Riding the Roller Coaster

-Susan Ross


Students need help in paying attention to all of the parts of a word. Because phonemes are hard to detect, children need to see them. This lesson will help children work out the spellings of words before they even try to read them. With this lesson students will learn to recognize and read a=/a/ through learning a hand motion and a memorable sound, and by reading and spelling words with the letter a.


- Single card with a printed on it

- Note cards with the following words printed on them: mat, dog, back, sat, run, bark,

yell, and wind

- Card with picture of roller coaster and person screaming "aaaaaaa"  Click here for example

- Poster with Tongue Twister printed on it: Alice and Adam ate an apple

- Elkonin Letterboxes per student

- Letter manipulatives (lower case letters) (a, t, m, d, c, n, p, b, g, s, d, e, r, i) per student

- BOOK: A Cat Nap, by: Sheila Cushman, Educational Insights. (one per pair of students)

- Picture/word page (one per student)  Click here for example


  1. INTRO:
  2. Show students the letter, a.

    Say: Today we are going to work with this letter. Can anyone tell me what letter this is? The letter a makes the /a/ sound. Has anyone ever seen a roller coaster or have any of you ever been on a ride at a fair? Well, raise your hand if you get a little scared on those rides. Well, when we get scared, we sometimes make a funny sound like this, "Aaaaaaa!" Let‚s all pretend like we are on a roller coaster. Put your arms up like this (Model: put arms over your head like you are on a roller coaster) and say "Aaaaaaaa" with me. Ready, "Aaaaaaaa!". Good. Now, that is the sound that a makes. We are going to practice using this sound and letter today.

  3. Hold up poster with tongue twister.
  4. Say: Repeat after me, "Alice and Adam ate an apple" (Model: stress the /a/ in each word)

    Say: I want you to put your arms in the air like you are on a roller coaster when you hear /a/.

    (do this three or four times)

  5. (use note cards with words here)
  6. Say: Now I will hold up a word and I want you to put your arms up like you are on a roller coaster when you see a word that has the letter a in it. (don‚t say the words just hold them up) (Have students point to the letter a after they answer).

  7. (Use Elkonin boxes and letter tiles here)
  8. Say: Now I am going to show you a neat way to spell words. I am going to use these boxes to spell the word bat.

    Model: Say: b-a-t (saying each sound individually)

    Say: /b/, I hear the letter b so I will put that in the first box.

    Say: /b/-/a/, I hear the letter a. That is the letter we are talking about today. Remember to think about going down a roller coaster or a scary ride and say, "Aaaaaaaa!" to help you remember the letter a. So I will put an a in the next box.

    Say: /b/-/a/-/t/, I hear the letter t so I will put a t in the last box. (now point to each box sounding out each letter, then blend the word to say bat.

    Say: So, each sound in the word bat has its own box.

    Do one more example without pausing as much to explain. Try the word, sad.

  9. Let them try the word, at, first. Make sure they all have only two boxes showing.
  10. Use these words: 1) at, 2) mad, 3) cat, 4) nap, 5) bag, 6) naps (make sure that the students know when to add or subtract the number of boxes)

    -Add a review word with letters they have already worked on to give them variety. Try something like, red or sit.

  11. Take up the letter boxes. Have students practice reading the words without them.

Model for them by sounding out the word cat with the letter tiles.. Mix up the words and let them try the ones from the lesson.

  1. Place the students in pairs to read A Cat Nap.

Say: We are going to read to each other. This book is about a cat that takes naps in silly places. One day she takes a nap in a bag. Do you think she will be okay? Let‚s read to find out what happens! (Observe the students as they read to each other)

8. Assessment:

Hand out picture/word practice page. 

Say: I want you to look at each picture and draw a line to the word that it matches.  (Do one for them)

them. Then, when you get to the words on the next page, I want you to circle the words that have the

letter a in them.

More assessment:

Sit down with students individually.

Say: Raise your arms like you are riding a roller coaster if you hear /a/ in these words.

Ice cream, rob, mat, sit, grab, fat

Say: Do you hear /a/ in bat or bite

sit or sat

can or cry

yet or rat



Cushman, Sheila. A Cat Nap. Educational Insights: Carson, CA, 1990.


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

More on the letter a:


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