Say what?
Emergent Literacy Design
Marthe Schreitmueller

Rationale:  Children must learn to recognize phonemes in spoken words before matching letters to phonemes.  Since short vowels can be the most difficult to identify, this lesson will help children identify the /e/ (short e) correspondence.  Children will learn to recognize /e/ in spoken words by learning a meaningful representation for it as well as a letter symbol.  Practice with finding the correspondence in different words will help children differentiate between /e/ and other sounds.

Materials: primary paper and pencils; chart paper with “Everybody saw Eddie enter the elevator,” marker, pointer, Red Gets Fed book, picture pages, word cards (tent, house, pot, pet, chair, and bed)


1.      Introduce the lesson by explaining how our written language is really a secret code and that the hardest part is to learn what the letters stand for.  To do that, we must learn each of the mouth moves (phonemes) that we make as we say words.  For our lesson today, we’re going to work on finding the mouth move /e/.  This may seem hard at first, but with practice, you’ll be able to spot this mouth move in many different words.

2.      Ask students: Have you ever heard someone say “/e/?” when they had trouble hearing something?  Sometimes, they even put their hand to their ear when they make this sound.  Let’s pretend we couldn’t hear and try doing that movement when we make the /e/ sound.  Most of the time, people do this to show another person that they did not hear what was just said. Try turning to a neighbor and doing the movement and sound that show him/her that you did not hear them.

3.      Let’s try a tongue twister (on chart).  “Everybody saw Eddie enter the elevator.”  Everyone say it three times all together.  Now, let’s do it again and stretch the /e/ at the beginning of the words.  “Eeeverybody saw Eeedie eeenter the eeelevator.”  This time, let’s break off the /e/ from the rest of the words. “/e/veryone saw /e/ddie /e/nter the /e/levator.” 

4.      After students take out their paper and pencils, I will explain that the letter e spells /e/.  Get in the center of the space below the fence, go straight across toward the door (right), curve up to touch the fence, curve down and around to touch the sidewalk and up just a little bit.  Now, everyone practice writing your e’s.  I’ll walk around to give help if anyone needs it.  Once I give you a smiley face, practice doing one more line of e’s.  Remember, whenever you see an e all by itself in a word, it is a signal to say e/.

5.      Let me show you how to find /e/ in the word shelf.  When you listen, think about /e/ and the hand movement that we learned for it earlier. I’m going to stretch the word out very slowly so that we can hear each of the sounds that are in it.   Sh-sh-e-e-e...there it is!  Sh-e-l-f! Did you hear our sound?  As a class, practice by exploring where the /e/ sounds are heard and seen in the words on the chart paper (beginning, middle, end?). 

6.      Call on students to answer questions and tell how they knew:  Do you hear /e/ in tent or house?  Pot or pet?  Chair or bed?  Go through the sentence “Everybody saw Eddie enter the elevator” using a pointer on the chart paper. Have students do the hand movement every time they heard the /e/ sound.

7.      Red is a pet dog.  His favorite thing to do is to eat.  Do you think that Red will be able to get what wants?  We’ll have to read it to find out!  Read the book Red Gets Fed.  Read a second time and have students raise their hands when they hear /e/.  List these words on the board.  Allow students to draw their own dog bowls.  Have them write a message using invented spelling about dogs.  Once they complete their message, allow them to color or decorate around the edge to make their dog bowls unique.  Later, display their work.

8.      To assess, a picture page will be distributed to each student and they will be asked to circle the pictures whose names have the sound /e/.


Red Gets FedCarson, California.  Educational Insights. 1990.

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