Aaaaaaaaaa!!! You Scared Me!


Beginning Reading

Emily Young


    Rationale: As a beginning reader, it is important for students to learn the correspondences between letters and sounds. Short vowels are especially hard to learn; therefore, it is especially important for students to have explicit instruction and practice with short vowels. This lesson will help students to learn to recognize and read the correspondence that a = /a/.  The students will learn the correspondence a = /a/ by making a memorable connection to the correspondence in written and spoken words.


        Chart with the tongue twister “The angry alligator asked Adam for an apple.”

        Individual letterboxes for the students

        Individual letter tiles for the students (a,m,c,t,s,d,h,g,r,b,l,n,k,p,s,r)

        Teacher letterboxes and letter tiles

        Overhead projector

        Individual copies of A Cat Nap for the students and teacher

        Primary paper and pencil for each student

        Primary paper on overhead (for modeling)

        Picture handout with pictures of the color black, the color yellow, a dog, a cat, an apple, a  spoon, a glass, a hat, a shoe, and a book.



1)      Introduce the lesson by telling the children that our written language is a secret code that we have to figure out in order to read.  Also, explain to children that each letter has its very own mouth movement and sound and today we are going to be learning about the letter /a/.

2)      Ask the students: Has anyone ever jumped out and scared you? What is one of the first things that you do?  You scream and say aaaaaaaaaaa!!! Well that is what the letter a says. It says aaaaaa and we are going to help remember this by placing our hands on our face, like we are scared, when we see the letter a.

3)      I have a tricky tongue twister we are going to say with our special new sound in it. I’m going to say it first and you all listen to all the /a/ sounds that you hear. “The angry alligator asked Adam for an apple”. Did everyone hear our special sound?  Now let’s say it together “The angry alligator asked Adam for an apple.” Great job now this time let’s say it again stretching out our /a/ sound and make our motion as if we were scared. “The aaaaangry aaaaaligator aaaaasked aaaaadam for aaaaan aaaaaple.” Great job!

4)      Now we are going to use our letterboxes and our letter tiles to spell some words with our special sound in them. Remember that we put one sound in each box and all of our words are going to have our /a/ sound in them. I want everyone to watch how I spell the word glad in my letterboxes (use an overhead to model the spelling for the students showing each sound). Ok, now I want everyone to watch and listen as I read the word crash (use an overhead to model how to read a word using the vowel-body-coda method).  *** Pass out individual letterboxes and bags of letters.*** "Now I would like everyone to spell the words that I say in your letterboxes." Make sure to remind them that the boxes are for the sounds of a word, not the letters. Make sure to give each student the time they need to make the words. While the children are making their words, be sure to walk around and observe what they are doing. If the child makes a mistake in the word, pronounce it as they have spelled it and have them try and fix it. Don’t ask questions! After everyone has spelled the word correctly, model it for the class (like you did with glad). Do that for each word so the students will understand the way it is supposed to be. Make sure the children do not read the words while in the letterboxes. Our word list is: 2 phonemes- am; 3 phonemes- cat, sad, hat; 4 phonemes-grab, glad, snack, black, camp, glass, and crash.

5)      After the spelling portion of the lesson, have the students read the words to you. Use overhead to spell the words so that each child can see them and have the children read the words aloud.  Make sure to watch each child to make sure they are able to read the words. If a child cannot read a word, the teacher should help the child split the word (body-coda) to help with their reading.

6)      Tell the class that we are now going to read a book full of words that make the /a/ sound. Hand out a copy of A Cat Nap to each child. Give a short book talk.  We are going to be reading A Cat Nap. This story is about a cat named Tab. Tab is a fat cat who likes to nap in a bag. Sam is the man who owns Tab. Sam plays baseball. Sam has a bat in his bag.  To find out if Tab is near by, you need to read the book.

7)      Have the children read the book A Cat Nap while you walk around and observe their reading.

8)      Ok now that we know the sound that our special sound /a/ that our letter a makes lets practice writing out letter. Begin with your pencil on the fence of your paper and draw a circle going down to the ground. After you draw your circle draw a line straight down on the right side of the circle.

9)      Pass out the picture handout and help the students identify them.  Instruct everyone to look at the picture handout.  Let's see if we can help one another identify the pictures. The teacher should walk around the room and make sure each child identifies the pictures correctly by writing what the picture is underneath it.

10)  Have each student practice writing the letter a while other students are being called to the teacher's desk for an assessment.

    For assessment, each child should individually come up to the teacher's desk.  Each child should bring the picture handout and a pencil. According to the teacher’s instructions, each student should be assessed on the understanding that a = /a/.  The teacher should say, "I want you to circle all of the pictures that show words containing /a/. The teacher should grade each child according to their ability  to identify the pictures representing words with /a/. The teacher should then have each child read for a minute using the book A Cat Nap.


    A Cat Nap. Educational Insights, 1990.

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

    Sullivan, Sarah “The Scary Letter……aaaaaaaaa!”


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