Adam the Apple

Liz Boshart,Beginning Reading

Rationale: It is important that beginning readers understand that letters represent phonemes in or language and that spellings represent the phonemes in spoken words. Beginning readers need explicit instruction and continued practice with short vowels. Because short vowels do not say their name, 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 /a/ spoken in words and will practice finding words with /a/.  students will understand this correspondence by focusing on what moves the mouth makes when saying that sound and doing a letterbox lesson to spell and read words with a=/a/.


1.     Cut of out “Adam the Apple” to show /a/

2.     Sentence strip with tongue twister “Adam the Apple love Alice the Cat.”

3.     Letterboxes (1 per student)

4.     Bag of letter tiles with the letters (a, b, c, d, f, g, j, l, m ,n, p, t, x)

5.     Index cards with the words written out that the students will spell (at, can, tax, jam, mad, clap, flag, Pam)

6.     The book, A Cat Nap, Phonics Reader


1.     Begin the lesson by explaining to students that our written language is a secret code.  We must learn what letter stand for.  The mouth moves as we say words.  Say, “Today we are going to learn about the short a sound.” Explain to students how the mouth moves as we say /a/. Say, “When I hear the short a sound, I think of a baby crying and saying ‘Waaaaaaah.’ Everyone listen to me say ‘Aaaaaaa.’ Now you say it, ‘Aaaaaaa.’”

2.     Discuss with students the sound that Adam the Apple would make if he were to say his own name. Say, “Class, if Adam the Apple were to say his name, he would open his mouth and say ‘aaaaa.’” Demonstrate using arms to show a big mouth.

3.     Put the tongue twister sentence strip on the board for the class to see. Say, “Let’s look at this silly sentence. Look at the words while I point and read them. ‘Adam the Apple loves Alice the Cat.’”  Now everyone read this sentence with me and really listen for the /a/. Now let’s stretch out that ‘aaaa’ sound as we read this sentence again and this time, use your crying baby mouth when you hear the /a/ sound. Model: “Adaaaam the Aaaaple loves Aaaaaalice the Caaaaat.”

4.     To make sure students can recognize the /a/ in spoken words; ask them to put their hand up when they hear the /a/ sound in a word.  Call on students individually and ask them how they knew which word was correct.  Say, “Do you hear /a/ in mop or tap? Do you hear /a/ in duck or tack? Had or men? Pal or puff?”  Observe carefully to make sure that ALL students understand.

5.     Next, begin the letterbox lesson. See that all students have their own letterboxes and letter tiles.  Be sure to model for the students.  Say, “I want to spell the word ‘tap.’ I have three 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 which letterbox.  T-a-a-a-a-p.  The first sound I hear is /t/, so I know my word will start with the letter ‘t’.  Next I hear my ‘aaaaa’ sound so I know that I will need an ‘a’.  Finally,  I hear the /p/ sound, so I will put the letter ‘p’ in the last box.”  Start with two letterboxes and then move up. (2) at, (3) can, tax, jam, Pam, (4) clap, flag.  Walk around and observe students spelling out words as you call out the words to be spelled.  Provide a scaffold 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 who are having trouble, show students how to use coverups to decode words.

7.     Next, give each student the book, A Cat Nap.  Say, “We are going to read a book about a cat who takes a nap and ends up somewhere he is not supposed to be.  Let’s read to find out what happens to the cat.”  Have students raise their hands when they hear the short a sound.

Assessment:  To see if each child has a true understanding of the short a sound, pass out a picture page with eight pictures on it (a bag, a box, a rat, a dog, a bat, a spoon, a flag, and a kite.)  Students will circle the pictures that they can hear the /a/ sound in (bag, rat, bat, and flag).  Call on different students individually to read the phonetic cue words from step 6.


Rdggenie., & Lesniak, T. (1999).  The letterbox lesson: A hands-on approach for teaching decoding.  The Reading Teacher, 52, 644-650.

A Cat Nap. Phonics Reader. Educational Insights.

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