Don’t Cry Baby

Emergent Literacy Design

Courtney Smith

Rationale:   To learn to read and spell words, children need the alphabetic insight that letters stand for phonemes and spelling maps 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, and paper that has the following on it: “Andrew and Alice asked if Annie's active animals were angry.”  A Cap Nap (Educational Insights); picture page with cat, dog, nap, hat, bug, bag (Modern Curriculum Press Phonics, Level A)


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. 


  1. 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 to cry like a baby and say /a/.  (Rub eyes and cry)  We sound like the baby crying.  Cry like a baby /a/.
  1. Let’s try a tongue twister (chart). Say it three times together.  Now say it and stress the /a/ at the beginning of the words.  "Aaaandrew and Aaaalice aaasked if Aaaannie's aaaactive aaaanimals were aaaangry.”  Try it again and this time break up the words.
  1. Pencil and paper.   We can use letter a to spell /a/.  Let’s write it.  Start 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 put a smile on your paper, I want you to make nine more just like it.  When you see the letter a all by itself in a word, that makes the /a/ sound.
  1. Let me show you how to find a in crat.  I’m going to stretch cat out in super slow motion and listen for the baby crying.  C-C-C- a-t.  C-C-C-a-a-a…there it is!  Did you here the baby crying /a/ in cat
  1. Call on students to answer and tell you how they knew:  Do you here /a/ in cat or cup?  Walk or run?  Dog or hat?  (Pass out a card to each student) Cry like a baby if you hear /a/. " Andrew and Alice asked if Annie's active animals were angry. "
  2. Read A Cat Nap and talk about the story.  Read it again and have students raise their hands when they hear words with /a/ in it.  List their words on the board and then have the students to draw a crying baby and write a message about it.  Display their work. 
  3. For assessment, distribute the picture page and have students to name the pictures with /a/ in it.



Hummer, M.  Mouth Movements and Gestures for Phonemes. . The Reading Genie


Schuler, J. (2005)  Freddy’s Feet. . The Reading Genie


Click here to return to constructions