AAA!!  The Baby is Crying!  AAA!!

Beginning Literacy

Mary Kay Williams


            Beginning readers need to develop skills to decode unfamiliar words.  Children need to be able to understand that when our mouth moves and makes a sound, it is a phoneme.  Along with this, they need to be able to understand the relationship between letters and phonemes.  This lesson will help students do this.  Short vowels are some of the first correspondences that students need to learn, so today we are going to learn the correspondence a = /a/.  We will do this by learning a meaningful representation of the /a/ sound, by recognizing it in spoken words, by spelling words with /a/ in them in a letterbox lesson, and by recognizing /a/ words in the text A Cat Nap.


            Primary paper and pencil
            Letter manipulatives: a, t, m, n, p, o, l, f
            A Cat Nap by Sheila Cushman
            Letterboxes (one for each student)
            Overhead projector
            Paper (one for each student) with pictures of : tree, cat, dog , man, fan, bat, rat, bus, pig
           Large picture of crying baby to place on the board


1.         Introduce the lesson by explaining why it’s important to learn that a letter represents a sound.  “Today we are going to learn about a = /a/.  It is important to learn this so we can recognize this sound in words.  We will also make words that have the sound.  We want to learn this sound so that when we hear it we will be able to write is as well.”

2.         Ask the students to take out primary writing paper.  Review how to make the letter a (for lowercase a, 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.) and then have the students practice on their own paper after they have listened to me explain and model how to make it.

3.         Place the large picture of the crying baby on the board.  “What is this picture of?  Yes, a crying baby and what sound does it make?” Say aaa! “Now I want everyone to try this together…aaaa!” I am going to say some words and if you hear /a/ rub you eyes like the crying baby: cat, dog, bed, man, tree, can, bat.

4.         Have the children get out their letterboxes and letters: a, t, m, n, p, o, l, f.  Use the overhead projector to do the lesson with the children.  "Now we are going to work on spelling words that have the /a/ sound in them.  First, we need three boxes. Lets spell man together.  The first sound that I hear is the /m/ sound so I am going to place a m in the first box.  Next I hear the /a/ sound that we were working on so I am going to but an a in the second box.  I hear a /n/ sound at the end so I am going to put a n in the last box. ” Look around at the children desk to check answers before putting it on the overhead.  “Ok, let’s move to the three boxes and spell cat” (Continue this until they spell: nap, bag, pat, pal, fan) “You are doing great, now I am going to write these words on the overhead and let’s say them together.”

5.         Pass out a copy of A Cat Nap to each student. “Before we begin to read does anyone have a pet?  What is its name?  Well, today we are going to read a book about a cat named Tab who likes to nap all the time.  Let’s find out what happens to Tab.”  Then have the children read the book silently.  When you are finished, I want you to be thinking of words you found in the book that have the /a/ sound."  I will then call on students to share words they found and write them on the board.

6.         To assess the children, pass out the sheet with all of the pictures.  Have the students circle all the pictures with a = /a/


Cushman, Sheila.  A Cat Nap.   California: Educational Insights, 1990.

Fidler, Natalie.  Rub Those Eyes….aah!

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.

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