Letter U Sound


The letter /u/ is the fifth and final vowel in the alphabet that students will learn with Jolly phonics. Although this student can be harder for students to say and remember, it is an important letter in English as it is one of the five vowels. However many students will have a hard time remembering the letter u sound. Take time to help your students practice the /u/ sound, and they will gain more confidence for blending later on!

Checkout these phonics books in case your child has difficulties!

Phonics Pronunciation of the Letter U Sound

The letter /u/ is normally taught while pretending to open an umbrella and saying the u-u-u- sound. To make the /u/ sound, slightly drop your jaw and open your lips a bit while saying the /u/ sound. The sound should come from the back for the throat. The /u/ sound is a short sound seen as “uh”, and should not be extended. Another way to teach the /u/ sound is by using an action as lightly hitting your stomach while saying the /u/ sound. This may help them as this /u/ sound is made if someone hits you in the stomach. As this vowel is often the hardest of the five vowels, take plenty of time to study and revise this sound with your students.

Another way to teach this vowel sound is by repeating the letter name 3 times, followed by the sound twice, as in u(you) u(you), u-u-u. This method helps students both remember the letter name and also the sound. This way the students can learn the letter names as well, which is sometimes overlooked in a purely Jolly Phonics curriculum. It is also useful as many students have troubles remembering the /u/ sound. You can do this with the other letter as well, such as dee dee d-d-d or jay jay j-j-j.

Watch this video on the letter u sound!

Visual hints

Visual hints can be good for the letter /u/, as students often forget this sound quickly after class. You can focus on the short /u/ by dropping your jaw and bobbing your head slightly up and down while you say the u-u-u sound. Show the students this action, and have them copy you too. This will reinforce the /u/ sound as being a bit lower than the other vowels, as seen with the dropping of the jaw.

Alternatively, you can make the /u/ shape with your hand, but putting your hand sideways with your fingers on one side and thumb on the other. You can even show them an action of opening an umbrella while saying the /u/ sound, so they can remember the sound and also the object.

Handwriting Help with the letter /U/

Students by now should be able to write most of the letters of the alphabet, and be comfortable with their handwriting skills. However, some younger students may struggle a bit more with the letter /u/, as it has curves in the letter. If your student is more comfortable with straight lines, you could have them first write the letter /v/, and gradually move these into curves lines for the letter /u/. Alternatively, you could do practice exercises with many half loops of the letter /u/ shape in a continuous row to help students practice writing this. 

Activity hints

As the letter /u/ can be harder for students to learn and remember, a fun activity can be to trace the letter /u/. You may also have fun connecting many /u/ shapes together, or draw a smiley face with the /u/ being the mouth. You can practice to make many funny faces with the letter /u/, and color them to make it more interesting!

Uhhhh what?

While many students are able to blend the /u/ sound, many student often forget what sound it makes. Therefore, it’s a good idea to be creative when making fun activities to remember the /u/ sound.A fun activity can be to show a picture of a confused man, or a person thinking with question marks. You should put the letter /u/ next to the picture.Then with your students, show them that the thinking noise is “uhhhhhhhhhh”, and think out loud. 

This may help students remember that the /u/ sound is uhhhh, or /u/ for short. It will also teach them a sound to make to show others they are thinking.

Letter /u/ Blending

The letter /u/ is another important letter as it is one of the 5 vowels, so students should spend enough time to learn and remember this sound. This letter will be foundational for their understanding and blending of English words later on. After the students can say and remember the /u/ sound well, you can move on with the blending of this vowel.

You can start with blending the letter /u/ slowly, by using basic sounds such as u-p, u-m, u-s. Once they can blend these words well, you can move on with the three letter CVC words as in c-u-p, b-u-t, s-u-n. With all of these words that you practice and blend, remind the students that each word must have a /u/ inside, which will help them understand that each word in English needs a vowel.

After the students can remember the /u/ sound and blend the CVC words, you should introduce more listening activities into the lesson by saying various /u/ words, and have the students repeat them. Then you can say different words, and have students either point to each word, or have them write them down for you. This will be greatly beneficial for their listening and decoding skills, as many students have a hard time hearing the /u/ sounds in words. Take more time to practice these listening exercises, and even mix in some other vowels for further revision.

If your child still struggles with this sound, be sure to checkout some ABC books to help them out.

Everyday English

As /u/ is one of the five vowels, many words in English have the letter /u/. This is why its important for students to remember the /u/ sound before you introduce the everyday words. Have students learn these words to know more vocabulary!

Some everyday objects start with /u/ like umbrella or undercoat. You can pretend to open an umbrella while saying this sound!

Letter /u/ sentence reading

After learning how to say and blend words with the letter /u/, it’s good to introduce basic sentences to the children to read. These sentences are meant to be basic for students learning the alphabet letters and phonics as their second language.

Here are some short sentences you can read together with the students.

The sun.

Fun in the sun.

It is fun to run!

I see a cup.

I like buns but I do not like nuts!

It’s important your students practice reading short sentences, so they gain the confidence and can practice their blending skills. Therefore, encourage your students to read these sentences to improve their phonics and blending with the letter /u/ !

Letter u tongue twisters

The letter /u/ tongue twisters can be challenging to say. Get ready for some fun /u/ sentences!

Underneat Uncle Umby’s umbrella, is uncle’s Umby’s ugly unicorn hat.

Uncle was upset because he was unable to put his umbrella up.

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