By Paige Parker

Rationale:  It is important for beginning readers to develop a sight vocabulary to enhance their fluency and automaticity.  For this to occur, however, students must be knowledgeable of the letter-sound correspondences necessary for decoding words.  Due to the subtlety of the different mouth and sound shapes associated with them, short vowels are the hardest phonemes to identify.  In this lesson, students will learn a = /a/.  Through meaningful representations, tongue twisters, practice spelling /a/ words in the letterboxes, and reading words students will learn to read and write /a/ words.

Materials:
1. Each student needs primary paper and pencil.
2. Chart with "Apples and ants are actors" written on it.
3. Each student needs a set of letterboxes with the letters a, t, f, c, l, p, g, r, and m
4. Each student needs one copy of A Cat Nap (Educational Insights).
5. Picture page with illustrations of the following: chick, cat, dog, pig, rat, map, book, apple, and orange.

Procedures:
1. Introduce the lesson by explaining to the students that they will be learning about the a = /a/ correspondence.  Today, we are going to learn about the letter a and the sound it makes.  Then, we are going to learn how to read and spell words using the letter a.

2. Ask the students:  "Have you ever heard anyone say Aaa-aaa-aaa-choo when they sneezed?"  The aaa sound is the sound /a/ makes.  Now, let's pretend we are going to sneeze together÷aaa-aaa-aaa-choo!

3. Now we are going to read the tongue twister I have written on my chart.  "Apples and ants are awesome."  Now let's try it together.  Now say it again, and this time stretch out the /a/ at the beginning of the words.  "A/a/a/apples a/a/a/a/nd a/a/a/a/nts a/a/a/a/re a/a/a/a/actors. Try it again, only this time break /a/ off each word:  "/a/ pples /a/ nd /a/ nts /a/ re /a/ ctors." Good job.

4. I need everyone to take out his or her pencil and paper. We are going to use the letter a to spell /a/.  Let's begin by writing the letter a.  Start under the fence.  Go up and touch the fence, then around and touch the sidewalk, around and straight down.  I want to see everybody's a. I want everyone to make his or her own row of a's just the way we practiced. Now, when you see the letter a by itself in a word, you will know to say /a/.

5. Now, we are going to work with our letterboxes.  First, we are going to use our letterboxes to spell words with the a = /a/ correspondence.  We are going to start out with two letterboxes; this means our first word has two sounds.  The first word is at, the word starts with the /a/ sound so I will put an a in the first box.  The word ends with the /t/ sound, so I will put a t in the second box.  Does everyone understand?  Ok, we are going to move onto to three sounds so we need three letterboxes.  Spell cat, lap, and fat.  Now we are going to move onto four sounds, so we need four boxes.  The words we will be using are lamp and slam.  Great job!!  Now it's my turn to do the hard part.  I am going to show you a word and I want you to read it.  The first word is at.  The a says /a/ and the t says /t/ so the word is at.  The students will read the following words: cat, lap, fat, lamp, and slam.

6. We are going to read A Cat Nap.  Can anyone tell me by looking at the cover what he or she thinks this book will about?  This book is about a cat that desperately needs a nap, but he cannot find a place to do so?  Will the cat ever find a place to rest?  Let's read and find out!  I want each person to read quietly with a buddy.  Take turns reading each page.  I will come around and listen to each of you.

7. Now, I am going to give each of you a picture page, and I want you to circle the picture that has an /a/ in its name.

References:
Murray, B. A., & Lesniak, T. (1999). The letterbox lesson:  A hands on approach for teaching decoding. The Reading Teacher, 52, 644-650.

http://www.auburn.edu/rdggenie/openings/tylerbr.html
(Web page entitled Baaaaaaa said the sheep by Beth Tyler)

http://www.auburn.edu/rdggenie/openings/minkbr.html
(Web page entitled Ahh!!! Being Happy!!! by Shay Mink)