Emergent Literacy
Joy Gettys
A Baby is Crying…Aaa!


One of the important steps in becoming a good reader is learning how to recognize phonemes.  To read and spell words, children need to learn that letters stand for phonemes and spellings map out the phonemes in spoken words.  Children cannot match letters to phonemes until they can recognize phonemes.  Some very important phonemes to learn are the short vowels.  One short vowel this lesson includes is the short a.  This lesson will help children identify the phoneme /a/ (short a).  They will learn to recognize /a/ in spoken words by learning an insightful representation and a letter symbol.  They will also practice finding /a/ in words used in a story and practice finding words with /a/ by singing a song.


Poster with “Active Adam the alligator eats apple pie after seeing the acrobat act;” primary paper and pencil; small stickers; drawing paper and crayons; picture page (pictures are drawn by teacher) with bat, dog, hat, tree, cat, bug, bag, doll, apple, ax, rat; Cat’s Nap (Educational Insight).


1. Introduce the lesson by explaining how our written language is a special code.  The hard part is learning what each letter stands for—the mouth moves we make as we say words.  Today we are going to work on how to find the mouth move /a/.  It may seem hard to hear the /a/, but as you get to know it, you will be able to find /a/ in many words.

2. Ask students: Have you ever heard a baby cry?  The baby says /a/ when he or she cries.  Well, that is the mouth move we are looking for in words.  Let’s pretend that we are babies crying.  /a/!  /a/!  We must be hungry!

3. Let’s try a tongue twister (on poster).  “Active Adam the alligator eats apple pie after seeing the acrobat act.” Everybody say it three times together.  Now say it again, and this time, stretch the /a/ at the beginning of the words.  “Aaactive Aaadam the aaalligator eats aaaple pie aaafter seeing the aaacrobat aaact.”  Try it again, and this time break it off the word:  “/a/ ctive /a/ dam the /a/ lligator eats  /a/ pple /a/ fter seeing the /a/ crobat /a/ ct.”  Good job.

4. [Have students take out primary paper and pencil].  We can use letter a to spell /a/.  Let’s practice writing it.  I will show you how to make the letter a.  Start a little under the fence, curve up and touch the fence, go towards the left window and draw a curve down to the sidewalk, curve over, and back up to the fence where you started, and now, without lifting your pencil, draw straight down to the sidewalk.  [Model each instruction given].  I want to see everybody’s a.  After I put a sticker on it, I want you to make five more just like it.  When you see a all by itself in a word, that’s the signal to say /a/.

5. Ask students the following questions and call on them to answer and tell how they knew: Do you hear /a/ in cat or dog?  Apple or orange?  Box or Bag?  Snack or lunch?  Before or after?  Sleep or Nap?  Let’s see if you can spot the mouth move /a/ in some words.  Say /a/ if you hear /a/ and say no if you don’t.  [Give words one by one].  Active, Adam, the, alligator, eats, apple, pie, after, seeing, the, acrobat, act.

6. Sing a song to the tune of Skip to my Lou but change the words to the following:  “Who has a word that has an /a/?  Has, has, has, an /a/?  Who has a word that has an /a/?  Skip to my Lou, my darling!”  Call on a student who knows a word that has an /a/.  The word is repeated, and used in the song.  “Apple is a word that has an /a/.  Has, has, has an /a/.  Apple is a word that has an /a/.  Skip to my Lou, my darling!”  Sing this song through 5 times.  List the words the students choose on the board.  Ask students if all these words have the /a/ sound.

7. Read Cat’s Nap and talk about the story.  Read it again and have the students raise their hand when they hear words with /a/.  List the words they choose on the board.  Have each child draw a picture of a cat and write a message about it using invented spelling.  Display their work.

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

Reference:  Eldredge, J. Lloyd.  Developing Phonemic Awareness.  Teaching Decoding in Holistic Classrooms.  New Jersey:  Prentice-Hall, 1995.

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