Aaaa…was that a baby?

Leslie Myer

Emergent Literacy


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 some of the toughest phonemes to identify.  This lesson will help the children to identify /a/ (short a).  They will learn to recognize /a/ in spoken words by learning a meaningful representation and letter symbol, and then practice finding /a/ in words.



Primary paper and pencil

Poster with “Adam asked the address of the apple tree after the act.”

Drawing paper and crayons

A Cat Nap, Educational Insights, 1990.

Picture page with fan, bed, cap, desk, band, ant, bus, cat, ham, pig, and bat on it.



1. Introduce the lesson by explaining that our alphabet is a code for making words.  The hard part is figuring out what the letters stand for -- the mouth moves we make as we say words.  Today we are 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 will be able to spot /a/ in all kinds of words.

2. Ask students: Have you ever heard a baby cry /a/?  That’s the mouth move we are looking for today in our words.  Let’s pretend to be a crying baby and say /a/.  (Make a crying motion with hands.)  We hear a baby cry when they need something like food.  Let’s hear your baby cry: /a/.

3. Let’s try a tongue twister (on poster).  “Adam asked the address of the apple tree after adjusting the act.”  Everybody say it three times together.  Now say it again, and this time, stretch the /a/ at the beginning of the words.  "Aaaadam aaasked the aaaddress of the aaaple tree aaafter the aaact."  Try it again and this time break it off the word: "/a/ dam /a/ sked the /a/ ddress of the /a/ pple tree /a/ fter the /a/ ct."

4. (Have students take out primary paper and pencil.)  We can use the letter a to spell /a/.  Let’s write it.  Start just under the fence.  Go up and touch the fence, then around and touch the sidewalk, around and straight down.  I want to see everyone’s a.  After I look at yours, I want you to make nine more just like it.  When you see letter a all by itself in a word, that’s the signal to say /a/.

5. Let me show you how to find /a/ in the word lap.  I’m going to stretch lap out in slow motion and I want you to listen to see if you hear the baby cry.  L-l-l-a-p.  L-l-l-a-a-a….There it is! I do hear a baby crying /a/ in lap.

6. Call on students to answer and tell how they knew:  Do you hear /a/ in glass or cup?  Map or globe?  Cat or dog?  Sleep or nap?  Drop or catch?  Say:  Let’s see if you can spot the mouth move /a/ in some words.   Make your baby cry if you hear the baby cry /a/.  Adam, asked, the, address, of, the, apple, tree, after, the, act.

7. Read A Cat Nap 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 cat 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 off Reading and the Reading Research and Education Center, University of Illinois at Urbana-Campaign.

Amanda Kaye Owens.  Ahh! It’s A!

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