“Cry Baby”

Emergent Literacy Design

Kelly McIntosh



In order for children to become fluent readers, they must first understand that letters represent phonemes, which are the vocal gestures that they hear. It is important that they understand that spelling is what maps out the sequence of the phonemes in spoken words. When children begin to recognize phonemes, we can see that their reading has begun. This lesson will help students discover the a = /a/ correspondence. Students will learn to recognize /a/ in spoken words.


Picture of a baby crying

Picture Printout (bat, cat, apple, fish, house, alligator, circle, rat, ham)

Pat’s Jam, Carson, CA: Educational Insights, 1990.


  1. Introduce the lesson by asking: “what sound does a baby make when they are crying?”  While asking this, hold up a picture of a baby crying. The student should respond with /a/ . If they make a different sound or no sound at all then model it for them and have them repeat, /a/. While modeling, hold hands up to eyes like you are rubbing your tears away and have student repeat as well. (If you prefer, you could just have the child hold up the picture of the baby crying)
  2. Tell the students: “a baby is not the only thing that makes that sound, but that we can find that sound in many words.”
  3. Tell the students: “I am going to read several words to you and I want you to pay close attention. Each time you hear the /a/ sound, I want you to rub your eyes, like a baby crying (or hold up the baby card). I’ll do it with you this time.” Use some words as the following (mix the words up and don’t have the a = /a/ correspondence in all of the words):
    1. Bat
    2. Sit
    3. Apple
    4. Smack
    5. Alligator
  4. “I am now going to read you a funny sentence. Be sure and pay close attention because I want you to rub your eyes like a baby each time you hear (or hold up picture of baby crying) /a/, but I’m not going to do it with you this time.” Watch students as you read the sentence and if they seem to be struggling or getting it incorrect, let them finish the sentence, but go back and have them repeat it, and the second time, help them out, modeling it with them. Then go back a third time and see if they can do it solo.

“Allison the Alligator ate apples and ham”

  1. “This time when we read the sentence we are going to stretch out the /a/ sound. It might sound kind of funny but it will be fun. We’ll do it together:

“Aaaaallison the Aaaalligator aaate aaapples aaand haaam”

  1. Now read Pat’s Jam to the student. Say to the student: “each time you hear /a/ I want you to put up your hands like your crying (or hold up the baby crying card).” Be sure to read slowly and clearly so the student doesn’t get lost.
  2. To assess the children, hand each of them a page that has pictures on it. Students will say the words out loud and circle the pictures that have the /a/ sound in them. Some example words to use (Be sure the pictures are distinct):
    1. Bat
    2. Cat
    3. Apple
    4. Fish
    5. House
    6. Alligator
    7. Circle
    8. Rat
    9. Ham


Pat’s Jam, Carson, CA: Educational Insights, 1990.

Waaa…Abby is Unhappy. Emergent Literacy Design: Megan Schmidt. Fall 2003.