Wade swayed at the masquerade

dancing cow

Beginning Reading

Melanie Smith



   It is necessary for children to develop decoding skills in order to become fluent readers.  In the early stages of decoding distinguishing between long and short vowels can be tricky.  It is important for children to understand that one letter can have more than one sound.  It is also important to remember that correspondences can be spelled and pronounced differently.  This lesson will review a=/a/ and introduce a_e=/A/ using instruction, worksheets, decodable books, and pseudowords. 


  Elkonin Letter boxes (one set per student), Set of letters (each in a Ziploc baggie) per student – a,b,e,f,j,m,p,t,v, Large Elkonin Letter boxes for teacher (made out of felt), Large felt board, Large set of felt letters - a,b,e,f,j,m,p,t,v, Jane and Babe (decodable text, one per child), Primary paper, Pencils, Poster with the tongue twister:  “Amy ate acorns with eighty angry apes!”, Worksheet (requiring the matching of printed words to pictures) using the words: cake, maid, bat, game, rat, blade, crab, trash, Note cards with the following pseudo-words: FAP, VATE, JAT, MAVE, PAP, and BAVE, Dry erase board, 2 different colored dry erase markers


1)  Briefly go over the a = /a/ as a review; I will then introduce the a_e = /A/.  “First, we already know that when we say a alone in a word, it makes the /a/ sound (a = /a/).  Today we are going to learn something new about letter a!  It can make more than just an /a/ sound!    When there is an a then a consonant, then the letter e, a makes a different, sound!  The ea say its name! (write a_e = /A/).”  Explain to the students that the e is silent, but it helps the a say its name.  Write the word plan on the board.  “Friends, what does this word say?  /s/-/a/-/m/, sam!  That’s correct!  But, what if I add an e to the end of this word? (Place an e at the end of the word in a different color).  What does this word say now?  /s/-/A/-/m/, same!  That’s right!  Great!  The silent e makes the a say its name!  Let’s look at another one.  (Write the word can on the board.  /p/-/l/-/a/-/n/, can!  Now, I am going to add an e to the end.  /p/-/l/-/A/-/n/, plane!  Does everyone understand?  We would practice with two more words, hat/hate and van/vane. makes the

 2)  Now we’ll do the tongue twister.  (Hold up the poster with the tongue twister on it)  Wade stayed and played in the shade!  Now, let’s say it all together Amy ate acorns with eighty angry apes.  Now listen to me say it and drag out the long a sound.  “Aaaaamy aaaaate aaaaacorns with aaaaeighty aaaaangry aaaaaapes!”  Together, “Aaaaamy aaaaate aaaaacorns with aaaaeighty aaaaangry aaaaaapes!” 

 3)  Next will be the letterbox lesson activity (The students would previously have had a lot of practice with the letterbox lesson activity.)  We will do 2, 3, 4, and 5 letter words with review short vowels mixed in as well. The students will be taught that since we don’t say the e, it goes on the outside (not in a box).  The teacher will model with a felt board and large Elkonin boxes/letters.  “Ok here are your letterboxes and a bag full of new letters for our words.  Who can raise their hand and tell me what you do when I call out a word.  Let me show you an example.  I want you to spell the word bat; I have a aluminum bat.  Since we learned something new for a today, we’re going to learn something new for our letter box lesson too.  Well for the a, consonant, e (or a silent e) letterbox lesson (a_e=/A/), you are to put the e outside of the last letterbox.  Since we don’t hear the e we put it on the outside of the last box. Let me show you how to do one.  For the word game we hear the g first so the g goes in the first box, next a long a, therefore we know that we have to put the e on the outside of the last box. Next is, right m in the last box and the e on the outside; now we have the word game. 

2 phonemes: ate, if
3 phonemes: cane, game, late, bat
4 phonemes: grave, runt, scare, drape
5 phonemes: scrape, blend

 I will now model how I am going to spell the words and the students are to read it back to me.  I will do this on the felt board with the large Elkonin boxes/letters; we will do this for all of the words. I am going to spell the word, and I want you to read it for me.  Let me show you how to do one; (spell grave) I know that the magic e on the end makes the a say its name, /A/.  I know that the gr  say /gr/ like a growling dog.  I also know the v says /v/.  I can put the /gr/ and /A/ together to make /gra/ and simply add the /v/ to get grave.  Therefore when I put those sounds together I know that the word says grave.”

 4)  Pass out copies of Jane and Babe.  Have the students read the book in pairs. “I want you to read Jane and Babe with your partner. If you have a word that you cannot figure out, raise your hand and I will come help you.  First, let me tell you a little about Miss Jane and the lion named Babe.  Jane is a zoo keeper at a zoo.  Babe is a lion that lives at the zoo.  Jane and Babe are great friends, and Jane is not afraid of Babe.  She goes into Babe’s cage to visit him, but he is asleep!  Jane wants to play, should she try to wake him up?  If she does what will happen?  We’ll have to read the rest of the story to find out.

 5)  The students will get out primary paper and a pencil.  They will write a message about their favorite animal in the zoo and why it is their favorite.

 6)  Give each student a worksheet with the following name and pictures: cake, maid, bat, game, rat, blade, crab, trash. Review the names and the pictures with the children. “Now I want you to write the correct word under each picture. Make sure you are reading the whole word to make sure the e is telling the a to say its name. You can also look back at your word bank to make sure you are spelling the word correctly.” This activity reinforces the idea that the e at the end of each word is what makes the long vowel sound.

7)        For assessment have each student come to you and read note cards with pseudo-words. Some words you can use include: FAP, VATE, JAT, MAVE, PAP, and BAVE. This will review a =/a/ and a_e=/A/ and assure that each student knows the difference.  They will do this while they complete their picture sheet.


Cushman, Sheila.  Jane and Babe.  Educational Insights:  Carson, CA, 1990.

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

Thaxton, Wade.  Wade Made Lemonade in the shade. http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/catalysts/thaxtonbr.html

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