Reading with a Punch

Emergent Literacy Lesson Design

Kristy Persson


Rationale: Before children can grasp understanding of the alphabetic principle, they must understand that sounds are paired with letters in spoken words.  It is important in the learning process to understand how to recognize phonemes.  This lesson will help children notice the phoneme /u/ (short u).  They will learn to recognize /u/, and they will discover the short vowel’s existence and separability from other phonemes.  They will learn this by completing a variety of tasks, such as learning the meaningful representation and letter symbols, practice spelling with /u/, and practice finding /u/ in words.


Materials: Primary paper and pencil; chart with “My ugly uncle was upset because he was unusual.”; drawing paper and crayons; Fuzz and the Buzz (Educational Insights); picture page with bug, sun, cup, and skunk.  Also, pictures of other short vowels, so the children can depict what is /u/ and what is not, such as dog, cat, rat, and bed.



1.  Introduce the lesson by explaining to the children that our written language is a difficult and slow process.  There are many sounds and letters in words, but today we are going to learn about /u/.  This is short u.  Notice how your mouth moves when you say /u/.  It will become more evident as we study it closer.

2.  Ask students: Have you ever heard the /u/ sound when you punch (Demonstrate the motion and sound).  That’s the sound we will be working on today.  Can everyone say it with me?  Can you hear /u/ in sub?  What about bus?

3.  Now let’s try a tongue twister [on chart].  “My ugly uncle was upset because he was unusual” Let’s all say that together now.  This time, let’s say the /u/ sound longer.  “My uuuugly uuuuncle was uuuupset because he was uuuunusual.”  Try it again, and this time , let’s break the /u/ off of each word.  “My /u/ gly /u/ ncle was /u/ pset because he was /u/ nusual.”  Great job!

4.  Ask students to take out their primary paper and pencils.  Now we are going to use the letter u to spell the sound /u/. Let’s begin!  Start by leaving the dotted fence and going down the sidewalk, curve around the block, back up to the fence, and now, without lifting up your pencil, go straight down to the sidewalk.  It looks like a upside down “n” doesn’t it?  When you are correct, I will give you a sticker on your paper, and you are to continue practicing writing the letter u. 

5.  Let me show you how to find /u/ in the word buzz.  I’m going to stretch out buzz slowly, and listen for the sound of that punch.  B-u-zz.  B-b-b-u-u-u. . . There it is!  I do hear that punching sound /u/ in buzz.  Do you?  Do you hear /u/ in bed or bug?  Fun or ball?  Run or ran?

6.  Call on students to answer how they knew: Do you hear /u/ in dog or bug?  Sun or cat?  Cup or rat?  Skunk or bed? [Pass out a card to everyone.] Say: Let’s see if you can hear the punching /u/ in some words.  Punch if you hear /u/.  My, ugly, uncle, was, upset, because, he, was, unusual. [Note: was has /u/].

7.  Say: “Fuzz is a cub.  He plays outside.  Fuzz starts to have a bad day when nuts from a tree hit him and bees start to chase him.  Will Fuzz end up having a good day?  Read Fuzz and the Buzz and talk about the story.  Read it again, and have the students make a punching motion when they hear /u/.  List the words on the board.  Then, have the students draw a bear and write a message using invented spelling.  Display their work. 

8.  For assessment, hand out the picture page and have students name the pictures.  Ask the students to circle the pictures whose names have /u/.  If there is time allowed, also have students write two sentences containing the /u/ sound.  Model a sentence for them.  “The bug got stuck on the cup.”



Beck, Isabel L.  Making Sense of Phonics: The Hows and Whys.  New York: Guilford.


Fuzz and the Buzz.  Educational Insights, 1990.

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