“Aaaaaa!!!!”  Please Don’t Cry Baby!


Beginning Reading Lesson Design
By: Lacey Adams

Rationale: In order for children to learn how to read and spell words, they need to develop a sturdy sense of phonemic awareness, as well as an understanding that spellings map out the phonemes in spoken words.  Vowel sounds are the most essential phonemes children can learn because they can be found in every spoken and written word.  Without the understanding of vowel sounds, written words cannot be accurately decoded.  Since long vowels can be created with more than one letter, learning short vowels is a good place to begin.  Beginning readers must know that words are made up of sounds. They must also learn the correspondences between written letters and their phonemes.  This lesson will focus on the vowel correspondence a = /a/.  Students will learn how to distinguish the /a/ sound in spoken words, practice spelling the /a/ sound by using Elkonin boxes, and identifying and decoding the /a/ sound in written text.


1. Introduce the lesson by explaining to the students that we use letters to write down words, and that these letters represent different sounds.  In order to become excellent readers, we must learn how to match the letters to their sounds.  Today, we are going to learn that the letter a makes the /a/ sound.  As you begin understanding the sound the a makes, you will be able to read and spell all kinds of words.

2. Write the letter a on the board.  Explain to the students that this a makes the /a/ sound.  Ask students:  “Have any of you ever seen a baby cry?  *wait for student’s responses* If you have, then you know that it is very important to be really quiet while the baby is sleeping, because if it wakes up, you’ll hear a very loud and noisy, Aaaaaa! Can everyone make a crying baby sound for me. Great job! This sound is very similar to the sound made by the letter a, /a/!”

3. Now I have a fun tongue twister to share.  Present the tongue twister that is written on the large poster.  Read the tongue twister to the class, “Adam and Amy ate apples and accidentally sat on ants.”  Now let’s read it together, “Adam and Amy ate apples and accidentally sat on ants.” This time whenever you hear a word with the /a/ sound, I want you to cry like a baby, “Aaadam and Aaamy aaate aaapples aaand aaaccidentally saaat on aaants.” Great job, class!   Can anyone tell me a word they heard with the /a/ sound in it?  *wait for student’s responses* Let’s practice spotting the /a/ sound in some spoken words.  Ask the students the following questions and call on them to answer.  Do you hear /a/ in sat or sit? Cat or dog?  Rat or mouse?  Tap or tip?

4.  Ask the students to take out their primary paper and pencil. “Most of you already know how to write the letter a. Today, we are going to practice writing the letter a again, to refresh our memories. Everyone put on their thinking caps!” On the board, model writing  an a, then go through the steps with the students: “For lowercase a, you start under the fence then you go around and touch the sidewalk, around and straight down. Can anyone tell me what sound this makes? On the count of three, lets all say it together!  Aaaaaa!  Very good, my classroom sounds like crying babies!  Please write ten a’s on your paper to represent the /a/ sound.” The teacher should walk around while the students are writing and view everyone’s a’s.

5.  After writing their ten a’s, each child will receive an Elkonin letterbox as well as the appropriate letter tiles.  Say: ”Now we are going to practice using our knowledge of the /a/ sound to spell words.  What if I wanted to spell the word “bat”.  First I am going to unfold three of my boxes because bat has three sounds, /b/ /a/ /t/.  I am going to start with the first sound I hear in bat. B-B-B-at.  I hear the /b/ sound.  I will place the letter “b” in the first letterbox. The next sound I hear is the baby crying /a/ sound.  I am going to place the letter “a” in the second letterbox, because it is the second sound I hear. Now I have ba-.  To finish I need to find the last sound in the word bat.  Ba-t-t-t.  I hear the /t/ sound, which means I will place the letter “t” in the last letterbox.   Each of you have your own letterboxes and I want you to try and spell some words using this same procedure that I just modeled for you.  We will first open our letterboxes to only three boxes, meaning that each word we spell contains three sounds.”  I will now ask the children to spell pat, fan, dad, jam, and rat.  Once they finish spelling each word, we will go around the different groups and I will ask every child to explain to the other members of their group how they spelled the particular word.  We will continue on in this manner spelling 4 phoneme words such as:  crab, flag, back, clap, and sand.  Last, I will write each word one at a time on the board (pat, fan, dad, jam, rat, crab, flag, back, clap, sand) and call on students individually to read them out loud to the class.

6.  Now we will work on reading words with the /a/ sound in the decodable text, Pat’s Jam.  Each child in the group will get an individual copy of the book.  Say: “I know that each of you can do an outstanding job of reading this book because all of you are now experts at recognizing the a sound, /a/.  After you finish reading, I want you to write down at least three words you read containing the /a/ sound.  Also, if I come and pat you on the shoulder I want to you read in a low voice so I can hear what an expert reader you have become at recognizing the a sound, /a/, in written words. Before we start reading, here’s a little background info on Pat, the rat. Pat’s Jam is not about just some plain, ordinary rat.  Pat goes to the store with his friend Pam in a van, but when they go to leave the store, their van won’t crank. What will Pat and Pam do? To find out more, we will have to read the rest of the story.”  After each child has finished, I will ask them to share the words that they found containing the /a/ sound.  I will write them on the board and compile a list of all the /a/ words in the text, Pat’s Jam.

7. For assessment, I will give each student a picture page with the correct number of letterboxes to spell the word underneath the picture.  As a class, we will name the first picture and then I will have them spell the word in the letterboxes below the picture.  Remind the children that each box has only one sound.  We will do this with each picture. I will have the picture words written on note cards. I will have the students, one by one, come read the cards I ask them to read.  This will allow me to hear them saying the /a/ sound and it will also let me know that they have a better understanding of the /a/ sound while they read. I will also let the class scream out, “Aaaaa, one more time…as loud as they can!” 

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

(web page entitled The Baby’s Crying . . . Aaa! By: Christen Walton)

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