The Crying Baby

Emergent Reading
Erin Gray

Rationale:  To learn to read and spell words, children need the alphabetic insight that letters stand for phonemes and spellings map out the phonemes in spoken words.  Before children can match letters to phonemes, they have to recognize phonemes in spoken word contexts.  Short vowels are probably the toughest phonemes to identify.  This lesson will help children identify /a/ (short a).  They will learn to recognize /a/ in spoken words by learning a meaningful representation and a letter symbol, and then practice finding /a/ in words.

Materials:  Primary paper and pencil; chart with “Andrew and Alice asked if Annie’s active animals were angry”; drawing paper and crayons; Pat’s Jam by Sheila Cushman and published by Educational Insights; picture page with rat, van, sad, bus, gab, sun, rug, pal, ham, nut, fig, hat.

Procedures:  1.  Introduce the lesson by explaining that our written language is a secret code.  The tricky part is learning what letters stand for the mouth moves we make as we say words.  Today we’re going to work on spotting the mouth move /a/.  At first, /a/ will seem hidden in words, but as you get to know it, you’ll be able to spot /a/ in all kinds of words.

2.  Ask students: Did you ever hear a baby crying say /a/?  That’s the mouth move we’re looking for in words.  Let’s pretend we are a baby crying and say /a/.  (Make the hand motions of a baby crying).  We cry like a baby when we are hungry and want our mom to feed us.  Cry like a baby: /a/.

3.  Let’s try a tongue twister (on chart).  “Andrew and Alice asked if Annie’s active animals were angry.”  Everybody say it three times together.  Now say it again, and this time, stretch the /a/ at the beginning of the words.  Aaandrew aaand Aaalice aaasked if Aaanie’s aaactive aaanimals were aaangry.  Try it again, and this time break it off the word:  /a/ ndrew /a/ nd /a/ lice a/ sked if /a/ nnie’s /a/ ctive /a/ nimals were /a/ ngry.

4.  (Have students take out primary paper and pencil).  We can use letter a to spell /a/.  Let’s write it.  Don’t start at the fence.  Start under the fence.  Go up and touch the fence, then around and touch the sidewalk, around and straight down.  I want to see everybody’s /a/.  After I put a sticker on it, I want you to make nine more just like it.  When you see letter a all by itself in a word, that’s a signal to say /a/.

5.  Let me show you how to find /a/ in the word flat.  I’m going to stretch flat out in super slow motion and listen for the crying baby.  Fl-fl-fl-a-t.  Fl-fl-fl-a-a-a.  There it is!  I do hear the baby crying /a/ in flat.

6.  Call on students to answer and tell how knew:  Do you hear /a/ in jam or jelly?  Ham or turkey?  Bike or van?  Smile or sad?  Can or not?  (Pass out a card to each student.)  Say:  Let’s see if you can spot the mouth move /a/ in some words.  Cry like a baby if you hear /a/.  his, at, gas, can, he, sad, gab, apple, jam, to, up, pat. 

7.  Read Pat’s Jam and talk about the story.  Read it again, and have students raise their hands when they hear words with /a/.  List their words on the board.  Then have each student draw a rat/mouse and write a message about it using invented spelling.  Display their work.

8.  For assessment, distribute the picture page and help students name each picture.  Ask each student to circle the pictures whose names have /a/.


            Adams, M.J. (1990) Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning About Print.  Center for the Study of Reading and the Reading Research and Educational Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Campaign.