“Aaaaaaa…a Fast Crab! “

Beginning Reading Design
Jessie Wiggins

Rationale:  It is important for beginning readers to become aware of phonemes in words because they need to know the sounds each letter makes.  A phoneme is the vocal gesture identified in spoken words. The most difficult phonemes for children to recognize are vowels.  Short vowels are the first letter-sound correspondences taught in beginning reading instruction.  Therefore, the short vowel /a/ is what we will begin learning first through phoneme gestures, a worksheet, and reading.  We will be teaching a vowel correspondence that will help students recognize the /a/ in spoken words through a letter box lesson, gestures, and tongue twisters.


-Primary paper


-Book: A Cat Nap (Educational Insights)- one for each student

-Letter Boxes for each child. 

-Letters for each child: c, a, t, h, s, g, r, b, p, l, y, r, I, n, b, c, k, f, a, d, m, r a, t.

-Plastic baggies for letters.

-Large scale letter box/letters for teacher.

-White board



Introduce the lesson by explaining short /a/.  “Good morning everyone! Today we are going to be working on the short vowel /a/.  Does anyone know what the sound /a/ makes?  What does you say when something scares you?  Aaaaaa! When you think of the short vowel /a/, throw your arms up in the air and say aaaaaaa!...like you are scared!  Ok, let’s try.  Aaaaaa!!  We can also remember short /a/ when we think about a crying baby.  Now, lets all cry like babies! “aaaaaaaa!” Great! See short /a/ is easy to learn!

Does everyone know how to write the letter a?  Grab your primary paper and pencil!  I am going to write an “a” on the board.  Everyone pay attention!  (while writing a, explain the steps) I’m going to start under the fence, not at the fence.  Go up and touch the fence, then around and touch the sidewalk, around and straight down.  See there is an “a”!  Now, you try!”

Let’s say a tongue twister to help us begin with learning short /a/: “Aaaaannie screamed aaaaaaaaa at the aaaaangry faaaast craaaaab!” (written on white board)

Finding /a/ in spoken words:  Now I have some words I am going to read out…

-Which word do you hear /a/ in?

fit or flash?

apple or pear?

cone or cat?

crab or fish?

mad or soap?

Letter Box Lesson: “Now I need everyone to open up their plastic baggies with letters in them.  Turn them all on the letter faced side.  Get your letter box and open it up as well.”  I am going to first model a word with the letter box/letters, then we will all do them together!  My word is “bad’.  Ok, I hear the /a/ (a-a-a-a) in bad.  B-b-b-b-a-a-a. I hear b. b-a.  Ok so I’m going to place my “b” first, then my “a”.  Ok now, b-a-d-d-d. I heard “d”.  b-a-a-a-d. Now I will read it: Bad! Ok now you try with these words:  3 phonemes- cat, had, Sam; 4 phonemes- sand, trap, grab, back; 5 phonemes- blank, scrap, and draft, plant. (walk around while doing lesson)

Book Talk: Our book we will read today is A Cat Nap. This story is about a cat named Tab. Tab is a fat cat who likes to nap in a bag. A man named Sam owns Tab. Sam likes to play baseball and has a baseball bag he carries his bats in.  Tab likes to sleep in Sam’s baseball bag, but one day Sam goes to play baseball and takes Tab sleeping in his bag!  To find out what happens next, you need to read the book!"  (Pass out books and have them read to themselves)  “Once finished, raise your hand and I will give you a worksheet to work on! “

Assessment:  “Now I will pass out some worksheets.  Follow the directions given to identify the short vowel /a/. “ This worksheet will help students identify short /a/. (Rubric on worksheet)

Click Here for Worksheet


          ANSWERS:  There are 3 pictures that have the short vowel /a/:
                                     1.  crab
                                     2.  sad
                                     3.  apple
          Assessment:  The student shoud only miss one.  If more than one is missed, re-check the lesson.


A Cat Nap. Educational Insights, Carson, CA. 1990.

Murray, B.A., & Lesniak, T. (1999). The Letterbox Lesson: A hands-on approach for teaching decoding. The Reading Teacher, 52, 644-650

Return to Odysses Index