Active Adventures with Short A!

Emergent Literacy Design

Kari Beth Freeman


To learn to read and spell words, students must learn that letters are symbols that stand for phonemes, or vocal gestures. This lesson will guide children to recognize these phonemes in spoken words. According to Adams (1990), phonemic awareness and letter recognition are the two most powerful predictors of future reading success. Therefore, the goal of this lesson is to teach the children the letter sound correspondence a=/a/.  The students will be able to recognize the short a sound by learning a meaningful representation as well as a letter symbol to help them remember this letter sound correspondence.


-Large picture illustrating the crying baby /a/ sound

-Chalkboard/chalk or a white board/markers

-1 dry erase board (with primary paper lines) and marker for every student

-primary paper and pencil

-poster with “Alice asked if Andrew’s active animals were angry,” written on it.

-Aster Aardvark’s Alphabet Adventures, by Steven Kellogg (1987)

-Decodable book: Pat’s Jam.  Educational Insights.

-Assessment worksheet (1 for every student): pictures of a: map, hat, rug, twig, girl, apple, dog, can, pot, and pan


1. Introduce the lesson by explaining, “Our written language is a secret code that we must figure out in order to learn how to read. Letters are not only written a certain way, but they also make certain sounds when we speak.  We use different mouth moves as we say each word.  Today we’re going to look for words with the sound /a/ in them.  This sound represents how we say the letter a in words. We will learn how our mouth moves when we say /a/. You will be surprised how many words you already know have the /a/ sound!”

2.  “Does anyone have a little brother or sister? Think back to when he or she was a little baby.  Did they cry a lot? I bet you never noticed it, but the /a/ sound is the sound babies make when they cry. This is the mouth move we use to say the sound /a/.” (Model the /a/ sound and the hand gestures used for the crying baby /a/ sound). “Let’s all rub our eyes and make the crying baby /a/ sound together. Great job!  I’m going to say some words, and I want you to listen for the crying baby /a/ sound.  Listen for the /a/ sound in the word mad. I’m going to slow down how I say the word to listen for the /a/ sound: mmmmmmm     mmmmaaaaaaaa- there it is! mmmaaaaddd. Did everyone hear crying baby /a/? Good.  Now it’s your turn to break apart the word. (Provide scaffolds if needed) Do you hear /a/ in cab or kid?   Fast or first? Clap or cup? Add or hop?”

3.  Let’s practice the crying baby /a/ sound with a tongue twister (written on the chalk/dry erase board). “Alice asked if Andrew’s active animals were angry.” Let’s say the tongue twister three times together. Good! Now, let’s see if we can stretch out the /a/ sound using our crying baby hands. “Aaaaalice aaaasked if Aaaandrew’s aaaactive aaaanimals were aaaangry.” One more time. Great job with the crying baby /a/ sound!

4. “Now we are going to practice writing the letter a that makes our crying baby /a/ sound. Everyone will get a mini dry erase board (with primary lines drawn on it in permanent marker). Watch me write the letter. ‘Don’t start at the fence. Start just under the fence. Go up and touch the fence, then around and touch the sidewalk, around and straight down.’ Now, I want us all to try one as a class on their board. Ready. Everyone make an a on their board with me, when you are done, hold up your board in the air.” After I see every child has written their a correctly I will call the class’s attention. “I see that everyone has made the letter a.  What sound does this make again? Good, crying baby /a/ (while rubbing your eyes). Let’s get out your (primary) paper and make the letter a five more times.”

5. “Let’s practice finding words with the crying baby /a/ sound.  I am going to say two different words and I want you to listen very carefully for the /a/ sound.  Raise your hand when you hear the word with the /a/ sound.  Ready. Do you hear the /a/ sound in pen or pat? Good! Cat or dog? Math or mug? Milk or dad? Red or bad?

6. Read the pages of the book Aster Aardvark’s Alphabet Adventures, by Steven Kellogg that include the a=/a/ correspondences. While reading, discuss what the students notice about most of the words.  “What do you think makes this book fun to read? (alliteration-All the words start with the same sound). What do you notice about many of the words in this story? What letter do they start with? What mouth move do you notice in these words? Now, we are going to read the story Pat’s Jam together. When you hear that crying baby /a/ sound, I want you to raise your hand. Ready. ” We will read the book two-three times, and I will write the words that the students notice on the word wall for future reference. 

7. Using the words on the board, we will write our own tongue twister as a class. “Let’s write our own tongue twister using words with the /a/ sound. Can anyone think of words to add to our list? Good work!” After our tongue twister is written, the students will underline the letter that makes the short a sound on their paper.


-I will give the students a worksheet with several pictures (map, hat, rug, twig, girl, apple, dog, can, pot, pan) on it. We will go over what each picture beforehand to ensure that there is no confusion to what the pictures are representing.  The students must circle the pictures that stand for words with the a=/a/ letter sound correspondence. Then, they must find two other objects in the classroom that have the a=/a/ letter sound correspondence draw and/or write the name of that object.  


-Eldredge, J. Lloyd (2005). Teach Decoding-Why and How. 2nd edition. Pearson Education, Inc. New Jersey. pp. 65-66.

-Kellogg, Steven (1987). Aster Aardvark’s Alphabet Adventures. Mulberry Publishers.

-Pat’s Jam.  Educational Insights.

-Vickery, Julie (1998). Phonemic Awareness for Young Language Learners: Letter in the Sand

Click here to go back to Constructions.