Active Alligators Like Apples

Beginning Reading
Kathleen Wheat

In order for children to read and spell words, they must acquire the knowledge that letters stand for phonemes and that spellings present the phonemes in spoken words. Short vowels especially, are some of the most difficult phonemes to recognize and learn; therefore, children should be given explicit instruction and practice with short vowels. This lesson will focus on recognizing a = /a/. Students will learn to identify /a/ in spoken words by learning a meaningful representation and its written symbol, and finally, practice finding a in words.

- picture of an alligator with his mouth open and an a in it
- chart with tongue twister: "Andrew the active alligator likes apples"
- letterboxes (up to 6 boxes, 1 set per student)
- ziploc bags with necessary letter tiles (1 per student) - l,a, p, s, t, g, c, r, b, n, k, d, f
- flash cards with words that students spell - at, tab, nag, fan, flat, span, stag
- book A Cat Nap by Sheila Cushman (Educational Insights, 1990)
- picture page for assessment - bag, bucket, cat, dog, hat, nut, bat, broom, crab, fish

1. Introduce the lesson by telling students that letters stand for mouth moves that we make when we say words. Then, teacher will discuss how the letter a has its own special mouth move and how its important in learning to read and write. Today we are going to learn about /a/. At first, it might be hard to hear /a/ but with some practice, you'll be able to pick it out in words in no time.

2. Discuss with students the sound an alligator might make if he were to open his mouth. When I think about /a/, it reminds me of an alligator opening his mouth about to eat an apple. He's going to say /a/. Demonstrate to students by extending both arms out with hands touching palms and opening up and down. Now let's try our alligator /a/ by opening our alligator mouth.

3. Show students the chart with tongue twister. Let's look at the chart. On it, is a tongue twister that will help us to recognize /a/. Look at the words while I point at and read them. "Andrew the active alligator likes appetizing apples." I want everyone to read it with me and listen for /a/. We'll say it two times together.  Afterwards, ask students to stretch the /a/ in the words and use their alligator mouth hand motion when they hear /a/. Teacher will model the first time. "Aaandrew the aaactive aaalligator likes aaappetizing aaapples."

4. Make sure students can recognize /a/ in spoken words.  Do you hear /a/ in tip or cab? Flag or puff? Red or jam? Make sure all students understand. Ask students if they can think of words that have /a/ in them.

5. Begin the letterbox lesson, make sure that students have their letterboxes and tiles. Then model for students. I want to spell the word "crab." I have four letterboxes that go along with each mouth move that I make. I'll say it slower so I can figure out which letters need to go in each letterbox. C-c-r-r-r-a-a-a-a-a-b-b. I know that I need an a because I heard /a/ and I also heard a c at the beginning, it said /k/. So I put my c in the 1st letterbox, then I hear /r/, that's an r, so I put it in the 2nd letterbox. Now comes my a for /a/, and finally, I put the letter b in the last letterbox for the /b/ I heard at the end. I have just spelled the word "crab." Allow students to work on this. Start out with two letterboxes and move up - 2: [at], 3: [tab, nag, fan], 4: [flat, span, stag]. Teacher will walk around and observe students as s/he calls out the words to be spelled. If students have trouble and cannot figure out on their own, provide help. 

6. Bring out flash cards with the words that students had just spelled. If a student is having problems, try the letter tiles and spell the word. This is a tough one; I'll spell it out with the tiles (spell "stag"). I am going to to break the word into smaller parts. I see the alligator a, so I know that says /a/. Then there's an s and a t before the a. So now I have /s/ /t/ /a/. Now I put g on the end, /s/ /t/ /a/ /g/. Make sure students understand that they can use coverups to decode words.

7. Pass out the book, A Cat Nap. Today we are going to read a book about a cat named Tab. Tab likes to nap and one day, he takes a nap in a bag. Well Sam, picks up the bag with Tab still in it. Oh no, what's going to happen to Tab? Wjere is he going? We'll have to read and find out. Students will read A Cat Nap and talk about the story. Read it again and ask the students to make the alligator mouth move when they hear words with /a/. Write down the words that they mention.

Pass out the picture page with 6 pictures on it. Each picture will have 3 words next to it, one of which, is the word for the picture. Students will circle the word that matches the picture.

Marsden, Brigette. "Eeehhhhhh, What Did You Say?"

Murray, Bruce. "Sound the Foghorn." example passed out in class & "How to teach a Letterbox Lesson."

Rickard, Laci. "Appetizing Apples."

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