Can You Stop the Baby from Crying?

   Emergent Literacy

Tammy Feely


Rationale:  It is very important that children are able recognize phonemes (sounds) to letters.  This lesson will help prepare children to identify /a/ (short a).  With practice, children will become familiar and comfortable with identifying /a/ in spoken words by practicing how to make the letter symbol, as well as creating and identifying the phoneme.  By practicing how to identify /a/ in words, students will gain confidence in their alphabetic insights and capabilities.     



Primary paper


Poster board with “Ashley and Allison asked Ann if alligators ate apples” written neatly on it.

Zack the Rat (Starfall)

Picture cut outs of an apple, mask, bag, nap, couch, coffee, ant, crab, black, snake, nest, flower (All can be retrieved from


1.         Introduce the lesson by explaining to children that our language is like a maze, and in order to get to the end, we must figure out what roads we have to take.  One road is that we have to know what mouth movements to make for different letters, so that we can make a complete journey on to our destination (make it to the end of the maze).  Today, we are going to focus on the mouth move for /a/.  It’ll take some time, but with practice and a secret trick that I am going to show you, we will have this mastered in no time!

2.         Have you ever heard a baby cry?  They sound like this (make the noise).  Well, let’s take a moment for us to practice that cry.  (Wait about 10 seconds to give the children time to practice.)  What gestures does the baby make when they cry?  That’s right, they hold their hands up to their eyes.  Well, do you know what?  You just made the sound and our special gesture for /a/.  Congratulations, you learned my secret trick!

3.         Now, our goal for today is to get this baby to stop crying.  So let’s try this tongue twister (on poster board).  (Teacher reads this the first time through).  Ashley and Allison asked Ann if alligators ate apples.”  Now that we heard it, I want us to practice saying it together as a group slowly, three times.  Alright, raise your hand if you think you might have heard the baby crying in our sentence?  Yes?  Awesome; That is correct!  Let’s all say it together but this time, we are going to stretch out that crying baby sound.  Aaaaaaaashley aaaaand Aaaaallison aaaasked Aaaaannn if aaalligators aaaaate aaaaples.  We are going to try it one more time and this time, we are going to break the crying baby off of the word:  “/a/ shley /a/ nd /a/ llison /a/ sked /a/nn if /a/ lligators /a/ te /a/ pples.

4.         Alright boys and girls, I want you all to get out your primary paper and pencils.  Now that we can say the letter a, I want us to be able to create it.  Ready?  Everybody start at the fence (the dotted line).  Let’s make a little “c.  Do we remember how to do that?  We start at the fence, go left and down like a moon, and jump up a little bit.  Good.  Now, take your pencil and come back up to the start of the little “c” at the fence.  Bring it straight down to the sidewalk.  Congratulations, you just made a little “a.”   I’m going to come around and check it.  After I check it, I want you to make a total of ten little a’s.  As you make them, say the crying baby sound to yourself, so that you can remember what we are practicing.

5.         Now that you guys are professionals at making the little a, I want to challenge you.  Are you up for it?  We are going to learn how to find /a/ in words that we hear.  Before we practice with pictures, I’m going to give you some choices.  Do you hear /a/ in kick or bat?  Do you hear /a/ in tap or hit?  Do you hear /a/ in fly or animal?  Good job.  Let’s review how we knew that really fast.  We sounded it out slowly, and identified that crying baby sound.

6.         Now, I am going to hold up some pictures.  I want you guys to identify what the picture is, and give me a thumbs up if you hear the crying baby sound in the word, or give me a thumbs down if you don’t.  [Hold up all pictures one at a time.  Give the students about 5 seconds to analyze and think of the picture’s name, and then call on a student to identify it.]

7.         Read  Zack the Rat and talk about the story.  Reread the story, and this time, have the students make the crying baby sound every time they hear the /a/.  Read the story one more time, and have the students identify the /a/ sounds with a thumbs up sign.  When you see the children’s thumbs in the air, write down the word they claimed has the short a sound.  Review the words they identified and discuss why they chose those words.

8.         For assessment, I will give children three sets of comparison pictures.  They will have to circle which picture has the short a sound (/a/).  Examples of comparison pictures include:  cow or apple,  alligator or dog,  ant or sheep.   



Cooke, Kristen.  Aaa! A is Scared of the Monster.

Eldredge, J. Lloyd.  Teaching Decoding.  Why and How. 2nd ed.  Upper Saddle River, New   Jersey:  Pearson Education, Inc., 2004.  p.78-79. 

Zac the Rat.  The Starfall Team.  Boulder, Colorado:  Starfall Publication. 2005.

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