"Ehhh?" An Elephant!!

Laura Ashley Norman


In order for children to become skillful readers, they must understand that a words spelling maps out the phonemes in the word. Each phoneme has a unique mouth move. In order for students to become skillful readers they must learn these mouth moves and identify them with their corresponding graphemes. Since short vowels are the hardest to identify, that is what we will cover in this lesson. Students will learn the phoneme e= /e/ by learning a meaningful gesture, and identifying and reproducing the phoneme in written and spoken language.



Large picture of the grapheme e

Picture of 'hand cupped behind ear' phoneme gesture

Elkoin letterboxes for every student

Letter manipulative pieces, every student needs the following letters:

 v e s t f l d r n p b g h

Elf in the Tent by Geri Murray (one per student)

Primary paper/pencil

White board/ dry erase markers




  1. Show the students a large picture of the letter e. Does anybody know the name of this letter and the phoneme it makes? Very good, e says /e/.  Everyone say /e/ and take notice of the position your mouth is in.
  2. Does anyone here have a Grandfather or Grandmother that are 'hard of hearing'? When you tell them something, have you ever seen them cup their hands around their ear and question "Ehhh?" Show students a large picture of a person cupping their hand behind their ear and saying /e/.  Everyone do the /e/ motion of cupping your hand behind you ear as if you can't hear and say /e/. Model first so students understand what the gesture should look and sound like. Very good.
  3. Now let's try a tongue twister. Write: "Everybody saw Eddie and the Eskimo enter the elevator on the elephant" on the board. Read aloud the tongue twister slightly exaggerating the /e/ phoneme in the words. Ok, now lets all say it together. This time, lets say it and really slow down and stretch out that /e/ phoneme. When you hear /e/, cup your ear. I will model how to do this first by cupping my ear and stretching out the /e/ phoneme in the words.  Very good.

Now, with the help of our letter boxes,  we are going to learn to spell several words with the /e/ phoneme. Every student needs Elkoin Letter Boxes and letter tiles of the following letters:  v e s t f l d r n p b g h. Watch me as I show you how to put each phoneme in the word into separate boxes. Use an overhead projector or draw the boxes on the board so that all students can see the modeling.  My word has four phonemes so I have four boxes. My word is shred. I will sound it out for us "sh-sh-r-e-e-d," that /sh/ makes one mouth move so it is one phoneme and I will put /sh/ in the first box. That cupped ear 'Ehhh' is right there in the middle, put I hear a roaring r infront of it. In the second box I will put a r and in the third an e. I hear the /d/ at the end, so I will put a d in the fourth box. Any questions? Good. Now I am going to say a few words and I want each of you to stretch them out and find all of the phonemes in it. Give students 5-7 words to practice:
4 phonemes: fled, vest
5 phonemes: trend, slept, blend, strength
Make sure that students read words after they are done spelling all of the words.  Make sure to walk around to room to check for accuracy and understanding.

  1. Now we are going to read a fun book to help us learn more about the phoneme /e/.  Introduce Elf in the Tent by Geri Murray by giving a book talk. Jan received a tent as a gift so her and her father decide to go on a camping trip. Jan is very fond of her pet cat Elf, so she take him along. One night, Dad smells something funny in the tent‰¥Ï to find out what it is, read Elf in the Tent by Geri Murray. Have students break off into small groups, each with a copy of the text. Have students read aloud to one another while you walk around the room to listen.
  2. After students read the book, discuss as a whole what happened in the book or perhaps any tricky words they came across.
  3. Finally, have the class write a message on the topic "What would you do on a camping trip?" Students must write at least one whole sentence. Remember to model on the overhead how to make the letter e. It is okay if students use inventive spellings.
  4. Assesment: Students are given a sheet with pictures on it. Each picture represents a word. Students are to circle the words with the /e/ phoneme.

Creaky Door  E by Stephanie McLure


Geri Murray䴜s decodable book Elf in the Tent:


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