Say /A/ with the Fonz!


Beginning Reading Design

Tommy L. Davis


Rationale: This lesson will help children identify /A/, the phoneme represented by a_e, ai, and ay.  Students will learn to recognize phoneme /A/ in spoken word by learning a meaningful representation (expression of Happy Days character Fonzie, aka the Fonz) and the graphemes a_e, ai, and ay, practice finding /A/ in words, and apply phoneme awareness with /A/ in phonetic cue reading by distinguishing rhyming words from letter groupings.


Materials: Primary paper and pencil; chart with Jake and Jane play cut duck rain;

drawing paper and crayons; Dr. Seuss's ABC (Random House, 1963); word cards

with CAKE, RAIN, PLAY, MAIN, BAT, TAKE, DAY, and FAKE; assessment worksheet identifying pictures with /A/ (URL below).


Procedures: 1. Say: 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/. We spell /A/ with the letter a_e like in the word make.  We can also spell /A/ with the letter ai like in the word rain.  And finally, we can spell /A/ with the combined letters ay as in the word play.  No matter how you spell it /A/ sounds like the sound Fonzie from the TV show Happy Days always made.  He was called the Fonz because he was so cool. 


2. So let's pretend to be cool like the Fonz, /A/, /A/, /A/. [Pantomime Fonzie] Notice how you have to hold your mouth to make the /A/ (Modeling mouth position). When we say /A/, our  mouth is open with our tongue down.


3. Let me show you how to find /A/ in the word cake. I'm going to stretch cake out in

super slow motion and let me know when I'm being cook like the Fonz by saying /A/. K-a-a-ak. Slower: K-a-a-a-k.  There it was! I felt my mouth open wide and my tongue drop to say /A/.


4. Let's try a tongue twister [on chart]. Abe the ape ate Amy's acorn. Everybody say it three times together. Now say it again, and this time, stretch the /A/ at the beginning of the words.  Aaabe the Aaape aaate Aaamy's aaacorns. Try it again, and this time break it off the word: /A/ be the /A/ pe  /A/te /A/ my's /A/ corn.


5. [Have students take out primary paper and pencil]. We use the letter combination ai to spell /A/.  Let's write the lowercase letter a.  Start at the fence.  Draw a circle, going down to the sidewalk and back up to the fence. Then draw a line touching the side of the circle by starting at the top of the fence and going down to the sidewalk.  Next to our letter a, let's write the letter i.  Let's start at the top of the fence and draw a straight line down to the sidewalk.  Then let's put a dot above the straight line.  There's our letter i!. 


6. Call on students to answer and tell how they knew: Do you hear /A/ in play or

plan? sad or say? ran or rain? bake or back? tan or tame? Say: Let's see if you can spot

the mouth move /A/ in some words. Give me your coolest Fonzie move if you hear the sound /A/: The, man, made, a, cake, and, gave, it, to, Jane, to, eat.


7. Say: "Let's look at an alphabet book. ABC: A Child's First Alphabet Book introduces us to a big, black, hairy animal at a zoo. Can you guess?" (Answer: Ape) Read page 3, drawing out /A/. Ask children if they can think of other words with /A/. Ask them to make up a silly

creature names starting with /A/. Then have each student write their silly name with invented spelling and draw a picture of their silly creature. Display their work.


8. Show MATE and model how to decide if it is mate or mat: The a_e tells me be cool like Fonzie, so this word is mAAAt, mate. You try some: RAIN:  ran or rain? PLAY: plan or play? MAIN: main or man? BAIT: bat or bait? JANE: Jane or Jan?


9. For assessment, distribute the worksheet. Students are to complete the partial

spellings and color the pictures that begin with A. Call students individually to read

the phonetic cue words from step #8.


10.  Additional information on this lesson can be found at The Reading Genie website located at