Rationale: Children need to understand the alphabetic principle that spellings map the phoneme sequence of spoken words. Learning to spell words before learning to read them is a clear demonstration of this principle. Transferring this sounding-out strategy from spelling the words to reading the words helps children learn words thoroughly enough to remember them as sight words. This lesson will help children identify the correspondence a = /a/. They will learn the sound a makes by learning a meaningful representation, and they will learn how to better recognize /a/ in spoken words. They will also learn to spell and read words with the /a/ sound through the letterbox lesson and by reading a new book.
Materials: Chalkboard and chalk; overhead projector; transparent Elkonin letterboxes; transparent letters (a, t, n, b, f, m, p, sh, s, d, c, l, r); Elkonin letterbox set for each child; laminated lower case letters for each child (a, t, n, b, f, m, p, sh, s, d, c, l, r); chart with the following words: an, ant, bat, fan, map, ash, sand, clap, lamp, strap; student copy of A Cat Nap (Educational Insights) for the whole class; assessment sheet with the following pictures: hat, cap, man, trap, hand, and the correct number of letterboxes below the picture to spell the word [I will print the pictures and worksheet off of my computer].
Procedures: 1. Introduce the lesson by explaining that we use letters to write down words, and that these letters represent different sounds. In order to become good readers, we need to learn how to match the letters to their sounds. Today, we are going to learn that the letter a stands for the /a/ sound. As you get to know the sound little a makes, you will be able to read and spell many words.
2. Write the letter a on the board. This letter makes the /a/ sound when it is by itself in a word. Let’s all make the /a/ sound. /a/. Have you ever heard a baby crying? Well, they are making the /a/ sound when they cry. Let’s all pretend we are babies crying and make the /a/ sound. /a/, I’m hungry.
3. Let’s practice spotting the /a/ sound in some spoken words. [Ask students the following questions and call on them to answer.] Do you hear /a/ in cat or dog? Bad or good? Ham or egg? Pan or pot? Back or front?
4. Demonstrate how to spell words using the overhead projector and the transparent letterbox and letters. Say: Students, we are now going to practice spelling words with the /a/ sound. Each box stands for one sound. I am going to spell the word at. Listen as I say the two sounds in the word at. /a/ /t/. It helps to say the two sounds in the word to yourself. Aaattt, aaattt. I hear the /a/ sound at the beginning, so I will place an a in the first box. I hear the /t/ sound at the end of the word, so I will place a t in the last box. Aaattt. I spelled all the sounds in at. Now, let’s see if you all can spell some words using the /a/ sound.
5. [Pass out Elkonin letterboxes and laminated letters to each student.] Say: Are you guys ready to practice spelling some words with the /a/ sound? Great! See if you can spell an. When you are finished, raise your hand and I will come around to see if you have correctly spelled an. After everyone is finished, choose a student to correctly spell the word on the overhead for the whole class. Continue the lesson with the following words: ant, bat, fan, map, ash, sand, clap, lamp, strap (Tell students how many boxes they will need for each word).
6. Show the class a chart with all the words previously spelled on it. Point to the word an and have the class say the word aloud. Continue doing this with the following words: ant, bat, fan, map, ash, sand, clap, lamp, and strap.
7. [Give each student a copy of A Cat Nap]. Say: How many of you have cats? Do they seem to sleep most of the time? Well, today we are going to read about a cat named Tab who loves to nap. Let’s read A Cat Nap and spend a day with our friend Tab. [Have students read A Cat Nap on their own. Then ask the students if they remember any words from the story that have the /a/ sound. Write these words on the board as the children say them.]
8. For assessment, give each student a picture page with the correct number of letterboxes to spell the word underneath the picture. As a class, we will name the first picture and then I will have them spell the word in the letterboxes below the picture. Remind the children that each box has only one sound. We will do this with each picture.
Reference: Murray, B.A., & Lesniak, T. (1999). The Letterbox Lesson: A hands-on approach for teaching decoding. The Reading Teacher, 644-650.
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