"Uhh" is When

We Don't Understand!


Beginning Reading
Lauren Long

Rationale: When children are learning how to read and spell words, they are beginning to understand that a grapheme (letter) also represents a phoneme (sound).  This phoneme-grapheme relationship is vital for a child to grasp in order for them to become spellers and readers.  Oftentimes, short vowels are the most difficult for children to identify.  They are also sometimes the most difficult for children to read correctly and utilize in spelling correctly.  This lesson will help children to identify the u = /u/ correspondence in written words.  This lesson will also identify the appropriate methods and placement of u = /u/ while spelling words, and give children practice in using u = /u/ in both reading and spelling. 

- Letterbox for each student (made out of multi-colored card stock)
- Letter tiles or letter cutouts for each student in ziplock bags (pre-picked for lesson—h, u, g, d, c, k, t, g, p, b, l, f, f, s, m, r, s)
- Letterbox set for teacher (can be larger so students can see letterbox when teacher models)
- Letters for teacher (a larger size, maybe on index cards)
- Phoneme picture
- Chart paper with tongue twister written on it ("The ugly uncle holding an umbrella is upset.")
- Word cards: (duck, tug, puck, bug, club, bluff, scum, bump, crust)
- Copy of decodable text Fuzz and the Buzz for each student or pairs of student
- Primary writing paper (one or two per student)
- Pencils
- Chalkboard or whiteboard for activity
- "Circle the Picture" worksheet

1. "Today we are going to learn a new sound for one of our letters of the alphabet, the letter "u"!  It makes the sound /u/.  Kind of like when you don't understand something. See how this man looks confused? (show phoneme picture).  He says /u/.   Can you say /u/?  Good."

2. "Now let's scratch our heads like when we don't understand something while we say /u/.  Like this. (teacher models /u/ by scratching head and saying the sound /u/ makes.)  Ready?  "uuuhhhh!"  Very good!"

3. "Let's learn a tongue twister to practice our /u/ sounds.  (Use chart paper and point to each word to help children with tongue twister).  "The ugly uncle holding an umbrella is upset."  Great work!"  Practice this several times, so the children all understand the sequence of words.  

4. "This time when we say our tongue twister, I want you to scratch your head and stretch out the /u/ sound you hear in each word.  Ready?  'The uuu-gly uuu-ncle holding an uuu-mbrella is uuu-pset. Great work!" (repeat this several times, emphasizing the /u/ correspondence and using the "scratching head" phoneme gesture.

5. Phoneme recognition: "Do you hear the /u/ sound in tug or boat?  House or hut?  Pretty or ugly?  Snip or cut?  Bump or hit?  Deer or hunt?"

6. Letterbox lesson: "Do you think you can listen for the /u/ sound?  Now we are going to use our letter boxes.  Each box represents each sound you hear in a word.  We are going to spell words that have the /u/ sound in them. I am going to spell the word 'hug'.  'hhh-uuuu-ggg.' See how I stretched out each sound we hear in "hug"?  It's ok to sound out the word to yourself.  Remember to put only the sounds you hear in its own box—like this." (Model how to use letterbox, placing each sound in "hug" in its own box.) "The first sound I hear in "hug" is /h/.  So I put that sound in this box.  "h-uuuu-g"…that second sound is our /u/ sound (use the "scratching head" gesture when you hear the /u/ sound in "hug").  So, "u" goes in that box.  "huuuu-ggg" Our last sound is /g/, so we put a "g" in the last box.  "Hhhh-uuuu-gggg.  Hug.  That words says hug.  Why don't we do some more words with /u/ in them?  I'll let you try some!"  Use the following:  3—duck, tug, puck, bug, 4—club, bluff, scum, bump, 5— crust

Be sure to tell students how many boxes they will use for each of the words in the letterbox lesson.  "Be sure to listen for each sound in a word.  Remember that each sound you hear goes in its own box.  It's ok to say the word over and over to yourself to hear the sounds the word makes.  When you're finished, raise your hand quietly and I will come and check your work.  You can also have a friend check your spelling too!"

7. After the letterbox lesson, introduce the book Fuzz and the Buzz.  "Fuzz is a cub who runs and plays outside on a hot day.  He tries really hard to get nuts from the top of a tree, but they all fall down and bop on his head!  With the nuts comes mad bugs!  They swarm around him and buzz and buzz.  Oh no! What will Fuzz do?  Let's read and find out!"  Have students read book to themselves or in pairs.  When everyone is finished, ask students to raise their hands if they remember any words with the /u/ sound they read in the text.  Spell the words together as teacher writes the words on the board, and the students write the words on primary paper.

8. Assessment activity: Give students picture worksheet.  Tell the students what the pictures are in order to avoid any confusion the students have.  Tell them to circle the picture in each pair that has the /u/ sound in it.  For reading assessment, during one-on-one time with the teacher, each student can reread Fuzz and the Buzz while the teacher monitors the student's progress in taking a running record.

Boshell, Lindsay. Unopened Umbrella. http://www.auburn.edu/rdggenie/insp/boshellbr.html.
Murray, B.A. & Lesniak, T (1999).  The Letterbox Lesson: A hands-on approach for teaching decoding.  The Reading Teacher, 52, 644-650.
(1990).  Phonics Reader Short Vowel, Fuzz and the BuzzCarson, CA (USA): Educational Insights.

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