/a/ as in Map

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Students will be able to associate the short sounds with common spellings (graphemes) for the five major vowels.

Big Idea

Finding items with the same short a vowel sound reinforces the students’ phonetic skills.


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 open up the screen on the SMARTBoard.

On the SMARTBoard I have already loaded the PebbleGo website. This website has many resources on numerous topics but it is a paid subscription site. Our school subscribes to the site so we have access to many research opportunities for our students. The site can be used either to introduce students to a topic or used to support instruction. I am using it to introduce the students to a new topic – maps.

“Boys and girls, today we are going to look and hear about maps. What can you tell me about maps?”

I select a student who is raising their hand to respond to the question.

“That’s right Rachel; maps do help us know where we are and where we are going.”

I take a few more student responses and then say, “Those were all great ideas as to what we use maps for. Let’s go ahead and listen to our narrator and see what he has to say about maps. You will need to use your listening ears and observing eyes to pick up on all the facts we are about to see and hear.”

Once we have listened to each of the little informative section I turn off the SMARTBoard and ask the students, “Now can anyone tell me any new facts about maps?”

I will select a student who is following the correct protocol of raising their hand to answer the question.

“Yes Finnley, that is a good fact; GPS is just like using a map.”

I select two or three more students to respond to the question.


I use the PebbleGo website to give my students an introduction to our new unit – maps. The interactive multimedia activity will help the students increase their vocabulary and give them some background information on different types of maps. This will help the students when we read the many different texts during our unit which may help them decode new words as we come across them in the text. 


45 minutes

“Today’s book is called Me on the Map, written by Joanne Sweeny and illustrated by Annette Cable. While we are reading this book I want you to pay close attention to where the story starts and ends.”

I begin to read the book.   


During reading I will introduce vocabulary words such as; neighborhood, county, town, state, etc. I like to discuss the words as they appear in the text so students are able to see the words being used in context. This helps the students to understand the word meanings a little better.

We discuss how the book starts out simply in the girl’s bedroom and then steps out further and further away to pinpoint her location. Then we discuss how it reverses direction and goes back to the beginning.


After reading I open up a screen on the SMARTBoard, write the word “map” at the top of the blank screen and ask the students, “Can anyone tell me the vowel sound they hear in the word “map?””

I select a student to respond.

“Great work Ashley; I hear the short a sound too. Can anyone give me another word that has the short a sound /a/ in it?”

I select several students to respond. As they give me their words I write them up on the screen unless the word does not have the correct sound. If the word does not have the correct /a/ sound in it, we discuss the word as a group and try to determine which vowel sound it actually has.

Once I have several words up on the SMARTBoard I ask the students to 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 recording sheet I have prepared down off the shelf.

“Today you will get two sheets just like these ones (I hold up the sheets in front of the students).”

“The blank sheet says, “Items that have the same medial sound as the word map.” It will be your job to look over the items on this sheet (I hold up the other sheet with the different images on it) and find the ones with the same short /a/ vowel sound as the word map.”

Map vowel sound recording sheet and images

“When you find an item with the same short a vowel sound, cut it out, glue it onto the recording sheet and then label it as best you can.”

“Today I would really like you to use your tapping out skills to try and label the items. Try to do this as independently as you can.”

“Now some of you may see other students working on other sounds, but your sheet is your responsibility and your business. Everyone got it?”

Explanation of why students need to focus on their own work

“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 go have some short vowel sound 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. 

Students working on finding images with the same medial sound as map.     

Student thinking about which words have the same medial sound as map.

Student working on medial sounds. 

The study of short vowel sounds is vital to students' early reading and writing skills.  Short vowel sounds are typically introduced to children before long 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.

Sample of higher performing student.       Sample of middle performing student work.

Student sharing her medial sound work. 

Once all of the students are seated on their spots on the rug I tell them, “Your exit ticket for today is to tell me one word which has the same short a vowel sound like the word map. You will need to think of at least two or three words because once a word has been used it is…”

I allow the students to call out the response, “Off the menu!”

“That’s right; it will be off the menu. I am going to give you about ten seconds to think of two or three words. Think about the words we came up with on the board and the items you sorted at work station three.”

“I am going to start timing now.”

I look at my watch and give the students about 10 seconds to think of two or three words.

When the time is up I say, “Okay ten seconds are up. I am now going to use the fair sticks. When your name gets pulled out you will need to tell me your word, use the hand sanitizer and then go over to the other side of the classroom to get your snack. Here we go.”

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

If a student has a hard time or is unable to come up with a response they can do one of two things.

  1. Ask a friend for help, or
  2. Wait until everyone else has gone and we will work on a response together.


Using this easy formative assessment tool gives me an opportunity to see if a student can quickly recall one word from the activity. The students have all just worked on words which have the short /a/ vowel sound so it should not be difficult for the students to respond to this request. However, if a student does have a hard time coming up with a response I will take note because I need to find out if the student had difficulty because he/she has trouble holding information or if the student was not paying attention to the activity. Knowing the answer to this question will determine how I handle the situation. 


For this activity I will call the student’s over to work with me one at a time. I will call them over during a time when the other students are occupied doing another activity – perhaps while they are at free choice centers or maybe during small reading groups.

I will show the students a collection of images and ask them to point to each image and tell me the vowel sound they hear when saying the image name out loud. I like to use the images worksheets from the K 5 Learning Reading and Math Enrichment website.  

I will make a note of what each student tells me which shows me which vowel sounds they are proficient in hearing and those which may need more work. 

Sharing assessment resource.


Students are assigned an activity for homework. The student has to make a map of his/her room, his/her house and then his/her street.

Map Homework Assignment


Listen to the book There’s a Map on My Lap, by Tish Rabe in the listening area.