Aaaaay? What Did You Say?

A Beginning Reading Lesson

Beth Binkowski

Rationale: This lesson teaches children the long vowel correspondence a_e = /A/. In order to be able to read, students must learn to recognize the spellings of word pronunciations. In this lesson, students will learn to recognize, spell, and read words containing the spelling a_e. They will learn a meaningful representation (unable to hear and say Aaaay?), they will spell and read words containing this spelling in a Letterbox Lesson, and read a decodable book that focuses on the correspondence a_e = /A/.

Materials: graphic image of a person cupping their ear to hear, cover up critter, whiteboard Letterboxes, Letterboxes for students, letter manipulatives for each student and for teacher: a, t, e, c, m, k, h, p, l, n, s, t, r, list of spelling words on poster: ate, came, take, cat, hate, plane, state, crane, scrape, decodable text, and assessment worksheet.


1. Say: In order to become expert readers we need to learn the code that tells us how to pronounce words. We have already learned the short vowel a, like cat, and today we are going to learn about long A and the silent e signal that is used to make A say it’s name, /A/. When I say /A/ I think of someone that cannot hear very well and cups their hand over their ear and says, “Aaaay? What did you say?” [show graphic image] Now let’s look at the spelling of /A/ that we will learn today. One way to spell /A/ is with the letter a and a signal silent e at the end to tell me to say A’s name. [Write a_e on the board.] This blank line tells me that there is a consonant after the a and at the end of the word there is a silent e signal.

2. Say: Before we learn about the spelling of /A/, we need to listen for it in some words. When I listen for /A/ in words, I hear a say it’s name and my mouth stretches out wide like this. [Make vocal gesture for /A/.] I’ll show you first: take. I heard a say it’s name and I felt my mouth open up wide. There is a long a in take. Now I am going to see if it is in thin. Hmmm, I didn’t hear a say it’s name or feel my mouth open wide. So, there must not be long a in thin. Now you try. If you hear the /A/ cup your hand to your ear and if it’s not there then shake your head no. Is it in: trade, keep, early, late, cat, wild, tame?

3. Say: What if I want to spell the word state? “I live in the state of Alabama.” State means like a location on a map. To spell state in letterboxes, first, I need to know how many phonemes are in the word so I stretch it out and count them: /s//t//A//t/. I need 4 boxes. I heard the /A/ right before the /t/ so I’ll put my a in the third box and the silent e signal outside the last box. The word starts with /s/, that's easy; I need an s. Now it gets a little tricky so I am going to say it very slowly. /s//t//A//t/. I think I heard /t/ so I'll put a t right after the s. I have one empty box now. [Point to the letters when stretching out the word: /s//t//A//t/] the missing letter is a t.

Now I'll show you how I would read a tough word. [Display poster with trade on it and model how to read the word.] I'm going to start with the a_e; that part says /A/. Now I'm going to put the first part with it: t-r-a_e. /trA/. Now I'll put that with the last sound, /t//r//A//d/. "Oh, trade. Like I want to trade my car in."

4. Say: Now, we are going to spell some words in Letterboxes. You'll start out easy with two boxes for ate. "Last night, we ate cheeseburgers for dinner." What should go in the first box? [Respond to students' answers.] What goes in the second box? What about silent e, did you remember to put it outside the last box? I'll check your spelling while I walk around the room. [Observe progress.] You'll need three boxes for the next word. Listen for the beginning sound to spell in the first box. Then listen for /A/ and don't forget to put the silent e signal outside the boxes. Here's the word: came; I came to school today. [Allow children to spell the rest of the words 3 phonemes- take, cat, hate, 4 phonemes- plane, slack, state, crane, 5 phonemes- scrape]

5. Say: Now I'm going to let you read the words that you have spelled. [Have children read words in unison]

6. Say: You've done a great job reading words with our new spelling for /A/: a_e. Now we are going to read a book called Race for Cake. This is a story of a boy and girl names Ben and Jess. They are playing when they can smell something their mother is baking. They take off in a race in order to see who can get to the cake first. Let's pair up and take turns reading Race for Cake to see what happens. [Children pair up and take turns reading alternative pages while the teacher walks around and monitors progress. After individual paired reading, the class reads the book altogether and pauses between certain pages to discuss what is happening.]

7. Say: Before we finish up with our lesson about one way to spell /A/: a_e, I want to see how you can solve a reading problem. On this worksheet, there are some words missing. I want to fill in the spaces with the correct a_e word to complete the short story. Read all of the choices first and then choose which word you want to use. After you fill in all the spaces reread your story to make sure it makes sense. [Collect worksheets to evaluate individual progress]

8. References:

Noie Yancey, Oh, Oh, My Knee Hurts:

Murray, G. (2004) Race for Cake. Reading Genie:


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