Emergent Literacy Design:

Angry Ants and Their Adventure Across Arizona

Ashley Anderson


Rationale: When children are first learning to read, they must first be able to identify both the phoneme and grapheme for all 26 letters of the alphabet. This lesson is designed to help students recognize the phoneme /a/ and its grapheme A or a. To recognize the /a/ sound, students will use their hands to make an eye rubbing motion (like a baby crying) whenever they hear /a/ read in the book A Book. To recognize A and a, students will practice writing each letter on primary paper with the help of a memorable saying.



A Book, Stan and Jan Berenstain (Berenstain Enterprises, Inc. 1997)

Primary paper



White drawing paper

Chart with "Alice and Andrew were mad at the angry ants."

Letter Aa worksheet (URL below)

What Begins with A? worksheet (URL below)

Word cards: A, a, BAT, AT, STUCK, HAD, LUCK




1. "Before we can learn to read, we all have to learn sounds and the symbols that represent those sounds. In our language, we have to learn the alphabet. Watch me talk to you. Do you see my mouth move?" (wait for answer) "My mouth does move! It has to move to make different sounds for different letters. I am going to teach you the sound /a/ today. It has two written symbols." (A and a: show both symbols to the student)


2. "To say /a/, we can cry like a baby, /a/a/a/." (hold hands under eyes and twist them back and forth) "What does my mouth look like? I have my mouth open like a circle, and my tongue is behind my bottom teeth. Try it with me, /a/a/a/a/."


3. "Now, I am going to say a word. I will show you how to tell if it says /a/. Watch my mouth to see if it makes a circle. Bat. B-at. Bb-a-t. Bb-aa-t. My mouth made a circle. I heard /a/ in the middle of bat. The baby was crying, wasn't it?"


4. "I have a sentence written for us to read. It is a little tricky because most of the words start with the same letter. Sentences like these are called "Tongue Twisters" (on chart). Alice and Andrew were mad at the angry ants. You say it. Let's say it like this now, Aaalice aaand Aaandrew were maaad aaat the aaangry aaants. Your turn. We are going to say it one more time but like this, /A/lice /a/nd /A/ndrew were m/a/d /a/t the /a/ngry /a/nts."


5.  (For this step, the student will need primary paper and a pencil.) "Here is some special paper for learning to write letters. Remember I showed you the two symbols for /a/. One of the symbols (show the capital A to the student) is called capital A and the other (show the lowercase a  to the student) is lowercase. Let's write both letters. To make a capital A, start at the bottom and draw a slanted line to the right all the way to the rooftop. Start from that point and draw a slanted line to the right all the way to the bottom. Last draw a line in the middle of the two lines you just made. To write a lowercase a, make a circle between the middle line and the bottom line. Then draw a straight line behind/on the right side of the circle from the middle line to the bottom line (it has to touch the circle). Now make nine more of each."


6.  "I am going to say two words at a time. I want you to listen to see which word you hear /a/ in. Remember to watch for my mouth to see if it makes a circle, and listen for the baby crying. Cap or set?  Bite or mat? Bowl or pan? Ram or hit? Now I am going to say some random words. See if you can hear /a/. If you hear /a/, do your hand motion. Band, of, tap, bat, tip, sap, kid, cup, class.


7. "I have a book to read. It is called A Book. This book has a lot of words that say /a/ like the baby crying. While I am reading, I want you to do your hand motion just once when you hear /a/. I will read slowly so you can hear the baby crying, and remember to watch my mouth for the circle." Read A Book. "Now let's think of something else the angry ants might have advanced across. Write the name of what you chose and draw a picture. Make a spelling if you are not sure how to spell the name of what you chose for the ants to advance across." Display students' work.


8. Show BAT, and model how to tell if it is bat or bit: The a tells me to cry, /a/a/a/. This word is b-aaa-t, bat. Now, you try some: AT: at or it? STUCK: stack or stuck? HAD: had or hid? LUCK: lack or luck?


9. Distribute both worksheets. Students should color pictures and trace picture names. Also there is practice for writing A and a. On the second worksheet, students identify the pictures and draw a line to the a. Have students read phonetic cue words from Step #8.




Byrne, B., & Fielding-Barnsley, R. (1990). Acquiring the alphabetic principle: A case for teaching recognition of phoneme identity. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 805-812.

Bruce Murray.  Emergent Literacy Lesson. "Brush Your Teeth with F". http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/sightings/murrayel.html




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