The Plain Train sat in the Rain

Tanya Ison

Rational: In order for children to become good readers they must be able to understand the alphabetic code.  It is also very important that teachers teach their children common letter correspondences.  In this lesson the children will learn the vowel correspondence ai=/A/.  In this lesson students will become familiar with the /A/ phoneme when represented as the ai grapheme, reading ai, and writing words that contain the ai correspondence.


Materials:      Student copies of James and the Good Day
                        Elkonin Letterboxes drawn on the chalkboard and chalk
                        Student Letterboxes and the letters a, c, d, e, h, I, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, and t
                        Blank white paper


  1. Begin the lesson by reviewing the a_e=/A/.  After reviewing this correspondence have the children pair up and reread the book James and the Good Day.  As the students reread the book the teacher should walk around the classroom and observe to be sure that the students are reading and to see if any of the students need any help.
  2. After the students have read the book, spend a few minutes discussing the book.
  3. Write the following tongue twister on the board: The Plain Train sat in the Rain.  As a class say the tongue twister making sure to enunciate the ai=/A/ correspondence. 
  4. Explain to the children that the ai and the a_e both make the /A/ sound.
  5. Have the students get out their letterboxes and their letters.  The teacher should have his or her boxes drawn on the board.  Review that when using the a_e that the silent e goes on the outside of the last box, and that the ai is a team and they go in the same box.  The teacher may want to do a few examples on the board.
  6. Start the letterbox lesson.  With each word the teacher should specify the number of boxes needed, and give a sentence using the word.  The words for the letterbox lesson are: (2) aim, ape, aid, (3) rain, sail, cake, chain, laid, (4) train, state, and claim.  As the students are spelling the words on their letterboxes the teacher should walk around the classroom to observe and help any student that may need help.
  7. Have the children put away the letterboxes and the letters.
  8. On the board write: __________ and __________ make the /A/ sound.  Have the students get out a blank piece of white paper and crayons.  On the paper have the children write the sentence that you have on the board.  Then tell the children to make two columns on their paper.  One column for that ai and the other for the a_e.  The teacher may have to demonstrate on the board.  Also be sure to tell the students to fill in the blanks to the sentence, and be sure to tell the students that they must draw and label four objects that have the ai and a_e correspondences and their names in the proper columns.  This assignment can be completed in class or as homework.  The teacher may also want to have magazines so the children can cut out pictures of objects with the correspondences in their name. 
  9. To further assess the student’s comprehension of the correspondence taught, the teacher may want to make flash cards with pseudo-words on them that use the correspondence.  The teacher could flash the cards to the students individually or as an entire class and have the students pronounce the pseudo-word.  If the children can pronounce the word they have probably understood what has been taught.


            Hill, Tonya, The Rain in Sprain Stays Mainly in the Plains,

 Murray, Bruce A. and Lesniak, Theresa.  “The letterbox lesson: A hands-on approach for teaching decoding.” The Reading Teacher. Vol 52, No. 6. March 1999. p. 644-650

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