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“Aaaaaa,” Cries the Baby

“Aaaaaa,” Cries the Baby
Beginning Reading Design
Emma Gilmore

Rationale: When learning to read, it is very important for students to become phonemically aware.  Phonemically aware simply means that students should have an understanding of short vowel sounds.  The goal of this lesson is for students to learn the correspondence a =/a/.  The teacher will model how to sound out different words and how to write the specific letter.  They will learn a meaningful representation (the crying baby), spell and read words containing /a/. This will help with blending and decoding when reading. In this lesson, students will practice writing, spelling and reading words with the a =/a/ sound.

Materials: Tongue Twister Chart “Andrew and Alice asked if Annie's active animals were angry”, Class Set of Letterboxes, Class Set of Letters, A Cat Nap (Class Set), Worksheet for Assessment, Primary Paper (2 Sheets for Each Student), a list of spelling words on a poster or whiteboard for the students to read {bag, rad, pat, past, crab, last, scratch, splat, prank}, Class set of Letterbox Word List, Pencils


1. “Today, we are going to learn what sound short a makes. Explain to students that when pronouncing words our mouth moves in different ways. We are going to be able to know which way our mouth moves when we see short /a/ words in our book.” 

2.  Ask students: “Has anyone ever heard a baby cry?” Tell students that whenever I hear a baby cry I hear the /a/ sound. To make the mouth movement for /a/ we need to slightly open our mouths so our jaw and our tongues are down. Have students practice by telling them to pretend to be a crying baby and make the /a/ sound.

3.  Next say, “Now let’s try a tongue twister using our chart. Listen closely as I say it to you. “Andrew and Alice asked if Annie's active animals were angry.” Say it with me three times. Great job everyone! This time when we say it whenever you hear the /a/ sound I want you to stretch it out and pretend like you’re a crying baby. “Aaaaandrew aaaaaand Aaaaalice aaaaasked if Aaaaannie’s aaaaactive aaaaanimals were aaaaangry.”

4.  I want you to listen really closely when I say some words to you. Raise your hand and tell me which word you hear the /a/ sound in. For example, if I said red or ran, the answer would be rad because I hear the crying baby sound. Do you hear /a/ in: bed or sad? sled or dad? beg or bag? tan or fed? ram or peg?

5.   Pass out primary paper to each student. Explain how we are going to practice writing the letter a and model it on the board for the class. “Start by drawing a short straight line in the middle of the fence and the sidewalk, then draw a curve up and touch the fence. Go back down towards your first line and all the way down to make a curve on the sidewalk. Start at the fence line and make a curved line down until you touch the sidewalk, but don't stop here. Continue the curve around until you end up where you started. Then draw a straight line back down, and stop on the sidewalk. After you have practiced writing the letter a one time, give me a thumbs up and I will come around to check your work. When I put a smiley face on your paper, I want you to write it five more times.”

6.   Next, we are going to spell words with a. We are going to use our letterboxes and our letters for this activity. Explain to students that each box represents a mouth movement. Model for them how to use the letterbox with an example. I am going to spell the word dad. How many movements does my mouth make in /d//a//d/? Great job, just three! So, my first letter in my first box is going to be the letter d to represent the /d/ sound. My next letter should be the letter a to represent the /a/ sound. This letter goes in my second letterbox. My last letter should be the letter d to represent the /d/ sound. This letter goes in my last letterbox. Now, I want you to try spelling some words on your own. These words have three sounds {bag, rad, pat}. These words have four sounds. {past, crab, last} Here are words with five sounds! {scratch, splat, prank}. After the students have had a chance to spell all the words pass out a word list for them to read as a class.

7.  Now I’m going to let you read the words you spelled earlier. [Here I will model blending for the first couple of words with 2 or 3 phonemes.] Here we go I’m going to cover up and only show the first part [hold up poster with “bag”]. Let’s sound out this first sound /b/. [Uncover and blend sequentially before the vowel, then blend with the vowel.] /b/ /a/ Those sounds make /ba/. Now let’s add /g/ - /b//a//g/ Awesome! That says bag! Now it’s your turn, let’s read these all out loud together. [Have children read rest of the words in unison. Afterwards, call on individuals to read one word on the list until everyone has had a turn.]

8.  To help the students apply this lesson; I will give them a brief book talk and read A Cat Nap. I will introduce the book by saying, “Tab is a very fat cat. He likes to take naps. Tab takes a nap in a Sam’s bag. What does Sam do with his bag? We’ll have to read to find out what happens to Tab in Sam’s bag.” I will read the story one time to the students and just have them listen. The next time I read the story, I will ask the students to hold their hands up to their cheeks like they’re crying up every time they hear the crying baby sound.

9. The last part of the lesson, I will then pass out another sheet of primary paper and ask the students to write a short message about a pet they might have or want. For the assessment, I will give them a worksheet where they have to say the word, connect the letters, then write it out.


Murray, Geri: "Oh I Didn't Know"


Murray, B. & Lesniak. (1999). The letterbox lesson: A hands-on approach for teaching decoding. The Reading Teacher, 52, 644-650. Abbreviated article on the Reading Genie: http://www.auburn.edu/academic/education/reading_genie/letbox.html

Book: A Cat Nap. Educational Insights, 1990.

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