By: Susanna Pate

Beginning Reading

Rationale:  In order to be able to read children must have explicit and systematic phonics instruction once they have a good foundation of phonemic awareness.  Beginning readers not only need to know that words are made up of sounds, they must also understand the correspondences there are between the letters and their phonemes. In this lesson we will be working with the short sound /a/.   This lesson with learning the short sound /a/ will help children recognize the correspondence a = /a/ in spoken and written words by giving them memorable and meaningful representation of sound as well as exposure to its use in words.


Class set of Elkonin boxes

Class set of letter manipulatives

Overhead Elkonin boxes and letter manipulatives (c,a,t, b, n, p ,g, h, l, f, r)

Class set of A Cat Nap by Sheila Cushman, Carson, CA. Educational Insights. 1990.pp 1-9.

Worksheet with pictures of a bag, bird, cap, cat, cow, sock. (Students will circle the pictures that have /a/ in their name and then write the word below it.

Chart with the tongue twister written on it, Ahh, abby the alligator taps the cat!


1.        1. To start off, explain to the students what they will be learning today.  “Today we are going to be learning about a letter that makes a screaming sound.” An example of a gesture the students can use is to put their hands on their cheeks when they open their mouths. (Like the kid in the movie Home Alone.) “Here is an example of using the screaming /a/ sound: N-a-a-a-a-p.” Model by doing the Home Alone gesture. “Can anyone else come up with a word that has the screaming /a/ sound? That’s a great word to use!” (If they get it right, if not try sounding a couple more words to model for them.)


2.    2. Next, show the chart with the tongue twister on it. “I’m going to read the tongue twister and I want you to listen for all short /a/ sounds. Ahhh, Abby the alligator taps the cat! Now let’s stretch out the screaming /a/ sound in the tongue twister. Make sure to listen for the short /a/ sound and use your Home Alone gesture. A-a-a-a-h, the a-a-a-ligator t-a-a-a-ps the c-a-a-a-t! Awesome job!

3.      "Now I am going to say some words and I want you to tell me which one you hear the screaming /a/ in. Do you hear it in Sat or Set, Bag or Bog, Pull or Pal. Great job!

4.      4. Now, have students take out their Elkonin boxes and letters. Letterboxes should be laying flat.  We are going to use our boxes to help us spell words that have the /a/ sound in them.” Model how to do the first one for the students on the overhead.  “I am going to spell the word ‘splat’ in the boxes.  I know that each letter-sound has its own box, so the first sound I hear is the /s/ sound. I am going to put the letter‘s’ in the first box.  The next sound I hear is the popping bubble sound.  I will put the letter ‘p’ in the second box.  In the third box I will put the letter ‘l’ in it because I hear the /l/ sound. So far I have the sounds /spl/. The next sound I hear is the screaming ahhh sound. I will put the letter ‘a’ next.  I hear one more sound at the end. I hear the /t/ sound. In the last box I am going to place the letter‘t’ there.  Now I have spelled the word ‘splat’ by filling each box with a letter for each sound.

5.      After you have modeled for the students have them start trying to spell words on their own with their letter boxes. Make sure to walk around the room to check each students spellings. Start with 3 phoneme words:  bat, nap, bag, cap, hat, pal.  Next have students add a fourth box to work on 4 phoneme words: snag, flat, grab, and trap


6.      Next, call students to work with you in a small group.  They will read A Cat Nap aloud. The teacher should give a book talk before having the students read. “Today we are going to read A Cat Nap. This story is about a man that has a cat.  This cat loves to take naps in his bag.  One day the man decided to go play ball and grabbed his bag.  Little did he know his cat was in it! What do you think will happen to the cat?” Change your scaffolding to fit each student’s individual needs as they read aloud from the book.  Put the book in a reading center for the week so that the students can have extra practice. 


7.      For assessment, you can give students a page with various pictures on it. Some of the pictures could be of a bag, bird, cap, cat, cow, sock.  The students should circle the objects that have the /a/ sound in their name.  Then they should write the name of the object below the circled pictures only.  At the end of the week you may also assess the students by rereading A Cat Nap and doing a running record on them as they read aloud. 




Cushman, Sheila. A Cat Nap. Carson, CA. 1990. Educational Insights. Pp1-9.

Grimmet, April. “Ahhhh!”

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

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