R-Controlled Vowel Words for Word Study

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The vowels that are controlled by 'r' are often difficult for children to learn. All too often, learners are taught the 'long and short' vowels and the learner then has no idea what to call words like: cord, far, bird, taller, dirt.

Reading or basal texts will often offer individual lessons rather than systematic instruction in using the r controlled vowels. Word building activities will help support students to recognize word patterns, such as changing the first letter or letters in the r controlled vowels, i.e. change car to far and far to jar, etc. by listening for the initial sound.

This is why we need to focus on the 44 sounds in spelling instead of just the consonant sounds and long and short vowel sounds, which is what teaching spelling is really all about.

Here is a sample of great word study words to use to help learners learn the patterns and anomalies of some of the R-controlled vowels. 

Activities to Build Decoding Skills With R-Controlled Vowels

Word Building: Using individual letter cards and small personal pocket charts, have students build r controlled words from the list below, modeling the first word and then dictating the next words, for examples: more, store, pore, chore - bark, park, lark, stark, etc. 

Word Sorting: This is an especially good activity for r controlled sounds that can be made in different ways, such as the or in oar, store, floor, door, etc.

Silly Poems: Give students a set of r controlled words and have them write silly rhyming poems, such as: heart, smart, chart, part, start.

Jim made a picture of a heart
And put it on the classroom chart.
Oh please, don't let me start . . .
Jim thinks he's just so blessed smart!

Word Cards for the Word Wall

You can print the word cards below and have the students physically sort the words by putting Velcro or magnets on the back of words to sort. You could also use word families that are already prepared, which involve cutting out the words and pasting them into the correct column.

Do the word sorts in small groups, or make it an activity in a reading center that two or three children can complete together. 

The sound of 'ar' as in car:

  • are
  • bar
  • car
  • far
  • jar
  • scar
  • dark
  • mark
  • lark
  • park
  • jar
  • shark
  • stark
  • remark

The sound of 'air 'as in stare, care, fair:

  • bare
  • care
  • dare
  • glare
  • fair
  • share
  • tear
  • pear
  • square
  • stare
  • share
  • beware
  • prepare

The sound of 'or' as in pork, board, award:

  • cork
  • fork
  • pork
  • stork
  • born
  • corn
  • form
  • horn
  • torn
  • for
  • four
  • award
  • bored
  • board
  • cord
  • ford
  • lord
  • sword
  • ward
  • adored
  • toward

The sound of 'ir' as in bird, heard, skirt:

  • bird
  • word
  • herd
  • heard
  • preferred
  • heard
  • third
  • occurred
  • dirt
  • blurt
  • shirt
  • squirt
  • skirt
  • concert
  • desert
  • dessert
  • alert

The sound of 'r' as in fatter, taller, longer:

  • butter
  • better
  • hammer
  • shutter
  • spider
  • mother
  • father
  • easter
  • earlier
  • flower
  • power
  • older
  • younger
  • slower
  • faster
  • longer
  • shorter
  • bigger
  • taller
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Your Citation
Watson, Sue. "R-Controlled Vowel Words for Word Study." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/r-controlled-vowel-words-3111063. Watson, Sue. (2023, April 5). R-Controlled Vowel Words for Word Study. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/r-controlled-vowel-words-3111063 Watson, Sue. "R-Controlled Vowel Words for Word Study." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/r-controlled-vowel-words-3111063 (accessed June 1, 2023).