Sneezing to learn about /a/.

 Emergent Literacy

Eleanor McDavid

Rationale: It has been shown that teaching children to read through learning the individual letters and matching phonemes to them helps children later in life to be successful readers. In this lesson students will get useful practice with the phoneme /a/ through a visual representation of the letter that they can associate with the phoneme and also through locating the phoneme in words.



Primary paper and pencil

Ants in a Can by Geri Murray

Card with the phrase: “Annie had the apples in her hand.”

Visual representation of the grapheme Aa of the a picture of a person sneezing for “Ahh             Choo”

Worksheet with pictures that contain the phoneme /a/ and pictures the do not have the   phoneme /a/. Each picture with a /a/ phoneme should be compared with a picture     without the phoneme /a/.



1. First off in this lesson the teacher must give the rational as to why they must learn letters. Explain to them that if they learn all the letters and their sounds they will become better readers. Next tell them that today they are going to be practicing the phoneme /a/ through a series of fun activities. For example, the teacher could introduce by saying, “Students, to become better readers we have to be able to learn our letters and the sounds they make. For today, we are going to start with the /a/ phoneme.”


2. Here the teacher will describe the motion and sound of the phoneme /a/. By having the students see the visual representation of the person sneezing they can practice the “Ahh,” which the teacher will remind the students that’s what the phoneme sounds like. The teacher could say, “I am going to describe what my mouth is doing when I make the /a/ phoneme, your mouth is open and your jaw and tongue are down. Lets all try making the sound together.”


3. The next step that the teacher takes will be having the students practice the tongue twister. By having them say the phrase “Annie had the apples in her hand,” they can hear specific words with the /a/ phoneme. Also, as the students say the phrase ask them to stretch out the /a/ phoneme. For example: “AAAAnnie haaaad the aaaaples in her haaaand.” It might also be helpful if the teacher includes the hand gesture of a person sneezing to remind the students of the “Aaa” sound in “Aaa Choo.”


4. Now that the students have practiced pronouncing the phoneme /a/, they should try to practice using that phoneme by writing it on primary paper. The teacher should model how to write the uppercase grapheme A while saying the instructional phrase, “Start at the rooftop, go down the slide to the sidewalk, then down the slide the other way and join them together at the fence. For the lowercase, we don’t start at the fence. We start under the fence, go up and touch the fence, then around and touch the sidewalk, around and straight down.” Now the teacher should instruct the students to practice writing the grapheme while saying the same instructional phrase he/she did.


5. Now the students will practice trying to listen for the phoneme in spoken words. By doing this teacher should clearly pronounce the two words to compare to each other. One of the words should have the phoneme and the other should not. Some example words would be, “Do you hear the /a/ in cat or dog,” “Do you hear the /a/ in apple or celery,” “Do you hear the /a/ in grab or truck,” “Do you hear the /a/ in fact or lie,” “Do you hear the /a/ in lamp or light,” and lastly “Do you hear the /a/ in class or time.”


6. The last step is for students to listen to the decodable book Ants in a Can by Geri Murray. This story is about a young girl named Jan who wants to catch some ants for pets. However, this plan isn’t so good when the ants start biting her. To find out what happens to Jan we have to read Ants in a Can. After reading the story it is good for the teacher to go over the story for comprehension purposes. Now it is a good idea for the students to listen to the story for a second time listening for the /a/ phoneme. The teacher could tell the students that if they think they hear the phoneme they could raise their hand and the teacher could mark it in her book. After the second reread the teacher could put all of the words the students raised their hands for and go over whether or not they actually have the /a/ phoneme in it.


7. For the assessment of the phoneme the teacher will supply the students with a worksheet that has pictures of different objects that have the phoneme /a/ when it is pronounced. These pictures should be compared to other pictures that when pronounced do not have the phoneme /a/ in it.

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Murray, Geri. Ants in a Can.


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


Thaxton, Wade. “Adam’s Fat Bat.”