finish their writing they may illustrate their message.

6. For assessment, while the students are working on their messages, the teacher will go to each student individually with the activity sheet listed in the materials section.  He/she will have the student read the pseudowords on the page.  "I'm going to have you read some silly words for me.  These are not real words but I wonder if you can help me read them.  How about if you hear the creaky door sound you use your open-door motion?  Okay great!"  The teacher will use the checklist below to assess the students' understanding of e says /e/ as they read.


____ Student is able to read three of the five words.

____ Student has the correspondence e = /e/ with no more than one miscue

____ Student recognizes the "creaky door sound" as they are reading.

Picture of Door:


Allsopp, K. "Aaaa! Don't Scare Me Like That!"

Cushman, Sheila. Red Gets Fed. Educational Insights: Carson, CA. 1990. 

Reading Genie: