Alligators say Aaaaa!

Beginning Reading Lesson Design

Abbie Simpson



It is important that children learning to read understand that letters stand for phonemes and that spellings represent the phonemes in spoken words.  Children need to have clear instruction and practice with short vowels because they can sometimes be very difficult phonemes to recognize.  In this lesson, students will focus on recognizing short a = /a/.  Students will learn to recognize and identify short /a/ in spoken words by learning a meaningful representation (alligators say Aaaa), and will practice finding words with short /a/.  Students will understand this correspondence by focusing on what moves the mouth makes when saying the sound and doing a letterbox lesson to spell and read words with a=/a/.


Materials: Primary paper and pencil; chart to show /a/ and tongue twister: "Allie the active alligator goes on an adventure"; letter boxes (one per student), bag with letter tiles a, b, c, d, f, g, l, m, n, p, s, t (one bag per student); the book, The Cat Nap (Phonics Readers); word cards with AT, TAB, AND, CAP, SAD, FLAT, TRAP, and FLAG; assessment worksheet identifying pictures with /a/  (


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 short /a/. We spell /a/ with letter a. /a/. makes the sound that a baby crying makes.

2. Discuss with students the sound an alligator may make if it were to open his mouth.  Say:  class, if an alligator were to open its mouth and say /a/ it would sound like this (demonstrate by using arms to show a big mouth) "Aaaaa."  Now let's all use our arms to try our alligator /a/ by opening our big alligator mouth "Aaaaa." Notice that you open your mouth wide when you say /a/. We only blow air through our mouths and not through our nose.  (your tongue drops with your lower jaw)

3. Let's try a tongue twister [on chart]. "Allie the active alligator goes on an adventure." Everybody say it three times together. Now say it again, and this time, stretch the /a/ at the beginning of the words. "Aaallie the aaactive aaalligator goes on aaan aaadventure .��� Try it again, and this time break /a/ off the word: "/a/llie  the  /a/ctive  /a/lligator  goes on  /a/n  /a/dventure.

4. To make sure students can recognize the /a/ in spoken words ask them to identify which word they hear /a/. Say:  do you hear /a/ in top or cap?  Do you hear /a/ in pluck or sack? Red or man? Jack or puff?  Observe carefully to make sure that ALL students understand.  Say: Let's see if you can spot the mouth move /a/ in some words. open your hands like an alligators mouth if you hear /a/: apple, fun, pat, aunt, tap, put, flat, tune, astronaut.

5. Next, begin the letterbox lesson.  Make sure that all students have their own letterboxes and letter tiles.  Be sure to model for the students.  Say: I want to spell the word "crab."  I have four letterboxes that will go along with each mouth move that I make.  I will say it slower so that I can hear which letters need to go in each box.  C-c-r-r-r-a-a-a-a-b-b.  The first sound I hear is /c/, so I know I will start with the letter "c."  Then I heard /r/, so that is an "r."  Next I hear my "Aaaa" so I know I will need an "a" and finally I hear the /b/ so I will put the letter "b" in the last box.  I have now spelled out the word "crab."  Start with just two letterboxes and then move up. (2) at, (3) cab, tab, and, cap, sad, (4) flat, trap, flag.  Walk around and observe students spelling out the words as you call out the words to be spelled.  Provide help for students who are struggling.  Allow several minutes for students to work on this.

6. After the students have spelled out the words using the letterboxes, bring out the index cards with the words written out.  Hold up the cards for the students to read aloud.  If there are students having trouble, use the letter tiles and spell the word out.  Show students how to use cover-ups to decode words.

7. Next, give each student the book, The Cat Nap.  Say:  "Let's look at the book, ���The Cat Nap.���  It tells us about a cat named Tag who loves to nap.  Tag takes a nap in a bag that is carried away.  Will Tag be found in the bag?   What do you think?" Read ���The Cat Nap���, drawing out /a/. Ask children if they can think of other words with /a/. Ask them to write a silly sentence using 2 words that begin with A.  Then have each student illustrate their sentence and share it with the class. Display their work.

Assessment:  For assessing to see if each child has a true understanding of the short a, students will complete a worksheet in which they will draw a line to help an astronaut find the items that begins with the short /a/.  Call students individually to read the phonetic cue words from step #6.





Kent, Alea. (2009). Allie the Active Alligator: Emergent Literacy Design. Journey���s index.


Vernon, Kayla. (2009). Apples and Alligators: Beginning Lesson Design. Journey���s index.


The Cap Nap.  Phonics readers.


Short a worksheet:


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