"Don't Be a Crybaby!"

Rationale:  In order for beginning readers to become fluent in reading and writing, they must understand that each letter in the alphabet represents a speech sound.  When beginning readers recognize that each letter in the alphabet corresponds to a phoneme in speech, their reading will become more fluent.  Short vowels are some of the most difficult correspondences for children to learn as their articulations are all very similar.  This lesson will focus on the a=/a/ (short a) correspondence.  Students will learn this correspondence through a meaningful and memorable illustration.  Students will also learn to read and spell words with the a=/a/ correspondence through a letterbox lesson and the reading of a decodable book.

Materials:

* A poster with the phoneme chant:  "The baby cries because he is mad, 'A, a, a'-, Feed him now and he won't be sad, 'A, a, a."

* A poster with the tongue tickler:  "Andrew and Alice asked if Annie's active cat was angry."

* Elkonin boxes for each student (up to six boxes)

* Plastic letters for each student (a, b, c, d, f, g, l, m, n, p, s, t)

* Laminated letters and big pouch for teacher to use for modeling

* A copy of the PDF Lad and the Fat Cat for each student

* Assessment sheet for each student

Procedures:

1.  Say:  "Today we are going to learn the sound that the letter a makes when it is in words all by itself.  We are also going to learn to read and write words that have the sound the letter a makes."

2.  Present a meaningful and memorable representation of the short a sound for students.  Say:  "Have you ever heard a little baby cry?  They make a noise like this:  /a/, /a/, /a/.  When we make this sound our jaw and tongue are at the bottom of our mouths.  Let's make it again with this crybaby motion (rub eyes with fists), /a/, /a/, /a/.  Let's read this chant on the poster and when we make our short a sound, let's make our motions.  The baby cries because he is mad, 'A, a, a' (do motion), Feed him now and he won't be sad, 'A, a, a' (do motion)."

3.  Say:  "Now let's get our mouths warmed up to do some spelling with our tongue twister.  Say the words with me as I point to them.  Andrew and Alice asked if Annie's active cat was angry.  Let's say it again, but slower, and when you hear that crybaby a sound, I want you to make our special motion.  Aaaaandrew and Aaaaalice aaaaaasked if Aaaaannie's aaaaactive caaaaat waaaaaas aaaaaangry."

4.  Practice discriminating short a phoneme in spoken words.  Say:  "I'm going to say two words.  I want you to raise your hand for the word that you hear the crybaby a sound in.  Do you hear it in:  dog or cat?  nap or sleep?  bed or mat?"

5.  Model a letterbox lesson for whole class.  Say:  "Please spread out your letter tiles so you can see every letter.  Now we are ready to spell some words.  Remember to put each sound in its' own box.  I'll show you how to spell the first word, and I'll need four boxes.  I'm going to spell flag, like the American flag we have hanging on our wall.  Fffff-lllll-aaaaa-ggggg.  The first sound I hear is /f/, so I'll put that in the first box.  Ffff-lllll-aaaa-gggg.  The second sound I hear is /l/, so I'll put that in the second box.  After that, I hear that crybaby short a sound, so I'll put a in the third box.  Fffff-lllll-aaaaa-ggggg.  The last sound I hear is /g/, so I'll put that in the last box."

6.  Students will spell words using their own letterboxes.  Say:  "Now it's your turn to spell some words.  For the first one, you'll need three boxes.  Please spell cat.  For the next five words, you will need four boxes, so open to one more box.  Please spell, grab, plan, land, slam, and fast.  For the next word, you'll need five boxes.  Please spell stamp.  The last word is longer, so you'll need six boxes.  Please spell strand.  Thank you for spelling all of the words, you may now put up your letterboxes and letter tiles."

7.  Students will read the words they just spelled outside of letterboxes.  Say:  "Now we are going to read the words we just spelled, but we will read them without their boxes."  Use teacher's large letter tiles and large pouch to spell the words that the students just spelled [cat, grab, plan, land, slam, fast, stamp, strand].  If the students are having trouble with a word, isolate the vowel sound, then blend the body and coda.

8.  Pass out printed decodable books which will give children the opportunity to practice reading connected text with the /a/ sound.  Say:  "We are going to read a book called Lad and the Fat Cat.  It is about a very fat cat who steals Lad's mat.  Lad is a big dog and he isn't very happy that a fat cat is sitting on his mat!  What will happen to Lad and the fat cat?  We will have to read to find out!  First I want you to read on your own, then I will read the book to you."  The students will read independently, then the teacher will read the book out loud.

9.  For assessment, pass out worksheet.  Say:  "Please circle the word that best described the picture you see."  Students should circle the word on the left that best describes the picture on the right.  I will check individual worksheets to assess students ability to decode words with the a=/a/ correspondence.

Reference:

Murray, B.A & Lesniak, T. (1990).  "The Letterbox Lesson:  A hands-on approach for Teaching decoding." The Reading Teacher, Volume 52, No. 6, 644-650.