The Sub Says Uhh!: Beginning Lesson Design

By: Kelsey Hendrix


It is essential for beginning readers to be able to recognize that phonemes and letters correspond with each other in order to become a skilled reader. During this lesson, students will gain knowledge in recognizing, spelling, and reading words that contain the u=/u/ correspondence.



1. Introduce u=/u/ and how to spot the correspondence in written text. Today we are gong to work with the letter u (hold letter u card for the students to see). The letter u makes the /u/ sounds. How does your mouth move when you say /u/? Your mouth is open and your tongue stays still. This is like the sound that a sub makes when it sinks down underwater. Everyone practice making the /u/ sound and sinking below the water.

2. To practice recognizing the letter u in written text, I will hold up two cards at a time (cards with words printed on them). I will ask students which contains the letter/sound u. Hold up one card and as a group say it together, or as a single student, and then do the same with the second card. Ask the following questions: Which word has the /u/ sound in it? Can someone point to the letter u in this word? If working with a group you can have student's raise their hands and call on one person, otherwise just have the single student answer.

3. Next, let's practice saying a silly sentence together! Tug was upset because he was unable to ride the sub under water. Let's say it together several times. I want us to say our tongue twister, but let's stretch out the /u/ this time: Tuuuuuuug was uuuupset because he was uuuunable to ride the suuuub uuuunder water. Sink down under water like a sub when you hear the /u/ sound.

4. Draw Elkonin letterboxes on the board for teacher use during this portion of the lesson. Make sure that each student has Elkonin letterboxes with his or her own letter tiles. Ask the students to make sure that each student's tiles are lower-case side up. We are going to practice spelling words with the /u/ sound. Look at the board and notice that I have two boxes drawn--this is for two mouth moves. I'm going to spell the word up. The first box is for the first sound in up, the /u/, which is like our sub that sinks. The second box is for the /p/. Let's see if you can practice with these words: (3) dog, put, log, tub, bug; (4) rink, jump; (5) grunt. Make sure that each time the number of phonemes changes that the students are prompted to open their letterbox up by one more box.

5. Write each word from the letterbox lesson on the board one at a time. Model for students how to read a word written on the board. We are going to read the word pup. Let us start with the /u/, next let's add the /p/--/pu/. Say it together. Now let's add the last /p/-/pup/. Our word is pup. Call on one student to read the word, then have the class repeat the word as a group.

6. The students will be placed in pairs to read Bud the Sub. Book talk: Bud is a sub who has to do an important job to help out the tug. Can Bud save the tug? We will have to read and find out. Pass out one book per pair of students. The students will take turns reading the book to each other. I will walk around, listen, and observe each pair of students. This can also be done one on one with the teacher listening to each student read.

7. Write a message about what you would do if you were in charge of a sub. Remember that when we make the letter u we start at the fence line and draw down to the sidewalk, curve over, and back up to the fence. Now, without lifting your pencil, you should draw a line back down to the sidewalk. Remember children will use the invented spelling.


Students will be given a page with different pictures on it. They will look at the pictures and circle any picture that includes the /u/ sound in it's spelling. As students are working on the picture page, I will call them up one at a time to assess their reading of Bud the Sub and their understanding of the correspondence u=/u/. To assess them I will use a running record and keep up with any miscues or anything that needs recording.


Braswell, Jamie. The Tug Says Uhh!

Cushman, Sheila. Bud the Sub. Educational Insights: Carson, CA, 1990.

Murray, B.A. and Lesniak, T. (1999). The Letterbox Lesson: A hands-on approach for teaching decoding. The Reading Teacher, 644-650.

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