Short A, the Cry Baby

Emma Jaggears


Rationale: In order for children to become fluent readers, they must develop phonemic awareness. Before children can match letters to phonemes they must be able to recognize phonemes in spoken words. This lesson is designed to help children identify the short vowel /a/ in spoken words as well as the grapheme that represents it. Students will learn the phoneme /a/ by a meaningful representation (a crying baby), practice finding /a/ in words, and apply phonemic awareness of /a/ in a phoneme identification activity.



Primary paper

Pencil (preferably a fat pencil if working with young students)

The decodable book A Cat Nap

A poster with the tongue tickler, "Andrew and Alice asked if Annie's active animals were angry." and an illustration of the tongue tickler

Short a worksheet (attached)



1. "Every letter has its own sound, and some letters even have more than one sound. Words are made up of letters, or combinations of sounds that when blended together have a meaning. Today we’re going to work on spotting Cry Baby Short a in words. We call short a a cry baby because it sounds just like a crying baby. The sound /a/ is represented by the letter a." (Write the letter on the board or display a picture of the letter) "Let’s practice writing the letter a."

2. (Have students take out primary paper and a pencil) "Don't start at the fence. Start under the fence. Go up and touch the fence, then around and touch the sidewalk, around and straight down. I want you to write ten more just like that. Make sure there’s a space between each letter. Use your neatest handwriting."

3. "Raise your hand if you have every heard a baby cry. They sound like this, waaaaaaaah, don’t they? That’s the sound that short a makes. Aaaaaaa. Can everybody cry like a baby with me? Waaaaaah! Let’s put our fists near our eyes like a baby while we make the sound. This time I want you to pay attention to what shape your mouth makes when you make the short a sound. Your mouth opens wide and your tongue tucks behind your bottom teeth when you say /a/."

4. "Now I’m going to show you how to listen for short a in a word. Let’s try the word bad, as in my little brother is bad. Buh-a-a-duh. Slower now, buh-a-a-a-a-duh. I hear Cry Baby a in bad, do you?"

5. "Let’s play a game. I want to see if you all can hear Cry Baby short a in these words. I’m going to say some words, and if you hear the /a/ sound in a word, give me a thumbs up. If the /a/ sound is not in the word, give me a thumbs down. If you aren’t sure, give me a thumbs in the middle." (Read off this list of words, clearly articulating each word: catch, sad, not, up, black, red, apple, book, bat, dress, it, math)

6. "I’ve got a tongue tickler for us to help us practice the /a/ sound." (Show the poster) "Repeat after me, Andrew and Alice asked if Annie's active animals were angry. Let’s say that three times together. Ok, now this time I want you to stretch out the /a/ sound when we say it."

7. "I have story for us today. It’s titled A Cat Nap. This story is about a fat cat named Tab. Tab loves to take naps all over the house. One day, she crawls inside of a bag and falls asleep. Will her owner find her? What do you think will happen? We’ll have to read the story to find out! There are lots of Cry Baby a’s in this book. Whenever you hear the /a/ sound, I want you to give me a thumbs up. Listen carefully as I read!"

8. Students will complete the short a worksheet at their desks. While the class works on the worksheet, pull students aside to individually assess their phoneme awareness of /a/.


Assessment: Use a phoneme identification test. Say: "Do you hear /a/ in _______ or ________?" Using the words: sit/sat, fat/skinny, rag/towel, orange/apple, cat/dog



Hill, Courtney. "Cry Baby". Inspirations, Emergent Literacy, Lesson Designs from Preservice Teachers, Auburn University, Fall 2003. The Reading Genie.   


Murray, B.A. & Lesniak, T. (1999). The Letterbox Lesson: A Hands on Approach for Teaching Decoding: The Reading Teacher, 52, 644-650.


Short a worksheet:


Decodable Text: A Cat Nap, Educational Insight 1990


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