Stephanie McCoy
Emergent Literacy

Allie the Alligator

Rationale: Before a child can read and spell the words of the English language, they must have the knowledge of the alphabetic principle.  The alphabetic principle is the realization that the flow of speech comes from interchangeable units, which are called phonemes.  In addition, it includes phonemic awareness and knowledge of phonics.  The purpose of this lesson is to help students learn to associate the appropriate sound of /a/ (short a) with a specific vowel letter and learn to identify written words associated with this sound.  Upon completion of this lesson, children will understand the relationship between the grapheme, a, and the phoneme, /a/.

Materials:  Primary paper and pencil, large cutout of an alligator with the following tongue twister written in the middle: “Allie the Alligator angrily sat near the back of the shack”, A Cat Nap (Educational Insights), 2 copies of the assessment worksheet per student (refer to step 8), stopwatch, board and marker/chalk.

Procedure: 1. Begin the lesson by stating that “writing words may be confusing, but once we learn some basic concepts, we’ll be writing messages in no time.  Today we’ll start by focusing on the first short vowel, a.  Sometimes it may be hard to locate the /a/ sound in words, but by the time we finish this lesson, you’ll be hearing the sound as soon as you approach a word!”
2. Write the words am, as, and at on the board.  Circle the letter a in each of the words and tell the students to “Notice that each word I have written on the board begins with the same letter.  Because they begin with the same letter, they also have the same sound.  Listen carefully as I say the words slowly to hear the /a/ sound at the beginning of each word.”  Read each word slowly and emphasize the /a/ sound while pointing to the letter.
3. Ask students what action they may perform which produces this /a/ sound.  If they have a hard time coming up with ideas, provide them with the example of getting scared.  Ask students, “What sound would you make if an alligator came out of a hiding spot to scare you?”  Discuss how when you scream, “Aaahhhhh”, you produce the short vowel sound of a.
4. “Let’s try a tongue twister (display alligator cutout): “Allie the Alligator angrily sat near the back of the shack.  Now let’s say it together, stretching out every sound in every word.  “AA-lee tthhee Aalligaatoor aaangrrrilly saaaat neeear tthhee bbaaaaack oooff tthhee sshhaaaaackk.  Great, now put your hand on your head and say the tongue twister once more.  Every time you hear the /a/ sound, pat your head.  Everyone did so well!”  (If students had a hard time with the activity and do not all pat their heads at the same time, repeat this activity.)
5. (Have students take out primary paper and pencil)  “There are so many neat words we can make using the letter a.  Now let’s practice making a lowercase a so we can use it in our writing.  Start halfway between the bridge and the swamp water, curve up and around to the left until you come back to the starting point.  Then without lifting up your pencil, come straight down to the water where the alligators roam.  If you think you’re a looks great, raise your hand and I will come around to check.  Once I put an alligator sticker on your paper, continue to use the process to produce an entire row of a’s.  When you see this letter all by itself, remember to make the sound /a/, just like how you would scream if an alligator walked up behind you!
6. Give a book talk of A Cat Nap.  (i.e. "This orange cat likes to nap every chance it gets.  When the owner starts to gather his belongings and head to the baseball field, he leaves his bag open...)  Then proceed to reading the full story from beginning to end and discuss the content.  Have students place their hands on their head when they hear the /a/ sound and stop to write each word on the board.  After the story is over, review the words on the board by calling on students to read a single word, while stretching out the /a/ sound.
7. Have students get primary paper and pencil out to write a message, using invented spelling, about the story (i.e. whether or not they like it, their favorite part, where the cat hid, etc.)  Encourage students to incorporate the /a/ sound within their message.  Ask students if they want to share their message with the class.  Afterwards, put student’s work on display in their personal art section of the wall.
8. There is an individual assessment for mastering this correlation between the grapheme and phoneme, a=/a/.  Tell students to “circle the word which describes the picture to it’s left:

                                        cat             cot

                                        rag             rug

                                        pat             put

                                        bag            big

Reference:  Eldredge, J.  (1995).  Teaching Decoding in Holistic Classrooms.  Prentice Hall Publishers.  Chapter 5 & 6 & Appendix H.

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