Ally's Apples

Emergent Literacy

Laura Ashley Norman

Rationale: The best predictors of successful readers in first grade are phoneme awareness and letter recognition. Children must understand that the spellings map out phonemes in words and that each phoneme has a unique mouth move. Phonics and phoneme awareness are best taught through explicit and systematic instruction. In teaching new correspondences, it is most effective and useful to teach the short vowel sounds in alphabetic order. In this lesson we will cover the short /a/ mouth move. The student will learn to recognize and produce the short /a/ sound in written and spoken words by learning a meaningful representation and a letter symbol, and then practice finding /a/ in words.


  1. Poster with the Ally's aunt always ate red apples rhyme.
  2. Phoneme picture of a child 'sneezing', covering his mouth and making the mouth move for the short vowel /a/.
  3.  Primer paper and a hard surface to write on
  4. pencil with eraser                                  
  5. /a/ word list (this can be written on the board or on the back of the rhyme poster
  6. marker                                                                                 
  7. 2 paper bags, one marked /a/ and one marked other
  8. images of words that do have the /a/ phoneme: ex, cat, ,bat, bag, snake, table- and words that don't: ex. Tree, lake, frog.


  1. Begin the lesson by explaining that all words are written in a 'secret code' and that if we simply learn that code, we can read any word in our entire language. Today we are going to start to crack that code by learning the short vowel /a/ and its corresponding mouth move. By the end of the lesson you will be able to decode the phoneme /a/ in several words.
  2. Ask the student "Have you ever had a cold? Did you sneeze when you were sick? What did that sound like?" The student will respond "Aahhh-aahhh-chooo!" Have them take notice of the shape their mouth is in when they begin to sneeze and are making the 'aahhh' sound. "This is the phoneme /a/." Help the child to remember the particular mouth move, give them a meaningful representation by modeling covering your mouth as if though you were going to sneeze and make an exaggerated /a/ sound. Show the child a picture of someone covering their mouth as if they are going to sneeze. "Now it's your turn. Show me the /a/ phoneme in your sneeze.
  3. Have the student repeat a riddle or rhyme with the new correspondence to help him identify the phoneme in spoken words. "Everyone repeat after me and say the following rhyme two times Ally's aunt alligator always ate red apples. Very good. Now, every time you hear the /a/ sound, stretch it out. AAAlly's aaaunt aaalways aaate red aaaples. Very good, now break it off of the word and cover your mouth like you were making the /a/ sound before you sneeze. /a/(cover mouth)lly's /a/unt /a/lways /a/te red /a/apples.
  4. Have student take out primary paper and a pencil. "We can use the letter a to spell /a/. Start at the fence post and curve down and around to the sidewalk and then come all the way back up to the fence post to make a circle. Start at the fence post and draw a straight line down to the the sidewalk and give the little old a a walking stick." Model creating the letter while repeating the fencepost/sidewalk instructions. "Now it's your turn. Repeat after me, start at the fence post and curve down and around to the sidewalk and then come all the way back up to the fence post to make a circle. Start at the fence post and draw a straight line down to the the sidewalk and give the little old a a walking stick. Very good. Now fill in the whole line. Now when you see this symbol a in a word, you will know it is the code for the phoneme /a/.
  5. "Let me show you how you can find the phoneme /a/ in the word snack. First I am going to stretch the word out very slowly making sure to make a mouth move for each phoneme. S-s-s-n-n-a-a-a-k-k. S-s-s-n-n-a-a-a-k-k. S-n-a-a-a-k. There it is, I hear the beginning of a sneeze sound in the words snack!
  6. Call on students and have them find the phoneme /a/ in a few words. "Do you hear the /a/ in lat or let? Stand or sit? Dog or cat? Fact or fiction? Tall or short?"
  7. Begin your book talk by saying Sam has a very very lazy cat named Tab. Tab sleeps everywhere, sometimes even in Sam's baseball bag! Do you think Tab will wake up in time to jump out of the bag before Sam goes to his baseball game? You will have to read the book A Cat Nap to find out. Read A Cat Nap with your students and discuss the events of the story. Read the story again and have your students make the sneezing gesture whenever they hear the /a/ phoneme in a word. Pause at each time the phoneme appears and add the word it is in to an '/a/ word list' on the board. Now have your students draw a picture of a cat that they would like to have and have them write a sentence about what they would do with their cat.
  8. For assessment, I will 'interview' each child seperatley. "We are going to play a game. I have two bags here, one that says "Phoneme /a/, and one that says other. I am going to show you several pictures. I want you to read the name of the image and if it contains the phoneme /a/, place the picture in the /a/ bag. If it does not, place it in the bag marked other." Picture ideas include, cat, bag, tree, cup, ladder, snake, fork, lake, and so on.  


This is an original lesson design, but I got several ideas from other tutors of Dr. Bruce Murray’s,  Reading Genie web site. I got ideas from several lessons including:



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