Cry Like a Baby, Waaaa!

Beginning Reading

Mary Kathryn Wheeler

 Crying Baby

Rationale: Phonemic awareness is a very important part of learning to read. Phonemic awareness means understanding the different vocal gestures. It's also important for students to understand the correspondence between written letters and vocal gestures. Vowels are especially important, and often tricky, for young readers. This lesson will guide students to understand the correspondence a = /a/ by explicitly teaching, through a letterbox lesson, that the letter a makes the /a/ sound. This lesson will also help them write the letter a.



·        Picture of crying baby

·        Poster of tongue twister: "Annie saw Ally the alligator at the animal store."

·        Primary paper for each student

·        White board

·        Markers for white board

·        A Cat Nap by Sheila Cushman

·        One list of pseudo-words: wan, dag, taf, gan, and jat

·        Letterboxes for each student

·        Letter tiles for each student

·        Large index cards with words: scram, trap, cat, last, camp, stand



1.     Today you are going to learn that the letter a makes the /a/ sound. It kind of sounds like a crying baby. Show crying baby picture. Waaaa--aaaa--waaaaaaaaa. Do you hear the /a/ sound? Let's all pretend to be a crying baby. Waa--aaaaa--aaaaaaaa. Notice how your mouth is most of the way open and your tongue touches the back of your bottom teeth. Let's make the sound again: Waaaa--aaaaa--aaaaaaa. Good! That's the sound that the letter a makes.

2.     Now let's practice making this sound in a tongue twister. Show tongue twister poster. Annie saw Ally the alligator at the animal store. Now you say it with me: Annie saw Ally the alligator at the animal store. Good. Now let's listen for the /a/ sound--stretch out the /a/ sound this time as we say the tongue twister together. Aaaaaaaannie saw Aaaaaaaally the aaaaaaaalligator aaaat the aaaaaaaanimal store. Great! I hope you could feel your mouth making our special sound.

3.     Now let's try listening for the /a/ sound in different words. Do you hear /a/ in animal or monkey? What about in plant or flower? Cat or dog? Good!

4.      You guys have gotten so good at finding the /a/ sound in spoken words. Now let's practice writing the letter a. Start at the fence and go around in a circle--the bottom of the circle should touch the sidewalk. Then put a straight line from the sidewalk (on the right side of the circle) to just above the fence. Like this: (demonstrate on the board). Now you try a few on your own. Everyone take out a piece of paper and a pencil and write five lowercase letter a. Walk around and assist students for a few moments. You guys did a great job with that. Assess whether or not each student correctly wrote the letter a. This will be a formative assessment.

5.     I'd like for everyone to take out their letters and their letterboxes now. Spread out the letters so you can clearly tell what they are. Remember to put only one sound in each box. Watch me as I model spelling the word trap. Traaaaaap. Model for students how to put the a in the third box, then the t, then r, then p--sounding out each letter sound as I put it in the correct box. Now I want you guys to put three boxes out and spell the word cat. Call on student to share her spelling. Good. Now try lap. Good. Now let's make it four boxes. Spell camp. Good. Now try last. Good. Now let's make it five boxes. Spell stand. Very good! You guys are such good spellers, and you've gotten especially good at using the letter a! Now we're going to read some words. I'll show you how. Hold up card that says scram. Read: scram.  aaaa--aamm--sss-cc-rr-am--scram. Now you try! Hold up cards for: trap, cat, lap, camp, last, and stand.

6.     I will now pass out the story A Cat Nap to each student. We are going to read a book called A Cat Nap. In the book, Tab is a fat cat who likes to sleep in a bag. Sam is his owner and keeps his baseball bat in the bag. Uh oh--Sam takes the bag with him to his game! What do you think is going to happen to Tab? Have students read the book to themselves. If you have trouble, raise your hand and I can come help you. When the students are finished reading, I will ask them what words they read that had the /a/ sound in them. I will write these words on the board.


Assessment: I will call on students one by one to read a list of five pseudo-words containing the a = /a/ correspondence. They will come to my desk and read them to me quietly while other students are doing other work. The pseudo-words will be wan, dag, taf, gan, and jat.




Coker, Mandy. "Inside the Igloo." (Beginning Reading). education/reading_genie/passages/cokerbr.html


Jenson, Grace. "Andy the Alligator." (Beginning Reading). academic/education/reading_genie/passages/jensenbr.html


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

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