Letter A Sound


The letter /a/ is the first letter in the alphabet and is the first vowel introduced to students. This letter will be one of the most important sounds for English phonics, so it’s better to practice it more in your phonics books. This letter and sound is important as it will allow students to make easy words with the other consonants, and form three letter CVC words that sounds can easily pronounce, blend and read. Some example of this are cat, hat, tap, pan, sat, tan, etc. This is very important for students to understand the concept of the 5 vowels and to learn that these vowel will appear in every English word, and not randomly in the English language.

Letter A sound Phonics Pronunciation

The sound of the letter /a/ is the pronounced like in the words cat and hat. It is a short sound with a discrete ending stop, and the /a/ sound cannot be elongated. This is different from the ‘ah’ sound, which the sound can be held for a longer time. Kids can be taught the /a/ sound by wiggling your fingers on your arms as if ants are crawling on your arm. This vowel sound should be repeated many times for the students to remember this.

At first it may be hard for the student to pronounce the /a/ sound, and many schools opt to teach students the /ah/ sound instead. This may be easier for them at first, but it will make it more difficult for the students when they are blending the phonics words and blending sounds together. So it’s better to correct this for the students, so they can have a good understanding of the /a/ sound and a strong foundation for phonics.

If taught the /ah/ sound, the student would naturally blend the word C-A-T to be more similar to C-O-T. It will confuse the students to blend the word as C-AH-T, and change the pronunciation when saying cat, as in the cute, furry pet we all know and love. Thus, it is worthwhile to stick to the /a/ sound as this will help the students phonics and blending later on.

Try it:

Try saying the word cat or hat, and then with each individual sound c-a-t or h-a-t. Now say the /ah/ sound, and try saying the world c-a-t but instead with the /ah/ sound. If you use the /ah/ sound, the world cat no longer becomes cat, it sounds like cot. This may be obvious for adults or native English speakers, but for students learning English and blending for the first time, its important for them to learn the correct /a/ sound.

Visual hints

For students who have difficulties with pronouncing or remembering the sound, you can encourage the students by opening your mouth and repeating the /a/ sound. Be sure to make a distinction between a wide open mouth for /ah/ sound and smaller open mouth for /a/ sound. You can further reinforce this by pretending there are ants on your students arms, and saying a-a-a when trying to remove them. You can make this action while saying a-a-a, ant! 

ABC Sound Books

Here are some ABC books to help with learning the alphabet:

ABC (Letterland Picture Books) on Amazon

letter a sound, Letter A Sound

My First ABC on Amazon

letter a sound, Letter A Sound

A is for Apple (Smart Kids Trace-And-Flip) on Amazon

letter a sound, Letter A Sound

Handwriting Help with letter A sound

For students writing the letter a, it can be a bit more difficult as the upper case /A/ and lower case /a/ are different shapes, and most younger children will be more comfortable the upper case /A/ first. If your children are having difficulties writing the uppercase /A/, then they may have troubles writing straight or diagonal lines. This may be due to their pencil holding grip, or that they have not developed the muscle strength to write yet. You can look for exercises to help them hold a pencil properly or to build up their strength in their hands and fingers.

If your student is having difficulties when writing the lowercase /a/, you can try to build a stronger foundation with the letter /c/ writing. This is because the first part of the letter /a/ is the /c/ shape, so it’s important to know this shape. Once they have this down, have them write the letter /c/ and continue the motion up to make the full shape /o/, and then down to add the tail. You can practice this motion of /c/, then go up, and down several times for them to have the muscle memory to write the letter /a/ shape. Some handwriting programs teach the letter /c/ first, and then make the other letters from this shape.

Activity hints

As this sound is important for students, you can use different hand shapes for each vowel to help students remember each one of the five. For the letter /a/, put your hands together in the shape of a triangle where your fingers and thumbs touch one another. You can make the /a/ sound when having your hands connect to replicate the /a/ shape and sound for the students.

You can also introduce some flashcards into the classroom, and hold up cards with words starting with the letter /a/ or not. The students can then name the cards with /a/ words, such as ant, apple, or cat.

Letter /a/ Blending

The letter /a/ is a very important start for the children’s English understanding, in terms of the alphabet, phonics and also forming words. As this is often the first vowel taught to students, it will serve as a foundation for future learning and blending. After the student can remember and say the letter /a/ well, you can move onto blending basic words with the letter /a/,

As there are many words that contain the letter /a/ sound, you can start by blending easy CVC words such as cat, ant, pan, dad, mad, man, etc. You can further help by reminding them that every word must contain the letter /a/, as this will help them to understand each word must have a vowel later on.

Checkout our Top 25 phonics books for reading letters

Everyday English

As there are so many basic and everyday words using the letter /a/, it is important to reinforce the students learning by introducing them to words everyday. After repeating the /a/ sound until they fully understand this sound, it good to use this in words and encourage them to practice more English with the letter /a/.

Many animals start with the letter /a/, such as ant and alligator, You can also introduce words with /a/ in the middle, such as cat and rat.

There are a lot of common English names starting with the letter /a/, such as Andy, Anna, Amy, Anthony, etc. It is important to use English names as well for their understanding.

As /a/ is a commonly used vowel, there are a lot of everyday objects with /a/ used in the middle of the words, such as hat, pan, dad, man, mad, sad, etc. Be sure when saying these words to also emphasize the /a/ sound, to remind them what sound it makes

Letter /a/ sentence reading

After learning how to say and blend words with the letter /a/, it’s good to introduce basic sentences to the children to read. These sentences are meant to be basic for students learning the alphabet letters and phonics as their second language.

Here are some short sentences you can read together with the students.

A fat cat.

An ant is red.

An ant and a cat.

I see a cat.

I can see a man.

It’s important your students practice reading short sentences, so they gain the confidence and can practice their blending skills. Therefore, encourage your students to read these sentences to improve their phonics and blending with the letter /a/ !

Letter a tongue twisters

The letter /a/ tongue twisters can be fun to repeat, and sound really funny for students to try.

Get ready to repeat these over and over with the students.

-Ann Anteater ate Andy Alligator’s apples, so angry Andy Alligator ate Ann Anteater’s ants.

-Can an active actor always actually act accurately?

-Alice asks for axes (3 times fast!)

-If I assist a sister assistance, will the sister’s sister-assistant assist me?

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