The Hat is Where it's At!

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Students will be able to add or substitute individual sounds in simple, one syllable words to make new words.

Big Idea

Making the Cat in the Hat helps students recall how changing one letter can make a new word.


10 minutes

Gather students on the rug using a preferred classroom management technique. I like to use my “Stop, look, listen.” The students stop what they are doing, look at me and listen for the direction. I usually preface the direction with, “When I say go…” This reminds the students to listen to the whole direction before moving to follow the directive.

In this case I would say, “When I say go I would like you to clear your space, push in your chair and go take a spot on your dot. Walking feet go.” By saying walking feet I am reminding the students to use walking feet in the classroom to ensure safe movement between areas.

When all of the students are seated on their dot in the rug area I tell the students we are going to watch a short song on the SMARTBoard. I play Word Families, by Dr. Jean Feldman from her album Totally Reading.

Once the video is over I sit down and ask the students to come up with one word from the video that they remember.

“Can anyone tell me one word they recall form the song we just watched on the SMARTBoard.”

I select each student to give me a word so they all feel as if they have contributed to the conversation.

“Good work everyone. Today we are going to read a book which will help us with the –at word family.”  


I use this song because it has lots of word families in it and models nicely how simply changing the first letter can make a new word. This will help the students later on when they are doing the activity part of the lesson. 


40 minutes

I hold the book up and ask the students who they think the book is written by.

“Boys and girls, raise a quiet hand if you think you can tell me who the author of this book is.”

I select a student who is sitting quietly with their hand raised following the correct classroom protocol.

“Well done Benjamin; this book is written by Dr. Seuss. Benjamin, how did you know who the author of this book was?”

“Wow that is a lot of clues you used to know the answer. You said you knew because of the Cat in the Hat symbol on the cover of the book, you saw his name on the cover, and you have heard this book before. Those are all great ways to know who wrote the book.”

“The whole title of this book is The Cat in the Hat. Does anyone know why we are reading this book today?”

“Well done Rachel; we are reading it because we are exploring the author Dr. Seuss. He wrote lots of books that helped children learn to read. We are reading some Dr. Seuss books to see what skills we can practice to help us become better readers. Let’s go ahead and read our Dr. Seuss book for the day.” 


As we read the book I ask the students questions relating to the text.

“Hey I notice something about the text in this story. Can anyone tell me what they think I notice?”

“You are right Christopher; there are rhyming words. In this story the rhyme helps to create a kind of rhythm while you are reading”

“Listen carefully as I read this page and tap my foot at the same time.”

“Put me down!” said the fish.

“This is no fun at all!

Put me down!” said the fish.

“I do NOT wish to fall!”

“Did you see how I was able to keep a steady beat with my foot as I read?”

“Great, let’s continue reading.”

We continue reading the book through to the end.  


When the book is over I have the students take a seat around the edge of the rug.

While the students are taking a seat around the edge of the rug I get the sample of the Cat in the Hat character that I have created.

I show the students my sample and explain what I have done.

“Look at the Cat in the Hat I have created. I took a paper plate and drew a cat face on it. Next I glued on the black construction paper ears. Then I glued the hat on top of his head and colored it just like the character hat in the book. Once all those pieces were glued on I used red streamer paper to make a bow tie. I glued that onto the bottom of my plate.”

“Does anyone see what I did after I created my Cat in the Hat?”

I select a student to respond to the question.

“Well done Emily; I did write some –at word family words on the hat. Does anyone want to take a guess how I came up with those words?”

I select a different student to respond to the prompt.

“Great memory Ava. Ava recalled a long time ago when we worked with the –at word family. She remembered how you start off with the –at and just add different letters at the front to make new words. Nice description Ava.”

“So boys and girls, when you have created your main character you are going to write an –at word family word on each one of your stripes. Last time we worked with the –at word family there was a word bank to work with. This time you will come up with the –at words yourself. You can use any of the –at words you know. Can anyone tell me how they will try to make their –at word family words?”

I select a student who I know is proficient at using this skill because I want a solid explanation for other students to follow.

“Great explanation Finnley. Finnley told us he would put the –at sound, made with the letters at, on the top stripe and then he would go down the alphabet saying each letter in front of the word to see if it made a real word. He said /a/ /at/ did not make a real word so he went to the next letter, which was b. /b/ /at/ made the word bat so he would write the b in front of his first –at. Then he would write –at on his next stripe and continue going down the alphabet trying each sound; nicely done Finnely.”     

“Today at one of the integrated work stations you will find all of the pieces you need to make your Cat in the Cat character. This model will be there for you to follow in case you forgot the steps I took to make the Cat. Mrs. K (my paraeducator) will be working at this station to help anyone who needs it.”

“Remember Mrs. Clapp is going to use a checklist to go over your work to see if you followed the directions that were given. Did the student put their name on the back of the plate? Did the student put the Cat in the Hat together right?  Did the student come up with at least 5 –at word family words? Is the student’s work neat and tidy?”   

“Does anyone have any questions?”


Once I feel the group has a good grasp of the instructions I send the students over one table group at a time to maintain a safe and orderly classroom. It usually sounds like this;

“Table number one let’s go have some –at family fun.

Table number two, you know what to do.

Table number three, hope you were listening to me, and

Table number four, you shouldn’t be here anymore.”


Allow the students 15 minutes to work on this activity. Set a visual timer and remind the students to look at the timer so they will use their time wisely. 

Student working on his -at word family words. 



Word family recognition is one of the keys to understanding the complexities of the English language. Word family activities help students understand the different short vowel sounds and how each sound makes up a different word family set. From a simple set of just 37 basic word families a student can make up to 500 different words. Students who become proficient at recognizing word family patterns are then ready to move from invented spelling to more complex spellings; including the use of silent letters to change medial vowel sounds.  



10 minutes

When the time is up I blow two short blasts on my whistle and use the “Stop, look listen” technique mentioned above. “When I say go, I would like you to clean up your space remembering to take care of our things, push in your chair, and use walking feet to go and take a spot on your dot.”

Students know to put completed work in the finished work bin. Any work that is not completed goes into the under construction bin and can be completed throughout the day whenever the student finds he/she has spare time or it will be completed during free choice center time.

Student showing off her Cat in the Hat with -at family words.     Student reading -at family words. 

Once the students are seated I tell them that their exit slip for today is to tell me an –at family word.

“Boys and girls, your exit ticket today to get your snack is to tell me an –at word family word. Here is the deal I am going to make with you. Try to come up with the trickiest –at word you know. That will help us get some really different words and it will leave enough –at word family words for everyone to use. ”

“I am going to use the fair sticks to choose who is going to tell me their –at word first. Here we go.”

I use the fair sticks to select the order of the students. 

Once a student has told me their –at word, they are able to use the hand sanitizer and go to get their snack. If a student is unable to give me an –at word family word, they know they can do one of two things.

  1. They can ask a friend to help, or
  2. They can wait until everyone else has gone and then we will work together on coming up with an –at word family word together. 


Call the each student over during a time which fits into your classroom schedule. I call my students over to work with me during free choice centers time or at integrated work station time (only if I have enough parent volunteers and I am not working a station myself).

 Point to the –at word family paper on the table and tell the student, “These two letters make the –at sound. Listen /a/ /t/ -at. Can you please add a letter to the beginning of this sound to make a word?”

I have higher functioning students write the words themselves directly onto the paper.

With students who have difficulty writing, I have them verbally tell me the words and then I write their responses. Sometimes I have the students try and write the words on dry erase boards just to see what they can do. 

Once he/she has made one word I would ask the student to change the beginning sound to make another word. “Can you please change the first letter to make a new –at word?”

I will ask the students to come up with as many words as possible. With my higher performing students I may set up a timer and see how many words they can produce in a set amount of time – usually 2 minutes. Later we will try to beat that time.


It is important to see how the students came up with their –at family words they noted on their assessment paper because this gives me an insight into the level of ability they currently exhibit. If a student is still struggling with the concept of being able to change one sound at the beginning of a given word family to make new words, then I need to redo this lesson at small reading group time. I would use manipulatives such as letter tiles in front of a written word family to model how changing a beginning sound creates a new word.   


Students work with an –at word family reader solving math story problems as they read.

Sample of the math story page.     A student completed page.      Student reading sight word math book.


Students work with the –at word family reader and fill in the worksheet once they have read the book. The printable book and activity sheet is taken from the Hubbard’s Cupboard website.


Students use the laptops to play games from the Cat in the Hat webpage on PBS Kids.