Beginning Reading

By: Ashley Troha



This lesson will help students recognize the vowel correspondence represented by a, which makes the /a/ sound.  By using hand gestures, visual representation, and different reading words involving the phoneme /a/, students will have more help in recognizing that phoneme /a/.  The tongue tickler will not only aid in the students being able to think about the movement of mouth, but will also help as well in recognizing the letter a and it's phoneme /a/.


Primary paper and pencil for each student

Picture of a crying baby with phoneme /a/

Chart with the tongue tickler "Allie the alligator acts aggravated."

Individual letterboxes for each student

Individual letter tiles for each student a, s, s, m, h, t, d, r, g, f, l, b, c, c, k

Teacher letterboxes and letter tiles

A = /a/ sound worksheet

Overhead Projector

Individual copies of A Cat Nap for each student and one for teacher

Word card with take, zap, hot, fat, zag, mud, flip, flap, glass, maze, part, track

Word card with be, ab, great, pat, fly, dog, that, glad, ring, shack


Word cards with RAP, CRASH TRASH, SLAB, MAT


assessment worksheet identifying pictures with a = /a/ (URL below)



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 letter a and demonstrate it with the sound of a crying baby."


2.  Say: "Let's pretend to cry like a baby. "aaaaaa." [Pantomime crying like a baby].  Did you notice that when we make the /a/ sound we open our mouth big and wide?  Let's try one more time to make sure our mouth is open big and wide.  "aaaaaa."  Good job!"

3.  Say: "Let me show you how to find the /a/ sound in the word bat.  Bb-aa-tt.  Hmm, if I say it slower like b-b-b-a-a-a-a-a-t-t-t, I feel my mouth open big and wide in the middle of the word.  So the a must be in the middle.  Now you try it.  Do you hear /a/ in map?"

4.  Say: "Do you know what this is a picture of?  Yes, you're right!  It's a crying baby! Remember the /a/ sound a baby makes, "aaaaaa."  Now let's try a fun tongue tickler. [Listed on picture sheet]  "Allie the alligator acts aggravated."  If you hear the /a/ sound, I want you to pretend that you're crying like a baby.  Now lets say it together slowly stretching the /a/ sound at the beginning of the words. "Aaaallie the aaaalligator aaaacts aaaagravated." Remember the /a/ sound makes our mouth open big and wide like a baby's mouth when he or she cries.  This time let's break off the words as we say them.  Here is an example of how to say the words:  /a/ llie.  Now let's go. "/a/ llie the /a/ lligator /a/ cts  /a/ ggravated."

5. Say: "We are now going to use our letterboxes and our letter tiles to spell some words that have our special sound in them.  Remember that all of our words our going to include the a = /a/ sound and that for each word one sound goes in each letterbox.  < The word list we are going to use will be: (2)  as, am; (3) - hat, mad, rag, dash; (4)  flag, grab, crack, grass and the letters needed are: a, s, s, m, h, t, d, r, g, f, l, b, c, c, k >  Watch as I spell the word trap in my letterboxes < t-r-a-p> .  (I will use the overhead projector to model the use of the letterbox and the spelling of the word, making sure to show the students each specific sound.)  Now watch and listen as I read the word black. < b-l-a-ck>  (I will use the overhead projector to model how to read a word using the vowel-body-coda method."  Then I will pass out individual letterboxes and bags of letters.)  "Now all the words I say I would like you all to spell in your letterboxes."  (I will remind students that the letterboxes are for the sounds of words, not the letters of the words.  I will have a list of students and write the words they missed next to their name so they can read it again later when I come back to them and after the lesson is over.  I will walk around and observe as the students make the words and be sure that each student has enough time to make the words.  If a student makes a mistake creating the word, I will pronounce it the way they spelled it and then pronounce the word we actually want.  Then I will give them one more chance to fix it and then model the spelling never asking questions, because that will confuse them.  After everyone has the word correctly in their letterboxes, I will model for the class as I did with trap.  I will do this for each word so the students will understand exactly how each word should be spelled.  We will now put away our letterboxes. I will also make sure to leave time after the letterbox lesson for reading the words.)

6.  Say:  "I now have a word list on the overhead and I would like you all to read the words out loud."  (I will make sure each student can read the word and if a student has trouble I will help the student use the vowel-body-coda method to help.)

7.  Say:  "We are now going to read a book titled, A Cat Nap which is full of words that make the /a/ sound.  (I will hand out copies of A Cat Nap to each student and then give them a short book talk.)  This story is about a cat named Tab.  Tab likes to take naps in a baseball bag.  Tab's owner Sam takes his baseball bag to his game.  To find out what happens next, you will have to read the story.  (I will then have the students read the book and during the process I will observe their reading.)

8.  (I will have students take out paper and pencil). Say: "We use the letter a to spell /a/. Let's write the lowercase letter a. Begin with your pencil on the fence of your paper and first draw little c. After you draw little c then go back to the fence and draw a line straight down on the right side of little c.  After I put a smile on it, I want you to make nine more just like it."


9.  Call on students to answer and tell how they know:  Say: "Do you hear /a/ in take or zap? hot or fat?  zag or mud? flip or flap?  glass or maze?  part or track? Say: Let's see if you can spot your mouth open big and wide in some /a/ words. Pretend to cry like a baby if you hear the a = /a/ sound: be, ab, great, pat, fly, dog, that, glad, ring, shack"


10.  Say: "I have an a = /a/ worksheet want you all to do.  You will look at the pictures and draw lines from the astronauts to the pictures that represent a = /a/.  You can then color the pictures as well."  (I will walk around the room and observe students while they are working on the worksheet.)


11.  Show ADD and model how to decide if it is add or odd:  Say: "The /a/ tells me to open my mouth big and wide, aaaaa, so this word is aaa-dd, add. You try some: RAP: rap or rip? CRASH: trash or CRUSH? TRAP: trap or trip? SLAB: slab or slob? MAT:  mat or met"?


12.  For assessment, I will distribute the worksheet. Students are to draw lines from the astronauts to the pictures that represent a = /a/ and then may color the pictures. I will then call students individually to read the phonetic cue words from step #11.



Cushman, Sheila. A Cat Nap. Educational Insights, 1990.

Murray, B.A., & Lesniak, T. (1999). The Letterbox Lesson: A hands-on approach for teaching decoding. The Reading Teacher, 52, 644-650.

Young Emily, Aaaaaa! Cry Like a Baby!


Assessment worksheet:


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