Ahhhhhhh!  Stop the Crying Baby

Beginning Reading
Laura Slocum

Rationale: In order for children to learn how to read and spell words, they need to develop phonemic awareness, as well as an understanding that spellings map out the phonemes in spoken words.  Vowel sounds are the most essential phonemes children can learn because they can be found in every spoken and written word.  This lesson will focus on the vowel correspondence a = /a/.  Students will learn how to distinguish the /a/ sound in spoken words, practice spelling the /a/ sound by using Elkonin boxes, and identify and decode the /a/ sound in written text.





1.  Introduce the lesson by explaining that letters represent different sounds in written words.  In order to become excellent readers, we must learn how to match the letters to their sounds.  Today we are going to learn that the letter a makes the /a/ sound.  As you begin to understand that a makes the /a/ sound, you will be able to read and spell all kinds of words. 

2.  Write the letter a on the board.  Explain to the students that a makes the /a/ sound.  Ask the students:  “Have any of you ever heard a baby cry?  Doesn’t a baby make an ahhhhhh sound when they cry?  Lets act like crying babies and make that sound while rubbing our eyes like crying babies.  Good, this is the sound that the letter a makes. 

3.  Now I have a tongue twister.  Show the class the tongue twister written on poster board.  Read the tongue twister to the class, “Adam and Amy ask animals for apples.”  Now lets read it together, “Adam and Amy ask animals for apples.”  This time whenever you hear the/a/ sound, I want you to act like a crying baby.  “Aaadam and Aaaamy aaaask aaaanimals for aaaaples.”  Now ask the students to raise their hands and tell you a word in the tongue twister they heard with the /a/ sound in it.  After doing that tell the students that you are going to practice spotting the /a/ sound in some spoken words.  Ask the students the following questions and call on them to answer.  Do you hear the /a/ sound in sat or sit?  Cat or dog?  Rat or mouse?  Tap or tip?

4.  Now ask the students to take out primary paper and pencil.  “Now you already now how to write the letter a, but today we are going to practice some more.  On the board, model writing an a, then go through the steps with the students.  “For lowercase a, you start under the fence then you go around and touch the sidewalk, around and straight down.  Can anyone tell me what sound this letter makes?  Now lets all say the sound together, /a/ good job.  Now please write ten a’s on your paper.”  Walk around while the students are writing and view their work.

5.  Now give each child a set of letterboxes as well as the appropriate letter tiles.  Say:  “Now we are going to practice using our knowledge of the /a/ sound to spell words.  What if I wanted to spell the word “bat?”  I am going to strat with the first sound that I hear in bat.  Bbbbat, I hear the /b/ sound.  I will place the letter b in the first letterbox.  The next sound I hear is baaaaat, /a/ there is the crying baby /a/ sound.  Now I will place the letter a in my second letterbox.  Now the last sound I hear is batttttt, /t/.  I hear the /t/ sound, which means I will place the letter t in the last letterbox.  Each of you have your own letterboxes and I want you to try to spell some words using the same procedure that I just modeled for you.  We will first open our letterboxes to only three boxes, meaning that each word we spell will have three sounds.”  Now ask the children to spell pat, fan, dad, jam, and rat.  Next ask every child to explain how they spelled the word.  Then continue on in this manner spelling four phoneme words such as:  crab, flag, back, clap, and sand.  Last, write each word one at a time on the board and call on each student to read them out loud to the class. 

6.  Now we will work on reading words with the /a/ sound in the decodable text, A Cat Nap.  Each child will get an individual copy of the book.  Say:  “I know that each of you can do an outstanding job of reading this book because all of you are now experts at recognizing the /a/ sound.  A Cat Nap is about a cat who loves to take naps.  He naps in Sam's bag and Sam has to leave to go to baseball practice.  He takes his bag with him with Tab the cat in there.  To find out what happens you have to read the book.  After you finish reading, I want you to write down at least three words you read containing the /a/ sound.  Also, if I come and pat you on the shoulder I want you to read in a low voice so I can hear what an expert reader you have become. After each child has finished reading, ask them to share the words that they found containing the /a/ sound and write them on the board. 

7.  For assessment, I will give each child a picture page with the correct number of letterboxes to spell the word underneath the picture.  As, a class we will name the first picture and I will have them spell the word in the letterboxes below the picture.  Remind the children that each box has only one sound.  We will do this with each picture.  I will have the picture words written on note cards.  I will have each student come up and read the cards I ask them to read.  This will allow me to hear them saying the /a/ sound and it will also let me know that they have a better understanding of the /a/ sound while they read. 


Murray, B.A., and Lesniak, T. (1999) “The letterbox Lesson:  A hands-on approach for teaching decoding.”  The Reading Teacher, March 1999.  pp. 644-650.

Adams, Lacey.  Aaaaaa!!!! Please Don’t Cry Baby!  http://www.auburn.edu/rdggenie/guides/adamsbr.html.  The Reading Genie. 

 Click here to return to Constructions