Emergent Literacy


Alabama Alligators”

Emily Wheeler

Rationale: In order to read and spell words, children need to know that letters stand for phonemes, and spellings map out the phonemes in spoken words. Before children can match letters to phonemes, they have to recognize phonemes in spoken word contexts. This lesson will help children identify /a/ (short a). They will recognize /a/ in spoken words by learning a meaningful representation and a letter symbol, and then practice finding /a/ in words.

Materials:  Primary paper and pencil; chart with “Aaa! Alley the Alabama alligator acted like it wanted my apple”; class set of cards with an a on one side and a question mark on the other; drawing paper and crayons; A Cat Nap.  (Educational Insights); picture page with  a cup, bag, bed, hat, apple, Alabama, black, alligator, dog, and mask.


  1. Introduce the lesson by explaining to the children that writing is kind of like a puzzle. In order to put together the puzzle, we must learn what letters stand for the mouth moves we make, as we say words.  “Today we are going to work on spotting the mouth move /a/. At first /a/ may seem hidden in words, but as you get to know it, you’ll be able to spot /a/ in all words.”
  2. “Have any of you ever been so scared, that you had to scream? Sometimes, I have been so scared that I covered my cheeks and said Aaa! Let’s all pretend that we just saw an alligator and scream.  Not too loud though!”
  3. “Let’s try a tongue twister (on chart). Aaa! Alley the Alabama alligator acted like it wanted my apple. Everybody say it three times together. Now let’s all say it and stretch the /a/ sound at the beginning of the words. Aaaa! AAAlley the AAAlabama aaaaligator aaacted like it wanted my aaaaple. Great! Now, let’s say it a different way. This time, let’s break the /a/ off the words: /a/ hh! /a/ lley the/a /labama /a/ lligator /a/ cted like it wanted my /a/pple.”
  1. “Please take out your primary paper and a pencil. Now, we can use the letter a to spell /a/. Let’s write it. To write a capital a, start at the rooftop, go down the slide to the sidewalk, then down the slide the other way, and cross at the fence.  For lowercase a, don’t start at the fence.  Start under the fence.  Go up and touch the fence, then around and touch the sidewalk, around and straight down. When everyone is done writing a capital and a lowercase a, please raise your hand so that I can see your paper. Once I have looked at your paper, I want you to write 5 more capital a’s and 5 more lowercase a’s.” When you see the letter a all by itself in a word, it signals to say /a/.
  2. Now, I will call on students to answer and tell how they knew: “Do you hear /a/ in good or bad?  Glass or cup? Bag or case? Cat or fish?” I will pass out cards that have an a on one side and an question mark on the other side. “I’m giving everyone a card. The letter a is on one side, and there is a question mark on the other side. Let’s see if you can spot the mouth move /a/ in some words. If you hear /a/, show me the a side of the card. If you do not hear /a/, show me the question mark. (Give words one by one) Alley, the, alligator, acted, like, it, wanted, my, apple.”
  3. Read A Cat Nap and talk about the story. Read it again, and have students do the hand gesture (hand’s on cheeks) when they hear words with /a/. List their words on the board. Students can then draw a picture of a cat and write a message about it. Students can use invented spelling. Their work should be displayed on the board.
  4. For assessment, distribute the picture page and help students name each picture. Ask each student to circle the pictures whose names have /a/.


Anna Ludlum.Fall 2003. Don’t Make that Baby Cry  http://www.auburn.edu/rdggenie/insp/ludlumel.html

Cushman. Cat Nap. Education Insights, Carson, 1990.

Lisa Wells. Spring 2002. Aaa Alligators!  http://www.auburn.edu/rdggenie/inroads/wellsel.html

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