Aargh Says The Pirate!

A Beginning Reading Lesson

Marybeth Miller

Rationale: This lesson teaches children about the correspondence ar= /ar/. In order to be able to read, children must learn to recognize the spellings that map word pronunciations. In this lesson children will learn to recognize, spell, and read words containing the spelling ar. They will learn a meaningful representation (pirate saying aargh), they will spell and read words containing this spelling in a letterbox lesson, and read a decodable book that focuses on the correspondence ar=/ar/.

Materials: Graphic image of pirate; cover-up critter; whiteboard or smartboard Elkonin boxes for modeling and individual Elkonin boxes for each student; letter manipulatives for each child and magnetic or smartboard letters for teacher: c, a, r, s, t, l, d, k, m, a, y; list of spelling words on white board or poster to be read: car, star, dark, alarm, yard; Decodable text: The Barn Party and assessment worksheet.


1.     Say: In order to become great readers we need to learn the code that tells us how to pronounce words. We have already learned to read short vowel words with a, like cat, and today we are going to pair a letter with a and learn to read words with ar. When I say /ar/, I think of a pirate saying, “Aargh!” (show graphic picture of pirate looking through a spyglass). Let’s look at the spelling of /ar/. One letter of the alphabet is bossy. When a vowel is in front of this letter, they say a new sound. It is not a short vowel sound or a long vowel sound. It gets a whole new sound! The letter that does this is Rr. We call Rr the bossy Rr.

2.     Say: Before we learn the /ar/ spelling, let’s look at some words and listen for /ar/. When I listen for /ar/ in words, I hear bossy Rr take control of the word. My lips open like its making the /a/ sound and then bossy Rr takes over and my mouth stays open and my tongue moves to the roof of my mouth (make vocal gesture for /ar/). I’ll show you before you give it a try: far (make a circle with your hand and place it over your eye like your looking out of a spyglass). I heard bossy R take control and I felt my mouth open and then my tongue moves to the roof of my mouth. There is /ar/ in far. Now I’m going to see if it’s in place. I didn’t hear bossy R and my mouth didn’t open and R take control and make my tongue touch the roof of my mouth. Now you try. If you hear /ar/ say, “Aargh.” If you don’t hear /ar/ say, “That’s not it.” Is it in park, barn, snow, shark, star, lips? (Have children make a circle with their hand and place it near their eye like they are a pirate looking through a spyglass).

3. What if I want to spell the work hard? “The math test was hard.” The word hard means difficult in this sentence. To use letterboxes to spell hard, first I need to know how many phonemes it has. To find this out, first I would stretch the word out and count: /h/ /ar/ /d/.  I need 3 boxes. I heard the /ar/ just before the d. So I’m going to place /ar/ in the second box. The word starts with /h/, so I need an h that I will place in the first box. (Point to the boxes and stretch out the word /h/ /ar/ /d/) Now it ended with /d/, so I’ll place a d in the last box. Now I’ll show you how I would read a tough word. (Display poster with the word sharp written, model reading the word). I’m going to start with the ar; that part says /ar/. Now I’m going to put the beginning letters with it /sh/-/ar/, now I’ll put that chunk with the last sound, /sh/-/ar/-/p/. Oh, got it, sharp like “Sharks have sharp teeth.”

4.     Say: Now I am going to have you spell some words in letterboxes. Let’s start with two boxes and spell an easy word: car. “We rode in the car to the supermarket.” What should go in the first box? (Respond to children’s answers). What goes in the second box? I’ll check your spelling as I walk around the room. (Observe progress). You’ll need three letterboxes for the next word. Listen for the beginning sound to spell in the first two boxes. Then listen for the /ar/.  Here is the word: star, I saw a shooting star last night; star. (Allow children to spell the remaining words: dark, alarm, and yard.) Now we are going to read the words we just spelled together. Read as I point to the word (have the words written on a piece of poster board).

5.     Say: Now I am going to let you read the words you’ve spelled. (Have children read the words in unison. Afterwards, call on individuals to read one word on the list until everyone has had a turn.)

6.     Say: You all have done a great job spelling words with our new spelling for ar=/ar/. Now we are going to read a book called The Barn Party. This is a story about a family who live on a farm. One day a storm was coming. They had to get all their farm animals into the barn before they all got drenched! Let’s pair up and take turns reading The Barn Party and see how and if they get all the animals in the barn in time. (Children pair up and alternate reading a page at a time. During this time, the teacher walks around the room and monitors progress. After the children are done reading, the teacher reads The Barn Party aloud while stopping between pages to discuss the plot.)

7.     To finish up our lesson about one way to spell /ar/= ar, we are going to partner read The Barn Party. I am going to put you in groups and I want you to alternate reading the text. Once you are finished with the text and I have come around to your group and heard each partner read, you can work on this worksheet (pass the worksheet out). On this work sheet we have some words that are scrambled. On the right side of the page there are pictures of what the scrambled words could be. Once you have written the unscrambled word next to the scrambles letters, draw a line to the correct picture. Be sure and read each word and make sure that it matches a picture to the right. (Collect worksheets to evaluate individual progress.)


Assessment Worksheet: http://www.free-phonics-worksheets.com/html/phonics_worksheet_v2-17.html

Murray, G. (2004) The Barn Party. Reading Genie: http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/bookindex.html

Murray, G. Oh, I Didn’t Know. http://www.auburn.edu/~murrag1/BRMurrayG.htm

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