How to Teach R Controlled Vowels (2024)

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Teaching sounds can be fun, especially when it comes to r-controlled vowels! These 3 sounds, spelled 5 different ways (ar, or, er, ir, ur) can be introduced and reviewed using several engaging strategies and resources. Read on for tips, tricks and jokes to make your r-controlled vowel lessons pop!

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What are R Controlled Vowels?

R controlled vowels are exactly what they sound like…vowels controlled by the r! There are three r controlled vowel sounds: ar says arrrr like the pirate sound, or, and er/ir/ur says irrrrrr like someone slamming on the brakes! Let's take a look at some sample r controlled words:

  • ar: cart, sharp, large, mark, farm
  • er: herd, germ, clerk, tiger, feather
  • ir: shirt, bird, circle, first, birthday
  • or: short, corn, story, port, orbit
  • ur: hurt, turtle, burn, purple, nurse

It can be helpful to create an r controlled vowel anchor chart to help students retain these sounds. A lot of teachers like to call these sounds “bossy r” sounds. The “bossy r” concept is that he is bossy and controls the sound but DOES still let the vowel go first.

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So, now that we have figured out what the r controlled vowel sounds are, let's take a look at some engaging and educational activities to enhance your lesson!

R Controlled Vowel Activities

Want to add some engaging technology into your lesson? Check out these options!

1) Videos & Songs

Jack Hartmann-Look out for Bossy R

4 Minute Phonics R Controlled Practice

Pirates say AR!

2) Books

There are even books to teach the r controlled sounds! Note: These are Amazon Affiliate links.

The Bossy r: How the R Controlled Vowels Came to Be

by Lynell Hecht

How to Teach R Controlled Vowels (3)

A Day at the Berns Family Farm: A Book of Phonics

by Laura Hudgens

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3) The Ultimate Resource

When you are ready for students to practice their r controlled vowels in small group or independently, Lucky Little Learners has you covered! Introducing our R-Controlled Vowels Pack:

  • Phonics posters
  • Lesson plans
  • Word lists & sample sentences
  • Decodable passages
  • Hands-on activities
  • Digital teaching slides
  • Word & picture cards…and more!

How to Use These R-Controlled Vowels Resources in Your Classroom?

With so many resources, there are numerous ways to use this pack in your classroom. However, by following the daily lesson plans, these resources can fit seamlessly into your already busy day!

Whole Group Ideas

Use the word cards or words & sentences lists to introduce or review the sound.

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Additionally, use the daily digital slides to further develop skills.

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Small Group Ideas

Try using the decodable poems and passages to give students practice reading materials they can actually read! The poem includes five days of practice and makes a great beginning of group check in. Phonics ladders are a great way to quickly assess student skills!

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Independent Center Ideas

When your students are ready to practice these sounds on their own, try one of the engaging centers!

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Don't delay! Make teaching R-Controlled Vowels easy today!

How to Teach other 2nd Grade Phonics Concepts

Ready to teach another phonics skill? We've got a post for that!

Silent Letters

Short Vowels

Short Vowel Digraphs

Long Vowels

Vowel Teams


Inflected Endings

Syllable Patterns/Multisyllabic Words


Happy teaching!

How to Teach R Controlled Vowels (10)
    • How to Teach R Controlled Vowels (12)

      Jesson August 15, 2022 at 1:28 pm

      Hello Erik! Great eye! Thank you for catching this! We’ve updated the language in that sentence. Together we are better!


  1. How to Teach R Controlled Vowels (13)

    Caroline Strangeon November 17, 2023 at 8:42 am

    Hi! How would you recommend assessing this skill?


    • How to Teach R Controlled Vowels (14)

      Jess Dalrympleon November 17, 2023 at 10:26 am

      Hello Caroline! Great question! We would suggest using a phonics survey to check mastery of specific spelling patterns. Here is ours, if you’d like to take a look!


  2. How to Teach R Controlled Vowels (15)

    Amyon February 14, 2024 at 8:03 pm

    Hi – the link for the pack goes to a Martin Luther King, Jr. download pack.


    • How to Teach R Controlled Vowels (16)

      Jess Dalrympleon February 20, 2024 at 5:32 am

      Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention, Amy! This has been fixed and here is the link for you: R Controlled Vowel Resources in All Access


  3. How to Teach R Controlled Vowels (17)

    christineon April 28, 2024 at 6:27 pm

    Good evening I actually thought the 5 sounds were correct because ar and or both have two sounds and ir,ur and er have one. I am a little bit confused.


  4. How to Teach R Controlled Vowels (18)

    Vanessaon June 2, 2024 at 6:20 am

    I am after just the R Controlled Sort – is that sold separately by any chance?


    • How to Teach R Controlled Vowels (19)

      Jess Dalrympleon June 11, 2024 at 8:28 am

      Hello Vanessa! I am sorry, but the sorts are not sold separately from the pack. However, you can download single files within the pack (plus everything we have ever made) as an All Access member! If you are interested in that, here is a link to learn more. Have a wonderful day!


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How to Teach R Controlled Vowels (2024)


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