Uhh, I Don't Know?

A Beginning Reading Lesson Design

Created By: Jessica Klida


Rationale: Students must learn how to identify letters by their sounds in order to develop the phonemic awareness needed to become a good reader. In this lesson students will learn to identify the correspondence u=/u/ in words. Students will learn a visual representation to remember the correspondence and how to identify the sound in spoken words. Students will spell and read words containing u=/u/ in a letterbox lesson and read a decodable book that will focus on this correspondence.

Image of cartoon shrugging shoulders, cover-up critter, whiteboard or smartboard, markers, whiteboard or smartboard Elkonin boxes for modeling, magnetic or smartboard letters for teacher modeling: a,b,c,f,g,h,j,k,l,m,n,p,r,t,u; decodable text: Fuzz and the Buzz, assessment worksheet, 1 bag for each student that contains all of the following: Elkonin boxes, letter tiles needed: a,b,c,f,g,h,j,k,l,m,n,p,r,t,u,
list of letterbox words for reading: bug, fun, hug, run, jump, truck, lamp, plum.


1. "In order to become great readers, we have to learn how to recognize the different sounds that letters make in words. Today, we are going to learn about U. U says /u/. When I say /u/ I think of someone shrugging their shoulders and saying 'Uhh.. I don't know?' [Show image] You can remember that U says /u/ by thinking about someone shrugging their shoulders and saying, 'Uhh.. I don't know!'"

2. "So, we said that we use the sound /u/ when we say 'Uhhh..I don't know!' Let's think about how our mouth is moving while we are saying 'Uhhh'. My tongue is touching the bottom of my mouth and I am opening my mouth just a little bit, pushing the air out (model saying 'uhhh') Now you try it with me!" (Have students practice saying /u/)

3. "Do you see the cartoon in the picture? His name is Tucker. Tucker is shrugging his shoulders and saying 'Uhhh..' because he is confused. Now, sometimes when I am confused or I don't know an answer to something I say 'Uhhh'. Has that ever happened to you guys before? (Wait for student to response) Well, when that happens I often start to shrug my shoulders and say 'Uhhh, I don't know?' Can you do that with me? (Practice saying 'uhhh' and shrugging shoulders) Yes, you've got it! Now, every time we hear /u/ in a word today, I want us all to shrug our shoulders and say 'Uhhh.' This will help us to remember what U sounds like. If you forget what sound U makes, just look at Tucker and he will remind you!"

4. Teacher will write this silly sentence on the board: Uncle Umpire was upset when he was unable to undo his umbrella. "Now, we're going to say this silly sentence to practice hearing the sound that U makes. (Point to board) Every time that you hear the /u/ sound, I want you to shrug your shoulders and say 'Uhh' like we practiced! I'll say it once and then we will say it together adding the /u/'s. The silly sentence is: 'Uncle Umpire was upset when he was unable to undo his umbrella.' Now, let's do it together. Every time  you hear /u/, make sure to stretch it and shrug your shoulders! 'Uhh-ncle was uhh-pset when he was uhh-nable to uhh-ndo his uhh-mbrella.'  Wow, you guys are great!"

5. "We recognized the /u/ sound in that silly sentence because it was the first sound that we heard in the words. Now, let's try to find /u/ hidden in the middle of words. We will be stretching out the words and listening for our 'uhhhh' sound. I will show you first how I listen for /u/ in the word drum: drrrrr--uhhhhh--mmmm. Ah! I heard my 'uhhh' right there after drrr. Listen,  drrrrr--uhhhhh--mmmm. Now you  try! If you hear /u/ I want you to hold both hands up like you are shrugging your shoulders. If you don't hear it, don't make any gesture. Alright, listen: Walk. Run. Ugly. Car. Truck. Pumpkin. Chocolate. Sucker. Jump. Skip. Butterfly." (Be sure to watch students and make sure that they are making gestures to words that contain /u/).

6. Teacher will then hand out a bag to each student containing all necessary materials for the letterbox portion of the lesson. Using the smartboard Elkonin boxes, the teacher will model how to use the boxes for the students. Tell them, "Each box represents a sound that we hear in a spoken word, not necessarily a single letter." Model for the students how to spell bug. "If I wanted to spell the word bug, I would listen for all of the sounds that I hear. Bbbbbuuuuuugggggg. B-u-g. I hear 3 sounds in that word. Place b in first box, "bbbb", place u in 2nd box, "uuuuuuuu", place g in 3rd box, "ggggggg". "Now, let's try one together! Let's spell the word fun. We will need 3 boxes because fun has 3 sounds. What sound do you hear first in the word fun? (wait for response) Great, 'fffff' f. (place f in 1st box) What next? (wait for response) Good, there's our 'uhhhhh' u (place u in 2nd box). And what is your last sound in fun? (wait for response) You guys are fantastic, 'nnnnnn' n (place n in 3rd box).

7. "Now, let's practice spelling some other words using your letterboxes. You'll need three letterboxes for the next word. Listen for the beginning sound that goes in the first box, then listen for the middle sound, and then listen for the ending sound. Here's the word: hug, I love to hug my teacher; hug. [Allow children to spell word.] Time to check your work. Watch how I spell it in my letterboxes on the board: h – u – g and see if you've spelled it the same way. Try another with three boxes: run; I like to run at the beach, run. [Allow children to spell word and monitor progress. Ask volunteer to spell the word using the smartboard Elkonin boxes for children to check their work. Repeat this step for each new word.] Now let's try 4 phonemes: truck; the fire truck was very loud. Did you remember to spell /k/ with a ck? (have students spell jump and lamp) One more word and then we're done with spelling: plum; My favorite fruit  is a plum."

8. "Now, we are going to read the words that we just spelled. But, first I'll show you how I would read a tough word. [Display poster with the word frump and model reading the word.] First I see my u and I know this says /u/. I'm going to use my cover-up critter to get the first part. [uncover and blend sequentially before the vowel, then blend with the vowel.] /f//r/=/fr/. Now, I'm going to blend my /u/ = /fru/. Now, all I need is my ending /m//p/=/mp/. /f//r//u//m//p/. Frump. Now, it's your turn! Practice reading the words on your list with a partner. Use your cover-up critter if you need to!" [After all partners have practiced reading the words, call on individuals to read one word on the list until they have all been read.]

9. "You've done a great job of reading the words! Now we are going to read a book called 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 him on his head! With the nuts comes a mad bug! They swarm around him and buzz and buzz. Oh no! What will Fuzz do? Let's pair up and take turns reading Fuzz and the Buzz to find out what Fuzz will do." [Children pair up and take turns reading alternate pages each while teacher walks around the room monitoring progress. After individual paired reading, the class rereads Fuzz and the Buzz aloud together, and stops between page turns to talk about what was just read.]

10. "Well, that was a fun story! What did Fuzz do when the bugs swarmed around him? (wait for student response) Great job! Before we finish up with our lesson about u, I want you to use the handy skills that you have learned today! You each will get a worksheet. On this worksheet, each picture will have 3 words that describe it. You will have to read the words and choose the word that has the short u sound. Does everyone understand? (make sure there is no confusion) Ok, great! You guys can begin." [Collect worksheets to evaluate individual students' progress.]



Cushman, Sheila. Fuzz and the Buzz. Educational Insights, 1990.

Freeman, Taylor. Beginning Reading Lesson Design. "Uh, I don't know."


Lewis, Miranda. Beginning Reading Lesson Design. "Uhh....Do You Hear That Sound?"


Assessment worksheet: Short u


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