Beginning Reader 

April Grimmett

Once children have a good foundation of phonemic awareness they must have explicit and systematic phonics instruction in order to be able to read.  All words contain a vowel, so it is usually best to start with a vowel sound.  Since long vowels are formed with other letters, short vowels are the most basic place to begin.  Beginning readers must not only know that words are made up of sounds, they must also learn the correspondences between written letters and their phonemes.  This lesson will focus on a = /a/.  Students will review the short a sound, and then they will move on to learn that the letter a, when by itself says /a/.  Then the students will practice spelling and reading words with the /a/ sound. 

Class set of Elkonin boxes
class set of letter manipulatives
Overhead Elkonin boxes and letter manipulatives (c, a , t, b, n, p, g, h, l, f, r)
Class set of  A Cat Nap
worksheet with pictures of a hat, bat, can, dog, tree, and pig 

1. Today we are going to learn which letter makes our screaming sound.  Everyone make the screaming sound with me (together) /a·/  (The students can place their hands on their cheeks and open their mouths like in home alone) Now lets say our tongue twister for the /a/ sound.  "Ahhhh, Allie the Alligator is after the cat." 

2. "Can anyone give me a word with our screaming sound in it?"  Write the words that the students call out on the board if they do have the /a/ sound.  Next ask students if they can tell which letter is making the /a/ sound.  If they see that it is the a, then great, if not explain.  Use cat as an example.  "Letâs look at this word,/k/ /a/ /t/." (point to each letter as you say the sound) "Which letter makes the /a/ sound? The a in cat makes the /a/ sound.  Letâs say the word cat together and stretch out the middle sound.  /k/ /aaaaaaaa/ /t/." 

3. Have students take out their Elkonin boxes and letters.  "Now we are going to practice spelling some words with the /a/ sound in them." Model for the students.  "I will show you how to spell the word cat in the boxes (do on overhead) I am going to place the letter representing each sound in its own box.  First I will put the c in the first box for /k/ sound.  Next I hear the screaming sound so I need to put an a in the middle box, and in my last box I need a t for the /t/ sound.  Now I have spelled the word cat by filling up all 3 of my boxes with a letter for each sound." 

4. Now have the students try spelling some words with their boxes.  As they spell each word look around at each students work to make sure that they have correctly spelled the words.  Do not let students clear their boards until you have checked their spelling.  Start with 3 phoneme words:  bat, nap, bag, cap, hat, pal .  Next have students add a fourth box to work on 4 phoneme words:  clap, flat, grab

5. "Now I am going to spell some words, and I am going to see if you can read them back to me.  If you think that you know the word that I am spelling, then raise your hand."  Spell out the words that you had asked the students to spell in a random order without the Elkonin boxes. 

6. Next, call students to work with you in a small group.  They will read A Cat Nap aloud.  Change your scaffolding to fit each students individual needs as they read aloud from the book.  Ask the students to take the book home and practice reading it. 

7. For assessment, you can give students a page with various pictures on it.  The students should circle the objects that have the /a/ sound in their name.  Then they should write the name of the object below the circled pictures only.  You may also assess the students by rereading A Cat Nap the next day and doing a running record on them as they read aloud. 


Murray, B.A., & Lesniak, T. (1999). The Letterbox Lesson:  A hands-on Approach for teaching decoding. The Reading Teacher, 644- 650

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