Beginning Reading Lesson Design

 Lindsay Dick


In order for children to learn how to read and spell words, they need to develop logic of phonemic awareness, as well as understanding that spellings map out phonemes in spoken words.  Vowel sounds are the most important phonemes children can learn because they can be found in every written and spoken word.  Without the knowledge of vowel sounds, written words cannot be properly decoded. Beginning readers must not only 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_e=/A/. 

        Chalk dry erase marker, Primary paper, Pencils, Elkonin letterboxes for each child in the group, Plastic letter tiles for each child consisting of the letters: a, c, p, n, f, t, d, j, m, s, g, r, b, l, ck., Large poster with the phrase:  “James likes to play games,"
Individual copies of the book James and the Good Day by Sheila Cushman and Rona Kornblum, Educational Insights, 1990,
Individual picture pages of with the correct number of letterboxes underneath the picture, Picture words written on note cards.

1. Introduce the lesson by explaining that we use letters to write down words, and that these letters represent different sounds.  In order to become good readers, we need to learn how to match the letters to their sounds.  Today, we are going to learn that the letters a_e make the /A/ sound.  As you get to know the sound the a and e create, you will be able to read and spell many words.

2. Write the letter a and e on the board.  Explain that these letters make the /A/ sound.  Ask students:  “Have any of you ever heard the phrase, “A-okay”? Good! This is the sound you hear when a and e are written. Everyone try it. Great!

3. Now I have a fun tongue twister.  Display the tongue twister that is written on the larger poster.  Read the tongue twister to the class, “James likes to play games.”  Now let’s read it together, but this time every time you hear a word with the /A/ sound, I want you to say “A-okay!”  “James (A-okay) likes to play (A-okay) games (A-okay).”  Good!   Can anyone tell me a word they heard with the /A/ sound in it?  Great job!!  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 made or broken; wake or sleep; look or face?   Very Good!

4.  Ask the students to take out primary paper and pencil. “Most of you already know how to write the letters a and e. We are going to practice this together. On the board write an a, then go through the following steps: for lowercase a, you start under the fence then you go around and touch the sidewalk, around and straight down. Then write an e, while explaining the following steps to make an e: for lowercase e get in the center of the space below the fence, go toward the door (right), up to touch the fence around and up. Can anyone tell me what sound this makes? On three lets all say it together!  A-okay! Please write five a’s and e’s on your paper to represent the /A/ sound.” The teacher can also model while students are writing. Walk around and view everyone’s letters.

5.  Each child will now receive an Elkonin letterbox as well as the appropriate letter tiles. “Now we will practice using our knowledge of the /A/ sound to spell words.  This is how I would spell the word “made”.  First I am going to unfold three of my boxes because made has three sounds, /m/ /A/ /d/. Made does have four letters, but the e on the end is silent and makes the a say it’s name. I am going to start with the first sound I hear in made. M-m-made.  I hear the /m/ sound.  I will place the letter “m” in the first letterbox. The next sound I hear is the a-okay /A/ sound.  I am going to place the letter “a” in the second letterbox, because it is the second sound I hear. To finish I need to find the last sound in the word made.  Mad-d-de.  I hear the /d/ sound, which means I will place the letter “d” in the last letterbox. All of you have your own letterboxes and I want you to try and spell some words the same way that I just did.  We will first open out our letterboxes to only three boxes meaning that each word we spell contains three sounds.”  I will now ask the children to spell wake, face, and tame.  Once they finish spelling each word, we will go around the group and I will ask every child to explain to the other members of the group how they spelled the particular word.  We will continue on in this manner spelling 4 phoneme words such as: brake, glade, and skate.  Lastly, I will write each word, one at a time on the board (wake, face, tame, brake, glade, and skate) and call on students individually to read them out loud to the group.

6.  Now we will practice reading words with the /A/ sound in the book, James and the Good Day.  Each child in the group will get an individual copy of this book. 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 tap you on the shoulder I want to you read in a low voice so I can listen to you. Before you begin to read I want to tell you a little about James and the Good Day. James is an ordinary boy.  One day he thinks that he would like to have a great day. Have you ever had a day like this? He makes a plan to make sure everything goes well. He decides that the first thing he will d0 is to take a bath so that he can sail his tug boat. So he fills the tub. He wants it to be as full as it can be. But he forgets about the running water. The tub gets so full that the water begins to make its way out of the tub. To find out what will happen you can 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 this text.  

7. For assessment, 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.  Then I will have the picture words written on cards and I will have the students, one by one, come read the cards.  This will allow me to hear each student say the words with the /A/ sound. 

 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.

Emily Watts, "Aaaaaa!" It's Okay, Baby!, Beginning Reading Lesson design from Inspirations.

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