Aaaaaaa! Let’s Ride the Roller Coaster

Emergent Literacy Design

Lacey Adams

Rationale: To learn to read and spell words, children need an understanding of the alphabetic insight that letters stand for phonemes and spellings map out the phonemes in spoken words. Before children can learn correspondences, they have to recognize phonemes. Short vowels are perhaps the toughest phonemes to recognize. This lesson will help students identify /a/ (short a). The students will learn to recognize /a/ in spoken words by learning a meaningful representation and a letter symbol. The students will then practice finding /a/ in words.


·        Primary paper and pencil

·        Pictures(s) of a roller coaster (people’s arms and hands up in the air)

·        Chart with “Abbie and Adam asked if Amanda’s active animals were angry.”

·        Class set of cards with a on one side and a question mark on the other

·        White paper and crayons

·        Picture page of illustrations: cab, cup, tub, sun, bell, dice, hat, pig, jog, pot, face, and bed.

·        A Cat Nap (Educational Insights)



1.     Introduce the lesson by saying, “Writing is a secret code.” Explain to the students that the complicated part to learning what letters represent is the mouth moves that we make as we say the words. Today we are going to be investigators. We want to find out what movement our mouth makes when we say the short a sound. At first /a/ will seem a little hidden in words, but as you begin understanding it, you will be able to uncover /a/ in all types of words.

2.     Ask students, “Did you ever hear a screaming roller coaster rider say /a/?” That’s the mouth move we are looking for in our words today. Let’s pretend we are riding a roller coaster and say /a/. (Put your arms and hands up in the air). We put our arms and hands up in the air when we go down a big hill. Let’s ride the roller coaster: /a/.

3.     Let’s try a tongue twister (on chart). “Abbie and Adam asked if Amanda’s active animals were angry.” Everybody say it together with me. Now say it again, but this time, I want you to stretch the /a/ in each of the words: Aaabbie aaand Aaadam aaasked if Aaamanda’s aaactive aaanimals were aaangry.” We’re going to try it one more time. This time I want you to separate /a/ off the word: “/a/bbie /a/nd /a/dam /a/sked if /a/manda’s /a/ctive /a/nimals were /a/ngry.”

4.     (Have students take out primary paper and pencil). We can use the letter a to spell /a/. Let’s practice writing! We don’t need to start at the fence. We need to start under the fence. Go up and touch the fence, then around and touch the sidewalk, around and straight down. I’m going to come by and check everyone’s paper. After I put a sticker on your work, I want you to make ten more just like it. When you see the letter a all by itself in a word, that’s the signal to put your arms and hands up in the air and say /a/.

5.     Call on students to respond and tell how they knew: Do you hear /a/ in sad or grumpy? Cab or truck? Face or toes? Black or white? Dad or mom? Rag or towel? (Pass out a/? card to each student.) Say: Let’s see if you can spot the mouth move /a/ in some words. Show me a if you hear /a/ and the question mark if you don’t. (Give words one by one). “Abbie and Adam asked if Amanda’s active animals were angry.”

6.     Read A Cat Nap, but explain to the students that cats do not ride roller coasters. Tell them that the reason we are using this book is because the story uses words that have the /a/ sound. Talk about the story with the student. Read it again and have the students raise their arms and hands when they hear words with /a/. List their words on a chart in the front of the room, then have each student draw a roller coaster or a cat and write a message about it using invented spelling. Display their work in the classroom.

7.     For assessment, hand out the individual picture pages and help the students name each picture. Ask the student to draw a box around the pictures whose names have /a/.



       Leslie Sidwell O'Neal. Hop on Pop - Short 'o'.

Adams, Marilyn Jager. Learning to Read: Thinking and Learning about

Print. A Summary prepared by: Steven A. Stahl, Jean Osborn, and Fran Lehr. 1990.

Wallach, M. A., & Wallach, L. Wallach and Wallach’s Tongue Twisters.

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