Crying Students
Emergent Literacy
Caitlin Clabby

In order for children to be able to read and write, they must be able to distinguish the individual sounds in words. These sounds are called phonemes. Phonemes are the basic vocal gestures from which the spoken words of language are constructed. It is essential that children learn these sounds while they are learning to read. They need to be able to distinguish separate phonemes in words. Short vowels are probably the toughest phonemes to identify. This lesson will help children identify /a/ (short a). They will learn to recognize /a/ in spoken words by learning a meaningful representation and a letter symbol, and then practice finding /a/ in words.

Primary paper and pencil
Chart with “Adam has a baby alligator who ate all his Aunt Annie’s apples.”
Writing paper
Pre-made Popsicle sticks (two Popsicle sticks for each student, one blank and one with the picture of an alligator taped to the top).
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
Picture page with bag, drum, hat, bus, school, apple, ant, cup, mirror, and cat

 1. Introduce the lesson by explaining that our written language is a secret code. The tricky part is learning what letters stand for—the mouth moves we make as we say words. Today we're going to work on spotting the mouth move /a/.  At first /a/ will seem hidden in words, but as you get to know it, you'll be able to spot /a/ in all kinds of words.

2. Ask students: Raise your hand if you have a baby brother or sister?  Raise your hand if you have ever heard anyone crying?  Did the cry you heard say /a/? That's the mouth move we're looking for in words. Let's pretend to be crying students and say /a/. [Rub beside eyes with fists.] A baby may cry when it is hungry or tired or someone else may cry when they are upset or hurt.  Let’s pretend like we are crying students: /a/.

3. Let's try a tongue twister [on chart]. "Adam has a baby alligator who ate all his Aunt Annie’s apples. " Everybody say it three times together. Now say it again, and this time, stretch the /a/ at the beginning of the words. "AAAndy has a baby aaalligator who ate all his AAAunt AAAnnie’s aaapples." Try it again, and this time break it off the word: "/A/ndy has a baby /a/lligator who ate all his /A/unt /A/nnie’s /a/pples.

4. [Have students take out primary paper and pencil]. We can use letter a to spell /a/. Let's write it. Start under the fence.  Go up and touch the fence, then around and touch the sidewalk, around and straight down.  I want to see everybody's a. After I put a sticker on it, I want you to make nine more just like it. When you see letter a all by itself in a word, that's the signal to say /a/.

5. Let me show you how to find /a/ in the word.  I am going to stretch track out in super slow motion and listed for the crying student.  Tr-tr-tr-a-c-k. tr-tr-tr-a-a-a...There it is! I heard the crying student /a/ in track.

6. Pass out two popsicle sticks to each student (pre-made).  One popsicle stick will have a picture of an alligator taped to the top, the other stick will not have anything on it.  The students will be told that if they hear the /a/ sound then they will have to raise their alligator.  If they do not hear the sound then they will raise the blank Popsicle stick.  Ready: cat, dog, apple, cherry, lamp, dad, mom, picture, basket, cash, money, football, soccer, basketball, snack, dinner.

7. Read the Cat in the Hat. Before reading give a quick book talk.  ‘This book is about two little kids who are bored in their house all alone.  Then the cat in the hat comes over and tries to help them have fun, but just makes a mess.  The kid’s mom is going to come home soon, I wonder what she is going to do?’  Reread parts of the book that have multiple /a/ words.  Have the students write their own tongue twister using /a/.  Allow the students to draw a picture (something that has the /a/ sound) if time permits.

8. For assessment, distribute the picture page and help students name each picture. Ask each student to color in the pictures whose names have /a/.


Burbie, Cendy.  Cry Baby.

 Murray, Bruce.  The Reading Genie.

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