Appetite for Apples

Emergent Literacy Lesson Design

Maribeth Ward

 green apple


Having an understanding of the alphabetic code and of small units of sound is the starting point for learning to read words and spell them correctly. Letters represent these small units of sound, or phonemes. One must understand what phonemes sound like in spoken words in order to understand what they look like in writing. In teaching phonemes, one should start with the short vowel sounds, because these are the hardest to pick out. This lesson will help children identify the short a phoneme, /a/. They will learn how /a/ sounds in spoken words, and be able to connect this sound to a meaningful representation and a letter symbol. They will also practice identifying /a/ in written words.


- phoneme picture for /a/ illustrating crying child with an open mouth

- chart paper with the sentence:  Adam has an apple, and Allie has an alligator.

- Elkonin boxes

- Word List:

2- At

3- Ask, Sad, Dab, Mat

4 - Slap, Grab, Flat, Past

5 - Flask, Splat

- letter tiles:    a, b, e, d, t, n, l, k, s, f, r, p, k, m, g

- Decodable book: A Cat Nap 

- primary paper

- pencils

- dry erase board and markers


1. Introduction

Explain that our written language is a code, and that we will learn what letters stand for. When our mouth moves to make the /a/ sound, this represents the letter a. We will be able to recognize the /a/ sound in many words. We'll have to listen carefully to each word to pick out the sound.

2.   Have you ever heard a baby cry by making the "aaaaahh" sound? Let's pretend to be crying babies and rub underneath our eyes with our fists. This is the sound we'll be looking for in words.

3.       We're going to say a tongue twister together: "Adam has an apple, and Allie has an alligator." (on chart paper). Let's say it three times together. Now let's say it, and stretch out the /a/ sound: "Aaaaadam haaaas an aaaaaple, and Aaaaallie haaaaas an aaaaalligator." Now let's say it separating the /a/ sound from the rest of the word: "/a/ dam h/a/s an /a/pple, and /a/llie h/a/s an /a/lligator."

4.       Let's take out our primary paper and our pencils and practice writing the letter a together. We're going to start under the fence, go up and touch the fence, then go around and touch the sidewalk, around and straight down. After I go around and approve each of your letters, I want you to write the letter nine more times on your primary paper. Practicing writing will help you get better. This is an important letter to be able to recognize, also.

5.       Let's look for the /a/ in the name Jack. I'm going to say Jack's name in slow motion and stretch out all of the sounds. Let's listen for the crying baby. JJJJ-aaaa-kk.  JJJ- aaa .... I hear the crying baby!

6.       Call on students to see if they hear /a/ in:

a.       Cat or Kitten?

b.      Black or Brown?

c.       Present or Past?

d.      Fact or Fiction?

e.      Mouse or Rat?

Have students make the crying baby sound and motion if they spot the mouth move /a/ in these words: Adam, has, an, apple, and, Allie, has, an, alligator.

7.       Introduce the book, A Cat Nap, by saying: Tab is a sleepy cat.  He could sleep anywhere.  Sam is Tab's owner, and he also enjoys playing baseball. In the book, you'll find out where Sam finds his cat, Tab. Read the book. Reread it, and have students hold up the primary paper they used to make their letters every time they hear the /a/ sound in the story. List their words on the dry erase board. Then students will draw Tab the Cat, and write a sentence about him.

8.   For assessment, I will give the students a worksheet with pictures of words that contain the letter a.  There will also be items that do not include the letter a. They are to color only the items that have the letter a.



            Bails, Susan. A Cat Nap. Carson, CA. Educational Insights. 1990. 11 pages.

Murray, Bruce. "Example of Emergent Literacy Design: Sound the Foghorn".

Murray, Bruce.  The ReadingGenie

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