The Baby is Crying
Rationale: Children in the partial alphabetic stage of reading form connections between only some of the letters in written words and sounds detected in their pronunciations. To help further their phonetic cue reading to full alphabetic, we should teach them the relevant letter-sound correspondences necessary for decoding words and vowels are sometimes the most commonly confused. That is why in this lesson, I will be focusing on the correspondence a = /a/ and the idea that it sounds like a crying baby. We will find /a/ in words and practice writing a. There will be sufficient practice with the a = /a/ correspondence, particularly in spotting /a/ in words, that students should be have the skills to spot it on their own.
Materials: Chart with "Abby's ants eat apples in Antarctica" on it; primary paper and pencil for each student; large primary paper, possibly in chart format, for teacher use; copies of A Cat Nap (Educational Insights) for each student; pictures on index cards for corresponding words; magnets; small chalkboards or dry erase boards for each student; chalk or dry erase marker for each student
Procedures: 1) Begin by explaining that the words we see written in books are made up of letters which make sounds when we speak the words. We have to know what letter represents what sound, or phoneme, to decode the words in books. Today we will be looking at some words that have /a/ in them, and also some words that do not have /a/ in them. You will need to decode these words to figure out which words have /a/ and which do not.
2) Ask students: Have you ever heard a baby crying before? What did it sound like? Most babies make an /a-a-a-a/ sound when they cry. We can spot this sound in some words, like cat, bag, and tan. (Put emphasis on the /a/ sound.) We hear /a/ in the middle of all those words. Listen for that crying baby in some of the words we say today to know if it has a = /a/ in it or not.
3) This tongue twister on the chart over here might help you pick out some other words that begin with /a/. I will read it to you first and then we will read it together. "Abby's ants eat apples in Antarctica". Now you read it with me. (Read the tongue twister again as a group.) Now I'm going to read it kind of funny, but it might be a way to help you pick out that /a/ sound a little better. "A-a-a-abby's a-a-a-ants eat a-a-a-aples in A-a-a-antarctica." What words did you notice in that tongue twister that had /a/ in them? (Take responses.) Did you notice any words in there that did not have an /a/ in them? (Take responses.) What letter did you notice went along with the /a/ sound? That's right, an a. Great work guys!
4) Now we are going to practice writing the letter that stands for /a/, which is what? That's right, an a. So go ahead and take out your primary paper and pencil and sit quietly until everyone has done so. To write the letter a, there are a few steps we have to take that might help you remember how to write it on your own. Let me show you on the big primary paper I have how to write it. Let's pretend that the bottom line, or the red line, is the sidewalk and the middle, dotted line is the fence. The top blue line would be the roof of the house. So, we start by putting the tip of our pencil on the fence line. Curve around down to the sidewalk and come back up and around up to the fence until we have made a circle. But, we are not going to move our pencil once we get back up to the fence. That is very important. Keeping your pencil where you stopped at the fence, swoop down the side of your circle back down to the sidewalk and swoop up just a little to make a tiny tail on the a. (The teacher is modeling this technique while the students are writing theirs on their primary paper.) Now you're going to write a row of a's on your paper and I will come around to look at them and help you if you need it. Remind me what sound that the letter a makes when we see it all by itself? That's right, it's /a/.
5) Make index cards with words that have /a/ in their name. Place the word cards on the board with magnets. Some cards will have words on them that do not have /a/ in their name. Have students come up to the board and take down the word cards that have /a/ in their name. The teacher will do this by asking the student to take the word card that has /a/ in its name. Sample words for the activity would be apple, hat, cat, bag, and tack and words without /a/ might be bed, wig, and rug.
6) Introduce A Cat Nap with a book talk. Put children in groups of three to reread the story and have them write down words that they find that have /a/ in them. Each child should keep his or her own list and write down words that they find during the reading. Come back together as a group and call out words that they found while reading and the teacher will write those words on the chalkboard as they say them.
7) For assessment, use the lists of words that the students made during their reading of A Cat Nap and observe the words that they have chosen from the text. Judge their abilities in recognizing /a/ in words by the words they chose from the text. Alter teaching methods accordingly.
Reference: Ehri, Linnea C.(1998).
Grapheme-phoneme knowledge is essential for learning to read words in English.
In J.L. Metsala and L.C. Ehri (Eds.) Word recognition in beginning
literacy. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. Page 19-20.
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