Ayyy! That's Sneaky as a Snake!

A Beginning Reading Lesson

By Tony Beaird


 Rationale: This lesson teaches children about the long vowel correspondence a_e = /A/. In order to be able to read, children must learn to recognize the spellings that map word pronunciations. In this lesson children will learn to recognize, spell, and read words containing the spelling a_e. They will learn a meaningful representation (sneaky snakes), they will spell and read words containing this spelling in a Letterbox lesson, and read a decodable book that focuses on the correspondence a_e = /A/.


Materials: Graphic image of a fake snake; cover-up critter; whiteboard or smartboard Elkonin boxes for modeling and individual Elkonin boxes for each student; letter manipulatives for each child and magnetic or smartboard letters for teacher: f, o, a, p, e, r, c, c, i, k, d, z, b, l, s, h; list of spelling words on poster or whiteboard to read: fork, ape, race, cake, click daze, blaze, strafe, chase; decodable text:

 Race for Cake -


Assessment worksheet -



1. Say: In order to become expert readers we need to learn the secret code that tells us how to pronounce words. We have already learned to read short vowel words with a, like nap, and today we are going to learn about long A and the silent e signal that is used to make A say its name, /A/. When I say /A/ I think of seeing a toy snake that looks real and saying “Ayy! That snake is just a toy!” [show graphic image].


2. Say: Before we learn about the spelling of /A/, we need to listen for it in some words. When I listen for /A/ in words, I hear a say its name /A/ and my lips make a little shape like this. [Make vocal gesture for /A/.] Let's look at the word Snake I heard a say its name and I felt my mouth make the same movement. Look, there's an e in snake. That e is so sneaky! It's just like a toy snake. That e at the end of the word makes the A say it's name /A/. Now I’m going to see if it’s in Nap or Cat. Hmm, I didn’t hear A say its name and my mouth didn't stretch like it did for Snake. It must be that sneaky ole e at the end! Now you try. If you hear /A/ say, “Ayyyy” and shake your pointer at me like you just caught me doing something sneaky! If you don’t hear /A/ say, “That’s not sneaky.” Is it in bat, bake, dad, lace, lap?

3. Say: Now let’s look at the spelling of /A/ that we’ll learn today. One way to spell /A/ is with the letter a and a signal e at the end of the word to tell me to say A’s name. [Write a_e on the board.] This blank line here means there is a letter after a, and at the end of the word there is a sneaky little silent e signal. What if I want to spell the word blaze? “It was so hot outside, it was blazing.” Blaze means it was really hot in this sentence. To spell blaze in letterboxes, first I need to know how many phonemes I have in the word so I stretch it out and count: /b//l//A//z//e/. I need 4 boxes. I heard that /A/ just before the /z/ so I’m going to put an a in the 3th box and the silent e signal outside the last box. The word starts with /b/, that’s easy; I need an b. Now it gets a little tricky so I’m going to say it slowly, /b//l//A//z//e/. I think I heard /l/ so I’ll put a l right after the b. One more before the /A/, hmm . . . /b//l//A//z//e/, now I hear my A, so it'll go after the l. I have one empty box now. [Point to letters in boxes when stretching out the word: /b//l//A//z//e/.] The missing one is /z/ = z.


4. Pass out the letterboxes and letter tiles. The words the students will spell are: ape, race, cake, daze, shake, chase. Say: Now I want you to spell some words. Put your letter tiles in alphabetical order so you can easily find the letter you need. We will start with just two boxes and spell ape. 'That ape looks really sneaky standing over in the corner.' [Walk around to check for correct spelling.] Now add another letterbox so that you have three. The next word is race, 'I hope I can win the race.' [continue observing] Okay now I want you to check your work as I put the answer on the board: r-a-c-e. Have you spelled it the same way? [continue this process with the rest of the words, but allow students the opportunity to provide the answer on the board.


5. Say: Now I am going to let you read the words you’ve spelled, but first I’ll show you how I would read a tough word. [Display poster with strafe on the top and model reading the word.] First I see there’s a sneaky silent e on the end; that’s my signal that the vowel will say its name. There’s the vowel a. It must say /A/. I’m going to use a cover-up to get the first part. [Uncover and blend sequentially before the vowel, then blend with the vowel.] /s//t/ = /st/ + /r/ = /str/. Now I’m going to blend that with /A/ = /strA/. Now all I need is the end, /k/ = /strAf/. Strafe; that’s it. Now it’s your turn, everyone together. [Have children read words in unison. Afterwords, call on individuals to read one word on the list until everyone has had a turn.]


6. Say: You’ve done a great job and reading words with our new spelling for /A/: a_e. Now we are going to read a book called Race for Cake. This book is about a brother and sister swimming in a lake and they find out that their mom baked a cake for them while they're out swimming. They were so eager for the cake (that's like saying they were ready for the cake), they decided to race. Ben fell as he was racing his sister! Have you ever had that happen to you? I got hurt once when I was in a hurry like that. I hope Ben doesn't get hurt, let's find out. [Children pair up and take turns reading alternate pages each while teacher walks around the room monitoring progress. After individual paired reading, the class rereads Race for Cake aloud together, and stops between page turns to discuss the plot.]


7. Say: That was a funny story. What happened to Ben? Right, he fell down when he was racing. You have to be careful when you're in such a hurry! Who ended up getting the cake? That's right! That silly ole dog took all the cake for himself. Before we finish up with our lesson about one way to spell /A/ = a_e, I have a worksheet for you to complete. On this worksheet, I want you to identify and circle the  words that have the long A. Remember the sneaky silent e and what you say when you catch it being sneaky 'Ayyy'. [Collect worksheets to evaluate individual child progress.]






Noie Yancey, Oh, Oh, My Knee Hurts: http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/invitations/yanceybr.htm

Murray, G. (2006) Race for Cake. Reading Genie: http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/bookindex.html

Assessment worksheet: http://www.galacticphonics.com/longvowels/a-e/resources/a-ephonics.pdf

Return to Transformations index: http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/transformations.html