Aaa! It’s a Rat!!

Beginning Reading

Eleanor McDavid


Rationale: To teach children to learn phoneme awareness, they learn to read by learning specific correspondences. Through practice with specific correspondences, students understand that the phoneme matches with a specific grapheme and then they can apply that knowledge to practice spelling words with a small number of phonemes. Vowels are crucial in learning to read because they are found in every word. In this lesson, students will get useful practice with the phoneme /a/ through practice pronouncing the phoneme in isolation, practice identifying the /a/ phoneme in spoken words, practice applying their knowledge about the /a/ phoneme when spelling words with letterbox squares, and practice reading decodable text.



Picture of a scary rat,325,0xffffff

Card with the phrase, “The rat crashed into the trash and went splat!”

Card with the letter Aa

Primary writing paper and pencil

Copy of Lad and the Fat Cat

Letterbox Squares (Elkonin Boxes)

Letter tiles: A,B,C,D,G,K,L,M,N,P,R,S, and T

Cards with the words: cat, crab, sand, bank, lamp, grass, blank, plant, blast

Worksheets that contain pictures of common words with the /a/ phoneme with the corresponding empty letterbox squares beneath it.



  1. The teacher will begin the lesson by introducing the phoneme sound /a/. Also by asking, “Have any of you seen a scary rat before? If so, did you yell out of fright? (If not, maybe your mom or sister did). Well, today the phoneme that we are going to be working on makes the sound of the scream a person makes when they see something scary like a rat. “Aaa.” Here is a picture of the scary rat to help you remember through out the lesson the /a/ phoneme.” It might also help the students for the teacher to describe the mouth movements it takes to pronounce the phoneme. The teacher could say, “Watch my mouth as I make the /a/ phoneme. My jaw and tongue are down. Now I want you to try.”
  2. Here the teacher should introduce the letter Aa to the students. He/she should hang a picture of the letter Aa or write it on the board while also explain this letter makes the “Aaa” yell. By showing the students the corresponding grapheme to their phoneme they will make a stronger connection with it.
  3. The students can now begin to practice the /a/ phoneme by practicing the “Aaa” sound when they go over a tongue twister that has many examples of words with the /a/ phoneme in it. The teacher should say the phrase, “Andrew and Alice asked if Annie's active animals were angry.” to the students and explain to them that they should repeat after him/her. After the students say it at normal speed, the teacher should ask the students which words they hear the /a/ phoneme. They should respond with “rat,” “crashed,” “trash,” and “splat.” Now the teacher should ask the students to say the phrase again but emphasizing the /a/ phoneme in “rat,” “crashed,” “trash,” and “splat.”
  4. Now it would be a good time for the teacher to have the students practicing writing the grapheme Aa on their own. The teacher should have the students pull out primary writing paper and a pencil and observe the teacher model how to write it. The teacher should be in front of the students and while writing the letter, she should be saying the steps it takes to write it. He/she could say, “Start at the rooftop, go down the slide to the sidewalk, then down the slide the other way, and cross at the fence.” After modeling how to write the letter Aa, the students should practice on their own. Some students might need some extra scaffolding and the teacher should walk around the room and check on the progress of the students.
  5. The students should have a chance to try to distinguish the /a/ phoneme in spoken word to help develop phoneme awareness. The teacher could ask the students if they hear the /a/ phoneme in one of the two words he/she is comparing. For example, the teacher could say: “Do you hear the /a/ sound in cat or dog?”, “Do you hear the /a/ sound in sand or beach?”, “Do you hear the /a/ sound in crab or fish?”, “Do you hear the /a/ sound in bank or house?”, and “Do you hear the /a/ sound in plant or flower?”  
  6. The students should now take their practice with the phoneme and grapheme and apply it to spelling some 3-6 phoneme words. The teacher should introduce this by telling the students that they are going to be working with the letterboxes and letter tile to spell out some words. As the teacher provides letterboxes and letter tiles for the students, he/she should have a list of words ready for the students to spell that have the phoneme /a/ in it. Some good examples of words are: cat (3 phoneme word); crab, sand, bank, lamp, grass (4 phoneme words); blank, plant, blast (5 phoneme words.) As each child goes through the words, the teacher is going to have to scaffold if they struggle. A good method to help scaffold, would be to use the body-coda method. For example, the teacher could talk the students through it by saying, “First let’s start with the word cat. When we say it we want to stretch it out into all of its sounds. Ccc-aaa-ttt. We here three separate sounds that have to be represented in the three letterboxes. By using the body-coda method, we can figure this out really easy. First lets this of the vowel we hear /a/. The /a/ phoneme is represented with a letter ‘a’. Let’s put that letter in the middle box. Now let’s say the word again sounding it out from the beginning. Ccc-aaa-ttt. Ccc-aaa. I think the first letter is a ‘C’ because of the Ccc phoneme. Let’s put a ‘c’ in the first box. Now let’s figure out that last phoneme. Let’s say the word again, Ccc-aaa-ttt. The ttt phoneme is represented by a ‘t’ and all together we just spelled out Cat!” After the words are spelled, the teacher could have the words written on cards and have the students read the words they just spelled. The teacher should tell his/her students, “When we read words and we need to sound them out, the body-coda method works really well too! First we cover up all the letters but that vowel, and we sound it out, then we move on to the first letter and we sound out the first letter and the vowel sound together. Lastly we uncover the rest of the word and we read it all together!”
  7. Now is a good time for the students to take time to apply their practice to reading a decodable text. Lad and the Fat Cat by Geri Murray is a good example of a decodable text featuring the /a/ phoneme. By having the students read the text they are practicing applying the practice they just had with many examples throughout the text using the /a/ phoneme. The teacher should introduce the book by giving a short book talk to get the students interested in reading the book. A good example for a book talk for Lad and the Fat Cat would be, “Lad is very upset with Scat the cat because she is lying in his bed and will not move because she is too fat. Will Lad be able to convince or scare Scat away from his mat so he can lie down? To find out you have to read Lad and the Fat Cat.” As the children are reading, the teacher could walk around the room and have some of the student whisper read to them so they could mark some miscues for a good idea how well the students are grasping the correspondence. After the students read the book the teacher could ask the class if they could name any of the words in the book that have the /a/ phoneme. As the students respond the teacher could write the words that they recognized on the board.
  8. For assessment, the students could be tested by having a worksheet that helps them practice more with their spellings of words with the /a/ phoneme. The worksheet will have pictures of common words with the /a/ phoneme and below each picture will be blank letterbox squares that correspond with the picture. The student will attempt to fill in as many letterbox spellings as he/she can.

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Slocum, Laura. “Ahhhhhhh!  Stop the Crying Baby.”

Hummer, Melanie. “Mouth Moves and Gestures for Phonemes.”

Murray, Geri. Lad and the Fat Cat.

Google Images of rat,325,0xffffff