“Arrrrr” said the Pirate!

Beginning Reader Design

Rebecca Walton


Rationale:  “To approach the alphabetic significance of letters, children must gain conscious access to phonemes” (Adams).  For children to become fluent readers, they must understand that letters represent phonemes. Phonemes are the smallest unit of sound in the spoken language.  Phonemes can be represented by one letter or a combination of letters.  When a combination of letters makes a single sound, it is called a diagraph.  The goal for this lesson is to help children understand that two letters put together can make one sound.  In this lesson, students will learn to recognize that a and r put together make the sound /ar/ by doing letterbox lessons and reading Darby’s Sharp Car.


Pencils: one per student

Poster with tongue twister on it: "Arnold wore armor for the army."

Crayons (to color pictures)

Elkonin boxes for each student

Letters (a,r,b,t,f,s,d,k,m,c,p) for each student; letters should be double sided and laminated.

Oversized letterboxes and letters (c,a,r) for the teacher to model letterbox lesson

A copy for each child of the book Darby’s Sharp Car from “The Online Reading Program” (see references at bottom)

Handouts for each student with pictures that have the /ar/ sound (car, star, barn, dog, shark, cat)

Procedures:  1. Remember how we talked about letters making sounds in words?  Sometimes, two letters put together can make a single sound.  Today, we are going to learn about the letters a and r.   These two letters work as a team.  When, we see the letter a  in a word with the letter r after it, the r controls the a.  This means that the sound that these two letters makes is /ar/.   (Teacher should write ar on the board when explaining this.)

2. Have you ever heard a pirate say,”Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!”?  We are all going to act like big, bad pirates and say, “Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!”  Ready? Say it with me. “Arrrrrrrrrrrrrr!”  Now, when we say, “Arrrrrrrrrr!” I want you to raise your fist up like you are holding a pirate sword.  (Teacher models raising her fist up while saying, ‘Arrrrr!”)  Ready to do it with me? Class says “Arrrrrr!” while making the motion of raising their fists up like they are holding swords.  Let’s do it again, and drag out the /ar/ sound.   Good work!

3.  Now, I have a tongue twister on the board that I am going to read for you.  Arnold wore armor for the army.” Now, I am going to read the sentence really slowly, and when you hear the /ar/ sound, I want you to put your fist in the air like you are a pirate; just like we practiced earlier.  (Teacher reads sentence slowly, giving students time to make the pirate motion for the words that have the /ar/ sound.)  Now, I am going to read the tongue twister, and drag out the /ar/ sound in the words that have the letters ar in them.  Arnold wore armor for the army.”    Now, let’s do it together.  I want to hear you dragging out the /ar/ sound in the words that have the letters ar in them.  (Teacher points to each word while saying the tongue twister with the class.)

4.  Now, I want you to take out the letterboxes and letters that I have given you.  I am going to show you how to spell the word car in your letterboxes.   Teacher models using oversize letterboxes and letters.  Remind students that each box stands for one sound.  Since the letters a and r work as a team to make one sound, they only get one box.  After slowly sounding out the word car (/k/-/ar/), the teacher will place the letter c in the first box.  I hear the /k/ sound first, so I will put the letter c first. Next, I hear the /ar/ sound so will put the letters ar in the second box.  Now, I will give you some words to spell in your letterboxes.  Open up two boxes.  Spell the word bar.  Walk around the room, and see if the students are spelling bar correctly. Give students time to spell the words art and far also. Now open three letterboxes.  Tell students to spell the words star, dark, card, and farm. Let’s open four letterboxes.  Tell students to spell the word spark.  Great job!  Now that we have spelled the words in the letterboxes, let’s see if we can read the words on the board.  Teacher writes the word car on the board and models reading it by sounding out each phoneme.  “K-ar.”  She then writes the rest of the words from letterbox lesson on the board, and calls on students read each word.

5.  Now, I am going to see how well you recognize the /ar/ sound in words.  I am going to write a word on the board. I want you to raise your hand, and read the word for me.  If the word has the /ar/ sound, tell me if it is at the beginning, middle, or end of the word.  Give the students time to think about each word before calling on someone.

a. are

b. car

c. yard

d. cat

e. barn

6.  Now, each of you is going to read a book called Darby’s Sharp Car. Darby is a girl who has a really smart car.  This car is special because it can think and talk just like a person can.  Let’s see what adventures Darby and her car go on together.    I want you to look for the words with the /ar/ sound (It is a short, decodable book). After students get done reading, the teacher asks the students to tell her some words with the /ar/ sound in them.  She models first by writing the word sharp on the board.  I hear the /ar/ sound in sharrrrrrp.  The teacher makes a list on the board of all the words the students found with the /ar/ sound. 

7.  Assessment:  Now, I am going to give you a handout with some pictures on it. On the line underneath the picture, I want you to write what the picture is.  Sound out the words, so that you can spell them as best you can.  Then, I want you to circle the pictures that have the /ar/ sound in them.  You can color the pictures. On the handout, there will be pictures of a car, star, barn, dog, shark, and a cat.  Have the students turn in their work.  See if they circled the correct pictures. 

Auburn University Reading Genie Web site, Beginning Reader Design, Cendy Burbic, "The Fish said Shh." http://www.auburn.edu/rdggenie/begin/burbicbr.html


Ellis, Stephanie. “Explicit Phonics for the “-ar” sound”.  http://alex.state.al.us/lesson_view.php?id=597


Reading a-z.com: The Online Reading Program.  “Lesson 54. r-Controlled a (as in car)”. 



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