January 17, 2018

What are R-Controlled Vowels?

Picture this.  A child has become quite confident in reading CVC words.  She goes along reading page after page in her book with no problems.  Then she comes to the word car

c    aaaaaaaaa    r


What's a caaaaar she wonders.  She could read cab and cat and can, but all of a sudden, car has stumped her.  Why?  The word car contains an r-controlled vowel.

R-Controlled Vowel:  When the letter 'r' comes after a vowel, it changes the way the vowel sounds.  

Some examples:  er (her)     ir (bird)     ur (fur)     ar (star)     or (for)

Here are some tips for teaching r-controlled vowels:
  • A way to explain this concept to children is to call them "Bossy R Words".  The letter 'r' is SO bossy, he tells the vowels how they are supposed to sound!
  • I don't include bossy-r words with the rest of the short vowel CVC words.  In fact, I don't teach them until after I teach consonant digraphs.  (See my sequence for teaching reading). 
  • Find some way to highlight the ar in the word so that every time the child sees the ar, their brain will tell them, "Oh there's something different when ar is together."  I use these posters when I am teaching Bossy R words.

  • Teach one vowel at a time.  For example, explain that every time i and r are together, they say /ur/ like in fir.  In another lesson, address  or words, etc.

  • Some children start to pick up on r-controlled words without even having a lesson on them.  Others need a lot of repetition.  After I have taught the concept of bossy r, if a child stumbles on a bossy-r word when reading, I just use the cue, "This is a bossy-r word."  Then the child can usually remember what bossy-r does and can sound out the word.  Below are some of the bossy-r pages I use.

  • There are some exceptions that don't follow the pattern of r-controlled words.  Some exceptions are:  bear, are, our
Bossy R Words really are a lot of fun to teach!  You can find these Bossy R resources in my TpT Shop.

Bossy R No-Prep Printables

Vowel Pattern Posters

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