Ahhhh, A Scary Ghost!

Beginning Reading

Lauren Owens


Rationale: In order for children to read, they must first learn that words are made up of letters, and those letters stand for different phonemes, or sounds they must memorize. With knowledge of which letters correspond to which sounds, students will be on their way to breaking the "reading code".  This lesson teaches children about the short vowel correspondence a=/a/. In this lesson, students will learn to recognize, spell, and read words containing short a. They will learn a meaningful representation (Putting hands to face as if scared and screaming "Ahh!"), be able to spell and read words containing this spelling in a letterbox lesson, and read decodable books that focuses on the correspondence a=/a/.


Materials: Graphic image of a ghost; dry erase board; lined paper; pencils;  Smart board letter boxes for modeling and individual letter boxes for each student; letter manipulatives for each student; Smart board letters for teacher: a, b, c, d, g, h, l, n, s, t; words on cards (had, bat, lag, chat, gas, and can); Pat's Jam (a copy for each partner group); Sam the Ant (one copy)



1. Say: "In order to become expert readers, we need to learn the code that tells us how to pronounce words. Today we are going to learn about short a. A is the first letter of the alphabet. Does anyone know what sound a makes?" (Wait for response) "The letter A makes two different sounds, but today we will be learning that the letter a makes the /a/ sound, as in apple or cat" (over-pronounce /a/ sound). Sometimes when I'm really scared, I scream like this, with my hands over my cheeks "Ahhhh!" (/a/!!) Halloween is coming up, and every year I get scared of kids dressed as ghosts and say, "Ahhhh!", which is the same sound that a makes!"  [Show picture of ghost.] "Let's pretend that all of you are scared of this ghost. Can you make the /a/ sound by screaming "Ahhhh"?". [Let children scream- but remind them not to be too loud.] 


2. It is also very important that you are able to listen for the /a/ sound in words. Remember, the letter a says /a/, like "Ahhh, a ghost!"  When I listen for /a/ in words, I open my mouth up wide in a big circle. My tongue is down, and I say "/a/!" Say it with me! [Let children repeat.] Good! Now I'm going to read some words. If you hear the /a/ sound, put your hands in your cheeks and scream "Ahhh"….but remember, not too loud! Here's an example: hat. I hear the /a/ sound in the middle of the word hat, so I will put my hands on my cheeks and softly scream. "Ahhh!" Okay, now it's your turn. Long. I didn't feel my mouth quite as wide for that one, and I didn't hear the /a/ sound, so I won't scream "Ahhh".  Let's try with some other words. [Continue activity with chat, lake, big, wag, map, and rug.]


3. Say: Alright everyone, go back to your seats and get out your letter boxes. As soon as you are ready, look up at the Smart board. I have my own letterboxes on the Smart board! [Allow time for transition.] What if I want to spell the word had? "I had a cold yesterday."  The word had is the past of have, and it means you used to have something, but you don't anymore. To spell had in the letterboxes, first I need to know how many phonemes I have in the word. To find out how many phonemes, I like to stretch out the word and listen for different sounds: /h/ /a/ /d/. I need three boxes. I will put my three different sounds in the three different boxes. /h/…/a/…/d/. [Put letters in boxes.] I knew the /h/ sound was an h, and the /d/ sound was a d. The /a/ sound was easy, because I remembered saying "Ahhh!" to the ghost, and how that is the sound for the letter a.


4. Say: Okay, now it's your turn to spell some words in letterboxes. You'll start out with three boxes for bat. A bat is an animal that lives in caves and flies, but it is also something you hit a ball with, like a baseball bat.  What should go in the first box? [Respond to children's answers]. What goes in the second box? [Respond.] What about the last box? I'll check your spelling while I walk around the room. [Observe, and fix mistakes as needed.] This next one is kind of tricky: chat. You will need three boxes for this word too. And remember, /ch/ is a blended sound. Listen again: chat. [Observe, and fix mistakes as needed.] Great, ya'll are getting good at this! [Continue activity with: lag, gas, and can.]


5. Say: Now everyone come back to the circle. I am going to show you the words that you've just spelled, and I want you to read the words together. Let's do an example together. [Show word hat on a card.] If I saw this word, I would first sound out the words to myself. /h/…./a/…/t/. Haaaaat. Hat! Give me a thumbs up if you think this is the word hat. [Wait for response.] Great! Now the next time I read this word, I should be able to read it more quickly and smoothly. As I become a better reader, I won't have to sound out words as often. Now it's your turn. [Show words that are prewritten on cards- had, bat, lag, chat, gas, and can.] Okay, now I'm going to call on some individuals to read! [Call on individuals to read one word on the list until everyone has had a turn to read.]


6. Say: You've done a great job reading words with our /a/! Now we are going to read a book called Pat's Jam. This is Pat. [Point to Pat.] He's a rat, and drives a van. Pam is his friend. When they both get in the van, Pat realizes his van has no gas! Will they be able to solve this problem? You'll have to read closely to find out what happens to Pat, Pam, and the van! Let's pair up and take turns reading Pat's Jam to find out if they ever solve their problem! [Pair children up and let them take turns reading alternate pages while the teacher walks around the room monitoring progress. After individual paired reading, the class rereads Pat's Jam aloud together, and stops between page turns to discuss the plot.]


7. Assessment: Let students read Sam the Ant one at a time (while other students are working on other things), and take a running record on words that students struggle with or get wrong. After assessing each student, tally up the missed words and work on short a more if needed.




Bailey, Hannah. "Ahhhhh!! The Crying Baby".  



Cushman, Sheila and Rona Kornblum. (1990).  Pat's Jam. California: Educational Insights.


McDavid, Eleanor. Sam the Ant. http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/teacherbooks.html


Murray, Geri. "Oh, I Didn't Know!". https://blackboard.auburn.edu/webct/urw/lc1027438667101.tp1040770079101/displayContentPage.dowebct?pageID=1088670539121&resetBreadcrumb=false&displayBCInsideFrame=true


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