A?  Speak up, I can’t hear you!

Beginning Reading
Ashley Wild

Rationale: In order to become phonemically aware children need to understand and be familiar with the various sounds that make up written words.  Vowel sounds are the most important phonemes children can learn because they can be found in every written and spoken word.  Without the knowledge of vowel sounds, written words cannot be properly decoded.  This lesson will focus on the vowel correspondence a_e = /A/.  The lesson will develop the student’s awareness of a_e =/A/, by giving them instruction and practice on how to form the long a mouth move, as well as, practice reading decodable text containing the a_e correspondence. The students will receive instruction in decoding the long a mouth move in words, as well as, practice spelling the words themselves.


Materials: Primary paper and pencil for each student; Elkonin letter boxes and appropriate letter manipulatives for each student: a, p, e, b, k, d, t, m, g, l, r, s, n, v, c; chart with “Jake makes a lake in the tub”; Jane and Babe book for each student and pseudo-word cards



  1. Introduce the lesson by explaining that when we write words, we use letters to represent the different sounds in those words.  Explain that in order to become good readers, we need to learn how to match the letters to their sounds.  “Today we’re going to be working with the long a sound but first, can anyone tell me the short a sound?”  Call on volunteer to sound out the short a sound.  Reinforce that the short a sounds like a crying baby.  Instruct entire class to make the /a/ sound while rubbing their eyes like a crying baby.
  1. “Now that we all understand how to make the short a mouth movement, we’re going to learn how to make the long a mouth movement.  Have you ever had trouble hearing a question someone asked you?  Some people respond by putting their hand up to their ear while at the same time saying /A/.  Let’s put our hand behind our ear and practice saying /A/.  That is what the long a sound makes.  So today, we are going to learn that the letters a_e (the blank is for a consonant) make the /A/ mouth move. 
  1. “Let’s try a tongue twister [on chart].  ‘Abe the ape ate Amy’s acorn.’  How many times do we hear the long a sound in our tongue twister?  Expect for children to say ‘five times.’  “Let’s say our tongue twister again and stretch out the /A/ sound while we put our hand to our ear.  ‘Aaaaabe the aaaaape aaaaate Aaaaaamy’s aaaaacorn.’”
  1. Ask for volunteers to answer the following questions:
    1. “Do you hear /A/ in wake or walk?”
    2. “Do you hear /A/ in pet or play?”
    3. “Do you hear /A/ in made or mad?”
    4. “Do you hear /A/ in get or game?”
  1. Each child will be given Elkinon letter boxes and the appropriate letter manipulatives.  Now we will practice using our knowledge of the /A/ sound to spell words in these letter boxes.  Each box will represent one sound, so 1 box = 1 sound.  However, when a word ends in e, that e is silent so we know to say that previous vowel’s name.  For example, the e at the end of make tells us to say that vowel’s name: a.  Since that e is silent, it does not go in a box; it is put outside of the last box.  So make will be spelled with the letter boxes like so (teacher models using large letter boxes and letter manipulatives): it has three mouth movements, /m/ /A/ /k/, so we need to unfold three Elkinon letter boxes.  M will go in the first box because it is the first sound we hear in make.  A will go in the second box because it is the second sound we hear in make.  And k will go in the third box because it is the last sound we hear in make.  Because e doesn’t have a sound of its own in this word, it will go outside of the box containing k.  That is the correct way to spell make.
  1. Instruct students that they will be spelling words in the letter boxes using the letter manipulatives just the way I did.  Have students unfold two letter boxes.  Remind children that this means there are two sounds, two mouth movements in our first word.  “Spell: ape.”  Have students unfold three letter boxes.  “Spell: bake, date, map.”  Have students unfold four letter boxes.  “Spell: glare, snake, brave, skate.”  Finally, have the students unfold five letter boxes.  “Spell: scrape.”  Be sure to include review words from previous letterbox lessons.
  1. Using the large letter boxes and manipulatives, ask each student in your group to spell one of the previous words: ape, bake, date, map, glare, snake, brave, skate, scrape.  After they have read the words individually, instruct the students to read them together as you point to each word.
  1. Distribute class set of Jane and Babe to each student.  Give book talk: “Jane goes to visit Babe at the zoo but Babe is asleep and Jane can’t seem to wake him up.  What will she do to wake him up?  You’ll have to read to find out how she does this and what fun things they do together.”  Instruct students to read the book individually.  Once all the students are done reading, have them find five words in the book that contain the /A/ sound.  Ask for volunteers to give a word with the /A/ sound they found.  Compile the list on the board.


Assessment: Have each student read note cards with pseudo-words on them. Some words you can use include: FAP, VATE, JAT, MAVE, PAP, and BAVE.  This will review a =/a/ and a_e=/A/, assuring that each student knows the difference.



Cushman, Sheila. Jane and Babe. 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.

Leech, Traci. “Oh My!” http://www.auburn.edu/%7Emurraba/begin/leechbr.html.

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