"Aaaaa-choo says the short A!"

Emergent Literacy Design

Grace Boutwell


Rationale:  Children need to understand phonemes in order to be successful with phonics, spelling, word recognition and of course reading.  Children need the alphabetic insight that letters stand for phonemes and spellings map out the phonemes in spoken words.  Short vowels are probably the toughest phonemes to identify.  This lesson will help students identify /a/ (short a).  Students will learn to recognize /a/ is letter symbol, and then will practice finding /a/ in spoken words through a meaningful representation.  This lesson will also allow the students to practice writing the letter a.  This will enhance their ability to use the /a/ correspondences in words.



Primary paper and pencil

board with "Alice asked if Allison’s active animals liked apples."

drawing paper and crayons

the book Pat’s Jam (Educational Insights)

apple cut-outs with the words bag, cat, hat, bug, top, mat

a small basket to put the apple cut-outs in

picture page with illustrations of a bug, bag, cup, hat, cat, and tub




1.  Introduce the lesson by explaining reading and writing are necessary actions in our everyday lives.  Explain that our written language is like a secret code because it is tricky to try to learn what the letters stand for--the mouth moves we make as we say words.  Today we are going to work on spotting the mouth move /a/ (short a).  At first /a/ may seem hidden in words, but as you get to know it, you’ll be able to spot /a/ in all words.

2.  Ask students if they have ever sneezed really loud? Can you tell me what the noise you make?  That’s right they say, "aaa-aaa-aaa-choo."  I know that all of us have sneezed before.  It sounds like Aaaaachoo.  Now let me hear you.  Stretch it out and see if you say, /a/ like a person sneezing.  That sound is in many words! I’ll try hat, h-a-a-a-a-a-a-t.  There I said the sneezing sound.  And every time we do the /a/ sound we are also going to hold our hands close to our nose like we are about to sneeze. 

3.  "Let’s try a tongue twister. Alice asked if Allison’s active animals liked apples."  Everybody say it together.  Now say it again, and this time, stretch the /a/ at the beginning of the words and make the sneezing movement as u stretch out the sound.  "Aaaaalice aaaaasked if Aaaaalison’s aaaaactive aaaaanimals like aaaaaples."  Try it again, and this time break it off the word: "/a/ lice /a/ sked if /a/ llison’s /a/ ctive /a/ nimals likes /a/ pples.

4.  [Have students take out primary paper and pencil].  We can use letter a to spell /a/.  Let’s write it down. For lowercase a, don’t start at the fence.  Start under the fence.  Go up and touch the fence, then around and touch the sidewalk, around and straight down.  I want to see everybody’s a.  After I put a star on your paper, I want you to make a row of a’s just like you have done.  When you see letter a all by itself in a word, that’s the signal to say "/a/."

5.  Call on students to answer and tell how they knew:  Do you hear /a/ in bag or purse? Back or arm? Crab or fish?  Say: Let’s see if you can spot the mouth move /a/ in some words.  I will have the apple cut-outs and a basket.  If you hear the /a/ sound in each of the words I give you, drop the apple into the basket.  The word is bag do you hear the /a/ sound here, if so place the apple into the basket. Repeat the same process for the words cat, hat, bug, top, mat.

6.  Read the book Pat’s Jam through a book talk.  "Pat and Pam are both friends that go grocery shopping together.  Pat has ham while Pam has jam and when they get back into the van to leave the car is out of gas." You’ll have to read to find out what happens to Pat and Pam.  Have each child listen carefully to the story and perform the sneezing movement when they hear /a/ in a word.  List their words on the board.  Then I will have each student to draw a picture of a group of friends and write a message about those friends or what they are doing using invented spelling.


7.  I will distribute a picture page and help the students name each picture.  Then I will have the students circle the pictures that contain the /a/ sound. 



Alison Stokes, "Aaa-aaa-aaa-choo!!" at: http://www.auburn.edu/rdggenie/insp/stokesbr.html   

Beason, Margaret, "Aaa-Choo!"      http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/guides/beasonel.html                                      

Caroline Cox, "Crying Baby" at http://www.auburn.edu/rdggenie/discov/coxel.html 

Pat’s Jam. Educational Insight


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