“Ahhh!” Screams the Boy on the Rollercoaster

Beginning Reading

By Anna Day


Rationale: As a beginning reader, it is important for students to learn the correspondences between sounds and letters in order to decode words. Short vowels can be difficult for student to learn, so it is important for students to receive explicit instruction and get plenty of practice working with short vowels. In this lesson students will learn to recognize, spell, and read words that contain the correspondence a = /a/.


Materials: graphic image (boy riding a rollercoaster), tongue tickler written out on chart paper (Splat the cat tried to trap a fat rat.), Elkonin boxes, letter manipulatives (a, d, b, g, c, n, h, m, s, k, t), list of spelling words written on a poster or whiteboard (add, bag, cat, ham, mask, hand, stack, and smash), Nat the Cat, pencils




1. Say: In order to become expert readers we need to learn the code that tells us how to pronounce words. All the letters in the alphabet make different sounds as we move our mouths a certain way. Today we are going to learn about the letter a and the short sounds it makes, which is /a/. When I say /a/, I think of someone screaming on a rollercoaster, “Ahhhh!”. Have you ever been on a ride that makes you scream /a/? (show graphic image)


2. Have the students read a tongue tickler to practice the correspondence a = /a/. Say: We’re going to use this tongue tickler to practice /a/. When I say /a/, my mouth is open and my tongue stays on the bottom of my mouth. (Show the tongue tickler chart to the students.) I want you to listen to me first, “Splat the cat tried to trap a fat rat”.  Do you think you can repeat the tongue tickler if I say it again? (repeat with students two times) Do you hear the /a/ sound? I hear /a/ in the word splat, what other words have /a/ in them (cat, trap, fat, rat)? We are going to say the tongue tickler again, but this time we are going to stretch out the /a/ sound. “Splaaaat the caaaat tried to traaaap a faaaat raaaat.”


3. The students will need letterboxes and letter manipulatives. Say: Now we are going to practice spelling words with the /a/ sound in them. If I want to spelling the word “mask”, how would I spell it? First I need to know how many phonemes (letter sounds) I hear in the word so I stretch it out and count: /m//a//s//k/. There are 4 so I will need 4 boxes. I heard /a/ right after the /m/, so I am going to put a in the 2nd box (Go through other sounds in the word “mask” and model how to place them in the appropriate box. If you are unsure how to teach a letterbox lesson click here.) Now that I have a letter in each box, I am going to take the letters off the boxes and put them together so I can read the word. I’m going to sound It out slowly and then blend it all together, m-a-s-k, mask!


4. Say: Now I’m going to have you spell some words in letterboxes. You’ll start out easy with two boxes for “add”. What should go in the first box? What goes in the second box? I’ll check your spelling while I walk around the room. Lets try a word that you will need three boxes for. Listen carefully for each sound in the word. The word is “bag”. (Have children also spell the words: cat, ham, mask, hand, stack, and smash)


5. Say: Now I am going to let you read the words you spelled out in the boxes. (Have the students read all the words together as a class. Afterwards, call on individual students to read one word on the list until everyone has had a turn to read a word.)


6. Say: You’ve done a great job reading words with a = /a/. Now we are going to read a book called Nate the Cat. This story is about a fat black cat named Nat. Nat is a happy cat, especially when his belly if full. One day he finishes all the milk in his bowl, but he is unhappy because he is still hungry. Nat goes looking for some more to eat. Do you ever think he will find more food and have a full belly? Lets read to find out what happens. (Have all the students pair up to read the book. Walk around the room and monitor the student’s progress. After everyone finishes reading, read through the book as a class. Discuss the plot of the story as you read the book as a class.)


Assessment: I have the students come up to me individual and read a short list of words that that will contain /a/ in them. Some of the words will be real words, but I will also have at least two pseudo words. As they read the words I will take notes so that I can record what students understand and which ones still need help.  





A’s are A-a-ama-a-azing! By Meg Hall


AAAAAAHH! You Scared Me! By Hannah Jackson


Nat the Cat by Cindy Garrett


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