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The Short Baby Cries W/a/!

The Short Baby Cries W/a/!

A Beginning Reading Lesson

Allie Mosher


Rationale: This lesson teaches children about the short vowel correspondence a=/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 the spellings that map word pronunciations. In this lesson children will learn to recognize, spell, and read words containing the spelling a. They will learn a meaningful representation (crying baby screaming aaaa!), they will spell and read words containing this spelling in a Letterbox lesson, and read a decodable book that focuses on the correspondence a=/a/.


Materials: Graphic image of crying baby; cover-up critter; white board or smart board; Letterboxes for modeling and individual letterboxes for each student; letter manipulatives for each child and magnetic or smart board letters for teacher: a, c, e, g, h, k, n, p, r, s, t; list of spelling words on poster or whiteboard to read: trap, hat, shack, grape, snack; decodable text Lad and the Fat Cat and 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 to recognize when a word says /a/ instead of /A/. When I say /a/ I think of a little crying baby whaling, “Waaaaaaaaaaa!” [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/ n words, I think about a crying baby and my jaw and tongue go downwards while voicing /a/. [Make a vocal gesture for /a/.] I’ll show you first: cat. I heard /a/ and felt my jaw and tongue press down [place a flat hand underneath chin and indicate the jaw touching down on hand when sounding /a/]. There is a short a in cat. Now, I’m going to see if it’s in bay. Hmm, I didn’t hear the /a/ sound and my jaw and tongue weren’t down when I sounded out that A. Now you try. If you hear /a/ say, “Waaaa!” and cry like a baby. If you don’t hear /a/, say, “That’s not it.” Is it in base, fat, brave, mat, cap, head? [Have children rub their eyes like a crying baby when they hear /a/].

3.    Say: Now let’s look at the spelling of /a/ that we’ll learn today. Any time a is followed by a consonant where there is no sneaky e after it, or it is followed by a y, the a will say /a/. What if I want to spell the word trap? “I am going to set out a trap to catch the mouse in my house.” Trap means capture in this sentence. To spell trap in letterboxes, first I need to know how many phonemes I have in the word so I stretch it out and count: /t//r//a//p/. I need 4 boxes. I heard that /a/ just before the /p/ so I’m going to put an a in the 3rd box. The word starts with /t/, which when combined with an r can often sound like /ch/. But I know because I can hear /r/ that it must be /t//r/ instead of /ch/. So First I need a t. I’m going to say it slowly, /t//r//a//p/. I definitely heard a growling /r/ so I need an r.

4.    Say: Now I’m going to have you spell some words in letterboxes. You’ll start out easy with 3 boxes for hat. A hat is something we wear on our head to block the sun or keep our ears warm, “I put on my hat at the beach so I didn’t get sunburnt.” What should go in the first box? [Respond to children’s answers]. What goes in the second box? And the third? For the next word you will need 3 letterboxes. Listen carefully for the beginning sound that goes in the first box. Remember, we are separating the word into boxes by phonemes, so there can be more than one letter in each box. We are looking for the sounds made when we say the word. Here’s the word: shack, I saw a bicycle parked outside of an old shack; shack. [Allow children to spell words]. Time to check your work. Watch how I spell it on my letterboxes on the board: s-h-a-c-k and see if you spelled it the same way. Next word. Listen to see if this word has /a/ in it before you spell it: grape; I am hungry, please pass me a grape. Did you hear short a? What did you hear? When there is a sneaky e at the end of a word like this one, it makes the vowel say its name. What we hear in grape is a long A. Now let’s try 4 phonemes: snack; after school I like to come home and have a snack. Remember to stretch the word out.

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 trap on the top and model reading the word.] First I see that a is not accompanied by i, silent e, or a y. That means the A will say /a/. I’m going to use a cover-up to get the first part. [Uncover and blend sequentially before the vowel, the blend with the vowel.] /t//r/= /tr/. Now I’m going to blend that with /a/=/tra/. Now all I need is the end, /p/= /trap/. Trap; that’s it. Now it’s your turn, everyone together. [Have children read words in unison. Afterwards, call on individuals to read one word on the list until everyone has had a turn.]

6.    Say: You’ve done a great job reading words with our spelling for /a/: a. Now we are going to read a book called Lad and the Fat Cat. This is a story of a dog and a cat sharing a roof and trying to get along. When Scat the cat is ready to deliver her kittens, Lad gets sad. Let’s pair up and take turns reading Lad and the Fat Cat to find out what happens next. [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 the story together aloud, and stops between pages to discuss the plot.]

7.    Say: That was a fun story. What were Lad’s feelings toward Scat? Yes, he was sad that he took the pillow and had his kittens on the pillow. Before we finish up with our lesson about the spelling of /a/, I want to see how you can solve a reading problem. On this worksheet, we have some words missing. Your job is to look in the box of scrambled letters, and decide which a = /a/ word fits best to make sense of picture next to the letters. First try reading over all of the letters in the box, and then choose the word that fits the picture best in the space. Check your answers to see if they make sense with the picture provided. All of your letters that you choose to form the words should connect to form the answer. [Collect worksheets to evaluate individual child progress.]



Murray, G. (2004) Lad and the Fat Cat http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/bookindex.html

Assessment worksheet:


Rice, Katie. "Allie Says Aaaaa"


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