"Home Alone"

Katie Mayo

Emergent Literacy


Rationale:  To begin to learn how to read and spell words, students need alphabetic lessons that teach them to understand that letters stand for phonemes and spellings show phonemes in spoken words.  Before they can achieve that, they have to be able to distinguish phonemes in spoken words.  Short vowels are usually what a beginning reader should begin with because they are the hardest to grasp.  This lesson will help children identify /a/ or short a.  They will be able to recognize /a/ in spoken words by learning a significant representation and a letter symbol, as well as finding /a/ in words.


-primary paper


-chart with "Matt sat by fat apples that ran from Pat"

-drawing paper and crayons

-A Cat Nap (Educational Insight)

-picture page with at, hat, sack, fat, class, fast, mask (Modern Press Phonics, Level A)


1.  Introduce the lesson by explaining that our written language is a secret code.  The hard part to understand is what letters stand for and how the mouth moves we make as we say words.  "Today we are going to work on spotting the mouth move /a/.  at first /a/ will be difficult to understand, but with practice and as you get to know it, you will be able to spot /a/ in all kinds of words."

2.  Ask students, "Have you ever seen "Home Alone" where Kevin was left alone and scared?" "When someone screams can you hear /a/?" "That’s the mouth move we're looking for in words. Let's pretend we're scared and make the sound /a/. (Put your hands to your face and look scared, and make the sound /a/) We scream when we are scared. Pretend you are scared: /a/."

3.  "Let's try a tongue twister (on chart). Matt sat by fat apples that ran from Pat. Everybody say it three times together. Now say it again, and this time stretch the /a/ sound. Maaaat saaaat by faaaat aaaaples thaaat raaan from Paaat. Try it again, and this time break up the words. M/a/tt s/a/t by f/a/t a/pples th/a/t r/a/n from P/a/t."

4.  (Have students take out primary paper and pencil.)  "We can use letter /a/ to spell /a/. Let's write it.  Start below the fence and draw a half circle down the sidewalk, pick up your pencil and draw a line closing the circle from the fence down to the sidewalk.  I want to see everybody's /a/. After I put a smile on it, I want you to make nine more just like it.  When you see the letter a all by itself in a word, that’s the signal to say /a/."

5.  Say: "Let me show you how to find /a/ in the word fast.  I'm going to stretch fast out in super slow motion and listen for the scared sound.  F-f-f-f-a-a-s-t. (Repeat a few times) There it is! I do hear the scared sound /a/ in fast."

6. Say: "Call on students to answer and tell how they knew: Do you hear /a/ in fast or slow? Sat or sit? Ran or walk? Man or boy? (Pass out a card to each student) Say: Let's see if you can spot the mouth move /a/ in some words. Make a scared face if you hear /a/. It, bat, sit, sack, fat, up, master, tall, lab."

7.  Say: "Tab is a very fat cat. Tab naps a lot. Sam plays baseball and finds something in his bag." Read A Cat Nap and talk about the story.  Read it again, and have students raise their hands when they hear the words with the sound /a/.  List their words on the board. Then have each student draw a submarine and write a message about it using invented spelling. Then display their work.

  Distribute the picture page and help students name each picture. Ask each student to circle the pictures whose names have /a/.


Murray, Bruce. How to Teach Letterbox Lessons (Reading Genie website)


A Cat Nap. Educational Insights 1990.

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