“My allergies are acting up…AAAAchooo!”


A Beginning Reading Lesson

By: Sarah Plier


Rationale: This lesson teaches children about the short vowel correspondence a = /a/. In order to read, children must learn to recognize the spellings that map word pronunciations. In the following lesson children will learn to recognize, spell, and read words containing the spelling a. They will learn a meaningful representation (girl sneezing), they will spell words containing a= /a/ in a Letterbox Lesson, and they will read a decodable book that focuses on the correspondence a = /a/.



-Image of girl sneezing

-cover-up critter

- whiteboard or SmartBoard

- Elkonin boxes for modeling

- individual Elkonin boxes for each student

- letter manipulatives for each child

- magnetic or SmartBoard letters for teacher: a, t, l, p, l, g, s, b, r, c, k, h, m, n

- list of spelling words on poster or whiteboard to read: at, cab, ham, lap, glass, brag, span, slack, stash

- decodable text: A Cat Nap

- assessment worksheet



1.    Say: “In order to become expert readers we need to learn the code that tells us how to pronounce words. Today we are going to learn about short a and how we move our mouths in order to say /a/. When I say /a/ I think of the sound you make when you sneeze, “AAAAA… choooo!” [show graphic image]. How do we represent this sound with a spelling? We use the letter a  to spell /a/.”

2.    Say: “Before we learn about the spelling of /a/, we need to listen for it in some words. When I say /a/in words, air is released from my mouth, and my jaw and tongue drop- my mouth is open like I’m showing the doctor my tonsils. [Make vocal gesture for /a/.] I'll show you first: bat. I heard /a/ and I felt the air being pushed out of my mouth, my jaw and tongue dropping and my mouth opening to make /a/. If you place your hand in front of your mouth you will notice the warm air being released when you say words that have /a/ in their pronunciation. There is a short a in bat. Now I'm going to see if it's in the word base. I heard /A/ not /a/, and I didn't feel the air being released from my mouth, nor did my jaw fully drop and my mouth fully open. Now you try. If you hear /a/ in the word that I say, then you say,”Aaaa….chooo!” If you don't hear /a/ say, “Hey, that doesn’t say /a/!” Is it in sat, sand, say, had?” [Have students cover their mouth and pretend to sneeze, “AAAA…chooo!,” if they hear /a/.]

3.    Say: “What if I want to spell the word glass? Don’t step on broken glass. To spell glass in letterboxes, first I need to know how many phonemes I have in the word so I stretch it out and count the sounds that I hear: /g//l//a//ss/. I need four boxes because I hear four sounds when I stretch the word out. I heard /a/ just before the /ss/ so I’m going to put an a in the 3rd box because /ss/ is the very last sound I hear so we know the letters that represent that sound must go in the very last box. The word starts with /g/; that’s easy, I need a g. Now what? Let’s see:  /g//l//a//ss/. I heard /l/ so I’ll put an l right after the g. After we hear /l/, you can hear that /a/, so we have to put the a in the right box by placing it in the 3rd box. What goes in our last box? We have two letters left in the word, but we can only hear one more sound after /a/ when we stretch the word out: /g/ /l/ /a/ /ss/ [Point to letters in boxes when stretching out the word: /g//l//a//ss/.] So, I put both of the s in the last box because they make the /s/ in glass. Now I’ll show you how I would read a tough word. [Display poster with lap on the top and model reading the word.] I’m going to start with the a; that part says /a/. Now I’m going to put the beginning letters with it: l-a, /l/ /a/. Now I’ll put that chunk together with the last sound, /la-p/. Oh, lap. Like I sat in my mom’s lap.”

4.    Say:” Now I’m going to have you spell some words in letterboxes. You’ll start out with two boxes for the word at. Like, “I was shopping at the mall”. What should go in the first box? [Respond to children’s answers]. What goes in the second box? I’ll check your spelling while I walk around the room. Start your spelling by find the /a/ sound in the word I give you because we know that /a/ is spelled using the letter a. [Observe progress.] You’ll need three letterboxes for the next word. Listen for the beginning sound to spell in the first box. Then listen for /a/.The word is cab, “I take a cab to get to the store.” [Allow children to spell remaining words: 4-brag, 4-span, 4-slack, 4-stash.]

5.    Say: “Now I am going to let you read the words you’ve spelled.” [Have children read words in unison. Afterwards, call on individuals to read one word on the list. You will do this until everyone has had a turn.]

6.    Say: “You've done a great job reading words that have the sound /a/, spelled with the letter a. Now we are going to read a book called A Cat Nap. This book is about a cat named Tab who likes to take naps. One day he decides to nap in Sam’s bag and is accidentally taken to the baseball game. What will happen when Sam finds Tab in his bag at the baseball game? You will have to read to find out!” [Children pair up and take turns reading every other page while the teacher walks around the classroom and observes/monitors the progress. After individual paired reading time, the class rereads A Cat’ Nap together aloud and stops after every page to discuss the plot.]

7.    Say: “To finish up our lesson about the sound /a/ spelled using the letter a, I want you to complete this worksheet. On the worksheet you have to identify the picture, spell the word by connecting the appropriate letters that make up the spelling, and write out the correct spelling of the word. Reread your answers to see if they make sense.” [Teachers will collect the worksheets to assess the students’ knowledge and understanding of /a/ spelled using the letter a].


Leavitt, Carley. Ah! Cries the Baby! http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/awakenings/leavittcbr.htm

Murray PowerPoint: Creating Literacy Design:


     Cushman, Shelia. A Cat Nap. Educational Insights: 1990.

     Assessment Worksheet:


     Google Image:


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