Cat on a Mat

Beginning Reading
Angela Carroll Long


In order for children to develop fluency they must obtain word recognition (Eldredge, 46).  This lesson is designed to assist children in gaining a deeper understanding of a= /a/.  Through the knowledge gained children will learn to recognize, read, and spell words that contain a= /a/.


Chart paper with tongue twister written on it (The ant carried apples by an apricot tree by my Aunt Ann), marker, pointer, card with a picture of a baby crying, Elkonin boxes (one set per child), laminated letters (one set per child: a, b, c, d, f, g, l, m, n, p, and t), class set of The Fat Cat Sat on the Mat, chalkboard, assessment sheet, scissors, and glue.


1. Begin by introducing the short vowel a= /a/.  ãToday we are going to learn to hear, read, and spell words that have /a/ in them.  Does anyone know which vowel /a/ represents?  ÎAâ, that is correct.  When words have /a/ in them they have the short a vowel.  We can make a lot of words that have /a/ in them.  Some examples are: cat, nap, black, and apple.ä

2. ãWhen you say /a/, what does that make you think about?ä Allow children to give examples.  Show the children the card that has a picture of a baby crying on it.  ãWhat do you think this baby is doing?  Crying- that is correct!  Now, what do you think a baby says when it cries?  A-a-a-a-a-a, good job!  Letâs say this together.  Everyone did a fabulous job saying Îa-a-a-a-a-a.â  The sound a baby makes when it cries is the same way we say a short a.ä

3. ãNow we are going to do a tongue twister that has several words that have /a/ in them.  I will read it to you first, and then we will read it together.  The ant carried apples by the apricot tree by my Aunt Ann.ä Point to each word with a pointer.  ãNow we are going to say it together.  Good job, I love the way all of you watched the pointer as it touched each word.  Can anyone tell me which words have /a/ in them?ä  Allow several children to come up and circle each word.  ãThat is right- ant, apples, apricot, Aunt, and Ann.  Now letâs look at the tongue twister again.  We are going to say it together again, but this time we are going to say a-a-a-a-a, just like when the baby cries when we get to a short a.  For example, when I say the word ant I will go a-a-a-a-ant.  The a-a-a-ant carried a-a-a-apples by the a-a-a-apricot tree by my A-a-a-aunt A-a-a-ann.  Everyone did an excellent job emphasizing /a/ in each word of the tongue twister.ä

4. Letterbox Lesson (Lesniak and Murray): Pass out Elkonin boxes (one set per child) and laminated letters (one set per child).  Explain to the children how to use the Elkonin boxes.  ãNow you are going to use the boxes and letters that I have given you to spell some words that have /a/ in them.  Each vocal gesture that is in a word has its own letterbox.ä  Model how to use the letterboxes through using three letterboxes and spelling the word Îcapâ on the board.  ãI am going to show you how to use the letterboxes and letters.  I have drawn three letterboxes on the board.  I want to spell the word Îcapâ.  First, I am going to say the word Îcapâ aloud.  I hear /a/ in this word.  I am going to lay down the Îaâ first and put it in the second letterbox.  Next, the first letter I hear in the word Îcapâ is /c/.  I am going to lay down the Îcâ in the first letterbox.  Last, I hear a /p/ in the word Îcapâ so I am going to lay down a Îpâ in the last letterbox.  Did anyone notice which letter I put down first in my letterbox?  The Îaâ that is right, and I want you to do the same.  First, turn all of your letters so that you are looking at the lower-case side.  Good job listening!  Now, unfold three letterboxes.ä  Have children spell bat, map, fan, tag, and rod (review word) (all have three phonemes).  While children are spelling each word observe them and make sure they are starting with the short a first.  If a child misspells a word simply say, ãOkay Ann, you spelled btn (incorrect), what if we did this (model placing Îaâ in the middle box then putting in Îbâ and Îtâ.

5. Take up letterboxes and letters.  ãSince all of you did a great job spelling the words I am going to spell some words to you on the board.  I want you to raise your hand if you know the word, and then say it if I call on you.ä  Draw letterboxes on the board to spell the words in it.  Spell map, bat, rod, fan, and tag.

6. Introduce the book The Fat Cat Sat on the Mat.  ãDo any of you have a cat?  If you do not have a cat, do you like cats or not?  What about rats- do you like them or not?  In this book Rat is trying to get Cat off of the mat.  Will Rat ever get Cat off the mat?  Why donât you read it and find out.ä  Have children read with a buddy with a soft voice, and walk around the room to listen to each child read.

7. Assessment: Give each child a sheet that has a mat on it.  Also give the children a sheet that has different words on it.  Have the children say each word aloud before beginning the assessment.  Have the children then cut out all the words, and decide whether or not they have /a/ in them (the children have to read the word to determine whether or not it has /a/ in it, so they can not just look at the word).  If the words have /a/ in them the children will glue them on the mat, and if they do not the children will glue them outside the mat.  Have children discuss work when finished as a large group.


Eldredge, J.L.  Teaching Decoding in Holistic Classrooms.  Merrill Prentice Hall.  New Jersey: 1995.

Karlin, N.  The Fat Cat Sat on the Mat.  An I Can Read Book Series.  Harper Collins.  New York: 1996.

Lesniak, T. and Murray, B.A.  The Letterbox Lesson: A Hands-on Approach For Teaching Decoding.  The Reading Teacher Vol. 52, No. 6.  International Reading Association: March 1999.

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Words with Short a

 Say each word to yourself.  Then, cut out each word.  If the word has /a/ in it glue it inside the catâs mat.  If not glue it outside the catâs mat.

                            At                            Rage

                            Bag                          Take

                            Dragon                     Ape

                            Map                         Said

                            Apple                       Sack

*For the mat, simply draw an oval with fringe around it.