R- controlled vowels are commonly referred to as “bossy r’s” because the r takes over the vowel when there is a vowel followed by the letter r. This changes the sound that the vowel typically makes.
In this post, we will discuss the different r-controlled vowels and go over five ways to teach r-controlled vowels to our students!
What are R-controlled Vowels?
There are five r-controlled vowels, but three of them actually make the same sound. Let’s take a moment to review each of these sounds.
- -ar makes the /ar/ sound as in parked. It can also make the /air/ sound as in various.
- -er -ir- and -ur all make the /er/ sound, like in the words perfect, bird, and furniture.
- -or makes the /or/ sound as in form, but it can also sound like /er/ in words like work and doctor.
Introducing R-controlled Vowels
When introducing r-controlled vowels, I like to start by explaining that the r is very bossy. This means that the r changes the vowel sound so that the vowel doesn’t sound long or short. I will illustrate this and walk students through a routine that can be used with any of the r-controlled vowels. It looks like this:
1) Write a single syllable CVC word on the board.
2) Have students identify the sounds they hear. (For example, chat, /ch/ /a/ /t/.
3) Point out that the vowel a is making the short /a/ sound.
4) Add in the letter r after the letter a, circle or underline the letters to show ar together.
5) Explain that the bossy r took over the letter a and is making it change it’s sound to /ar/.
6) Have students read the word and tap the sounds.
Activities to Practice R-controlled Vowels
- Challenge your students to go on a “Word Hunt” for r-controlled vowels. They can use a colored pencil to trace over the vowel-r they find in words.
- Create r-controlled vowel word sorts. Incorporate multisyllabic words, such as “superstar” that can be sorted into more than one category (-er or -ar).
- Create a quick “mystery word” game. Have student ask questions about the letters and sounds within the word to guess what it could be. Extend this by incorporating other patterns such as digraphs and diphthongs, roots, suffixes, and prefixes.
- Have students change a single syllable word with a short vowel into words with r-controlled vowels.
- Play board games like Roll and Read. This game provides practice reading words with r-controlled vowels and allows students to partner up for fun practice.
R-Controlled Vowel Phonics Booklets
I have created an R-Controlled Vowel Pack that incorporates these strategies and can be used to for targeted instruction in small groups. It includes booklets for the r-controlled vowels -ar, -er, -ir, -or, and -ur as well as letter combinations that make the air sound and schwa+r. These help students practice the patterns with mini-lessons, independent practice, and a partner board game. Check it out below or scroll down for a freebie!
/AR/ R-Controlled Vowel Booklet
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