Aaaah! It's an /a/!

A Beginning Reading Lesson in short /a/

Lynn Mitcham


Rationale: Students engaged in this lesson will learn the vowel correspondence: a=/a/.  It is important for beginning readers to understand the sound and symbol correspondence in order to decode words.  In this lesson students will learn to recognize, spell, and read words with the /a/ sound.  A mnemonic device will be introduced (the /a/ sound at the beginning and end of a scream) and students will spell and read /a/ words with scaffolding (letterboxes) and read a decodable book that focuses on the correspondence a = /a/.


Materials: An image of an airplane or a traveler, cover-up critter, letterboxes (1 per student), letter tiles (per child) a, b, c, f, k, l, n, p, r, s, and t, decodable text: "A Cat Nap," spelling words on poster (or on whiteboard) to read (2 phonemes: as, 3- cat, can, 4-crab, slap, bran, fast, 5-plan), and an assessment worksheet.



1. Say: If we are going to be awesome readers, we have to learn our written language.  It's kind of like a code!  If we went to a new place where they used words we don't know we would have to learn their language.  What if we went on a trip and the first lady we saw was excited to see us and screamed "AHHHH!"  (Draw this phoneme /a/ out very long, exaggerated, and excited as if greeting somebody.)  She would be making the sound for the short a! (The teacher should draw lowercase a on the board.)  Let's all say it together like we are excited to see our friend! (Class and teacher say /a/ in an exaggerated, excitable way.)  Let's say it like we are greeting somebody who just got back from a vacation: /a/! (Exaggerate this phoneme again).


2. Say:  I bet you there are words you use everyday that have that secret short a in it and you don't even know it.  Let's check! When I try to find short a in my words I check to see what my mouth is doing.  If I say /a/ my mouth opens up like this (teacher demonstrates) and I make this silly sound.  Everybody try together!  What if you have baseball practice after school? Is the /a/ sound in bat? BAAAAAAAAAAT! Yep! I hear it too! What about in basketball? I'm going to try basket. BAAAAAAAAAAAAAASKET.  There it was! What about in score? Nope. Not in score.  Well, what about run? RRRUUUNNN.  Nope, not in run.  What if you have dance rehearsal after school? Is the short a in dance? DAAAAAAANCE. You are right! You are so smart! What about in tap? TAAAAAAAP! Yeah! What about a ballerina's shoe? Let's try slipper.  SSLLIIPPEERR…. Nope. There is no short a in slipper!


3. Say:  I want everybody to get out their letterboxes and their letters.  We are going to learn how to use these things! Let's say I want to tell a story about a strand of hair falling in my soup.  How would I spell strand?? Well, one of the first things I need to know is how many boxes I need.  Let's stretch this word out! /s/t/r/a/n/d/. Ok, six boxes.  I heard that /a/ sound so I'll need my… a! You are right!  I heard the word start with a /s/ so I need my S tile.  I also hear the /t/ so I'll need the T tile.  After /st/ I hear the /r/ noise, so I'll need an R.  Now I have /stra/.  I'm getting close to spelling "Strand!"  Let's stretch it out again.  /s/t/r/a/n/d/ I heard an /n/ and a /d/ so I'll need to add an N and a D to the end of the word.  Now when I sound it out I see the word STRAND!  Now let's read a hard word.  (Display "splat").  The first thing I see is the a.  It must say /a/.  Before the /a/ I see /s/ and /p/ and /l/.  So if we run it all together it says "spla…" and what sound does the T make? That's right! If we add /t/ to the end of the /spla/ it says "splat!"  The whole word says "splat!"  "When I dropped the playdough it went splat!"  Great job guys!


4. Say: Now it is your turn to spell some words in your letterboxes! I'll give you a hint, at first you'll need two letterboxes.  I want everyone to try to spell "as."  "She is as pretty as a picture. As."  I'm going to check as I walk around.  (The teacher will walk around and assess the student's progress as they work in the letterboxes.  On a clipboard make individualized notes about each student and the miscues or difficulties they may have.)  Great job! Now you will need three boxes.  Try to spell cat.  "I have a cat named Savannah.  Cat." Allow students to spell remaining words: 3- can, pack 4- crab, slap, bran, fast, 5-plan). 


5. Now I want you all to read your words that you have spelled.  All together… great!  Now I'm going to call on you and let you read a word. (Repeat until everyone has had a chance to read a word aloud.)


6. You are all so smart!  Now I am going to let you practice reading this book. This book is called "A Cat Nap."  In this book a little Cat named Tab likes to take naps in silly places! One day he curled up in a man's gym bag.  Where do you think Tab ended up when he woke up? We will have to read to find out! I want you to find your neighbor and practice reading and taking turns with this book.  (Children pair up and partner read the decodable text.  The teacher will walk around and monitor.  After each student gets a chance to read the text the whole class will read it together.  The teacher will pause to ask questions about the plot between pages.)



A Cat Nap. Carson, CA.  Educational Insights. 1990. 1-8.

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