Crying Baby…Aaaaaa!!

By: Amy Homan

Emergent Literacy

Rationale:  In order to read and spell words, children must fist learn the alphabetic principle and be able to apply it.  Children have to recognize phonemes in spoken workds before they can match letters to phonemes.  Short vowels are the toughest phonemes to identify.  This lesson will help students identify /a/ (short a).  They will learn to recognize /a/ in spoken words by learning a meaningful representation and a letter symbol, and then practice finding /a/ in words.

-Primary paper and pencils
-Chart with “Abby and Allen ask animals for apples.”
-Drawing paper and crayons or markers
-Pat’s Jam (Educational Insights)
-Picture page with jam, bag, bus, wig, hat, bug, fan, and van.


1. Introduce the lesson by explaining that our written language is a secret code.  We have to be able to tell what mouth moves we make for each letter when we say them.  “Today, we are going to be finding mouth move /a/.  Eventually, we will be able to spot /a/ in all kinds of words. Sometimes it likes to hide, but we will find it.

2. Ask students: “Did you hear a crying baby say /a/?  This is the mouth move we are looking for in words. Lets pretend to cry like a baby and say /a/.  (Rub eyes and pretend to cry.)  We’re crying to get a bottle.  Cry like a baby: /a/.”

3. Lets try a tongue twister (on chart).  “Abby and Allen ask animals for apples.  Okay, lets say it 3 more times together.  Now say it again, and this time, stretch the /a/ at the beginning of the words. Aaabby aaand Aaallen aaask aaanimals for aaaples. Try it again, and this time break it off the word: /A/ bby /a/ nd /A/ llen

/a/ sk /a/ nimals for /a/ pples.

4. Have students take out primary paper and pencil.  “We can use letter
a to spell /a/.  Let’s write it.  Start under the fence. Go up and touch the fence, then around and touch the sidewalk, around and straight down.  I want to see everyone’s a.  After I check your a I want you to make nine more just like it.  When you see letter a all by itself in a word, that’s the signal to say /a/."

5. Let me show you how to find /a/ in the word. I’m going to stretch track out in super slow motion and listen for the crying baby.  tr-tr-tr-a-ck. tr-tr-tr-a-a-a….There it is!  I heard the crying baby /a/ in track.

6. Call on students to answer and explain how they knew:  Do you hear /a/ in an or in?  pan or tin?  mop or stamp?  walk or jog?  sand or shell?  pig or ant?  (Pass out cards to each student.)  Say: “Let’s see if you can spot the mouth move /a/ in some words.  Cry like a baby and rub your eyes if you hear /a/.  Abby and Allen ask animals for apples."

7. Read
Pat’s Jam and talk about the story.  Read it again and have the students raise their hands when they hear words with /a/.  List their words on the board.  Then have each student draw a rat and write a message about it using invented spelling. Display their work.

8. For assessment, hand out the picture page and help the students name each picture.  Ask the students to circle the pictures whose names have /a/.


Cushman, Shelia. Pat's Jam. Educational Insights: Carson, CA, 1990.

Miller, Brittain.  Aaaaaaaa!  An Alligator!

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