A Cat Nap

Beginning Reading Design

Erin Cooper

Rationale: In order to become fluent readers, children need to develop an understanding of the alphabetic principle, or the idea that letters represent different phonemes and the spellings map out the phonemes in spoken words. Children also need to know letter-sound correspondences, thus allowing them to decode words with ease and at an appropriate speed. This lesson is intended to help children learn the correspondence a=/a/. Children will learn the sound that a makes and be able to identify it in written and spoken words through the use of a letterbox lesson and reading of a book.


Primary paper and a pencil for each child
Elkonin letterbox sets for each child
Large Elkonin letterbox set for teacher
Letters for each child: a,b,c,d,g,h,k,l,n,p,r,s(2),t
Words for letterbox lessons: 3 phonemes- cat, hat, nap, sad; 4 phonemes- grab, camp, snack, glad, black, bank, prank, glass; 5 phonemes- crash, stand
Chart with Tongue Twister on it: Abby the alligator ate apples in the afternoon.
Copies of A Cat Nap for each child
Handout with pictures of the color black, a glass, a bank, and a cat (along with pictures that do not include the a=/a/ correspondence: bee, cow, clock) - one per child.


1. Introduce the lesson and explain to the children that they will be learning about the letter a and its corresponding sound. Then write the letter a on the board for the children to see. "Good morning class. Today we will be learning about the letter a and that it makes the sound /a/. Everyone say that with me. /a/. Good. The letter a is an important letter in the alphabet. It is a vowel that is seen in many words. Can someone name a word that has an a in it? That’s right, cat, hat, camp, snack, glass, and many more all have the letter a in it and they all make the /a/ sound. Today we are going to learn to spell and read words that make the /a/ sound."

2. Introduce a gesture to remember the /a/ sound. "Now we need to have a way to remember the /a/ sound. I can remember it by putting my fists next to my eyes and rubbing. It can hurt but it can feel good to so I want to make the /a/ sound. Now you try. (Put fists next to eyes and rub then make the /a/ sound). Excellent!"

3. Practice! "Let’s see if you can point out some words that make the /a/ sound. Listen carefully to the words I say and when you hear the /a/ sound, I want you to put your fists next to your eyes and rub. Do you hear /a/ in cat or bird? Apple or eggs? White or black?  Nap or Sleep?

4. Have everyone turn their attention to the tongue twister chart. First, model the tongue twister for them and use the hand gesture every time you hear the sound /a/. Then have the children try it a few times. Make sure they stretch the sound /a/. Also, remind them to make the hand gesture when they hear the /a/ sound. "Now we are going to practice the sound /a/ using a tongue twister. I am going to say it first and then I want you to say it with me. Remember to put your fists to your eyes and rub when you hear the /a/ sound. Great job! Ok, let’s say it again, together but this time, let’s stretch out the /a/ sound. Abby the Alligator ate apples in the afternoon. Did everyone hear and make the /a/ sound? Excellent!

5. Pass out the handout with the different pictures on it to each child. "Boys and girls, on this handout are different pictures. Some make the /a/ sound and some do not. I want you to circle the ones that make the /a/ sound. I will pick these up when you are finished so make sure you put your name on your paper."

6. Pass out letters and letterboxes to each student. Explain to the children that each box represents a sound in the word. Tell the children that every time you say a word, they are to listen to the sounds and place the appropriate letters in the appropriate boxes. Model this by placing the letter b while saying /b/ in the first box, l while saying /l/ in the second box, a while saying /a/ goes in the third box, and ck while saying /ck/ in the fourth box, making the word black. "Today we are going to be using the letterbox lessons to help us learn that a makes the /a/ sound. Everyone turn your letters so that the lower-case side is facing up. Remember that each of the boxes represents a sound in a word. Be sure to listen so you will know how many sounds are in your word. I am going to show you the word black. This word has four sounds, so I will use four boxes. First I hear /b/, so I will put a b in the first box, then I hear /l/, so I will place an l in the second box. Next, I hear /a/, so I will put an a in the third box. Finally, I hear /ck/, so I will put a ck in the final box. "  Continue on with the letterbox lesson. Start with the three phoneme words and move to the five phoneme words. Say each word- cat, hat, nap, sad, grab, camp, snack, glad, black, bank, prank, glass, crash, stand- one at a time, giving the children enough time to place the letters in the boxes. Make sure to remind them that the boxes are for the sounds of a word, not the letters. Make sure to give each student the time they need to make the words. While the children are making their words, be sure to walk around and observe what they are doing. If the child makes a mistake in the word, pronounce it as they have spelled it and have them try and fix it. Don’t ask questions! After everyone has spelled the word correctly, model it for the class (like you did with black). Do that for each word so the students will understand the way it is supposed to be. Make sure the children do not read the words while in the letterboxes. Only have them read them without the letterboxes.

7. After the letterbox lesson, have the students read the words to you. Use the larger set of letters to spell the words and have the children read the words aloud. "Okay, class, now that I know you can spell all of the words, I want you to read them. I am going to spell the word for you and then I want you to read that word to me." Make sure to watch each child to make sure they are able to read the words. If a child cannot read a word, the teacher should help the child split the word (body-coda) to help with their reading.

8. Hand out a copy of A Cat Nap to each child. Give a short book talk. "Ok class, now you get to read a book with words that make the /a/ sound. You are going to be reading A Cat Nap. This story is about a cat named Tab. Tab is a fat cat who likes to nap in a bag. Sam is the man who owns Tab. Sam plays baseball. Sam has a bat in his bag.  To find out if Tab is near by, you need to read the book."

9. Have the children read the book A Cat Nap while you walk around and observe their reading. "Now, I want everyone to pick up your copy of the book and start reading. While you are reading, I will be walking around to see how you are doing."

10. Pass out the primary paper and a pencil to each student. Have the students write a message as to whether or not they like baseball and if cats should be at a baseball game. "Now that we have finished with the handout, I want each of you to write whether or not you like baseball and if you think cats should be at a baseball game."

Assessment: Have each student come up one at a time andread a page from A Cat Nap. If they can read the words and make the a=/a/ correspondence, then move onto the next student. If they can't, help the child by modeling and scaffolding.


A Cat Nap. Educational Insights, 1990.

Murray, B.A., & Lesniak, T. (1999). The Letterbox Lesson: A hands-on approach for teaching decoding. The Reading Teacher, 52, 644-650

Davis, Haley. Red Gets Fed.  http://www.auburn.edu/rdggenie/invent/davisbr.html

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