One of the hardest things about teaching kids to read is all of the exceptions to the phonics rules. Just when they get confident with consonant sounds and short vowels, it’s time to start adding in more rules. Silent ‘e’, consonant digraphs and r-controlled vowels are the most common for beginning readers. I’ve found that a story based approach really helps my students learn the rules quickly. Here’s how I use the story of Bossy R to teach r-controlled vowels in my classroom.
Start with a Story
When teaching phonics rules, especially those that are exceptions, I like to start with a story. For r-controlled vowels I use the story of a bossy pirate that we call Bossy R.
I always introduce the story as we create our Bossy R anchor chart. The students love the story of this bossy but polite pirate who works closely with vowels. They help me to create the anchor chart step by step as I introduce them to this quirky and funny character.
Want to see exactly how I introduce this bossy pirate with the anchor chart? Check out this video to see that lesson!
Next, students get to make their own version of this anchor chart with this fun, hands-on Bossy R craft. Not only does this reinforce the story, the phonics rule and the learning, but students really take ownership of knowing the rule.
This student craft is always a favorite activity when we learn new skills. These crafts are great to send home to show what is being learned and students love explaining what they mean to their families. You can also add these into a notebook so students create their own book of learning tools they can refer back to.
Reviewing the Story
Once students have been introduced to the story, it’s really important to continue to review it until they are able to tell it on their own. We do this through a daily review as we begin our lesson time.
The anchor chart stays front and center in the room throughout our lessons on this skill. Each day we do a quick review of the story, with students gradually doing more and more of the storytelling.
We also do a fun little chant to help us remember the Bossy R rule. This chant is a great way to help students learn the sounds made by r-controlled vowels and learn some words associated with each r+vowel combination.
To go with the chant and the anchor chart I use some Bossy R posters that give students a quick reminder of what each r-controlled vowel combination sounds like. I like to hold up or point to the posters as we say the chant so students are seeing, hearing and saying the phonics rules all at the same time. Add in some fun pirate movements for each sound and you’ve got one great multi-sensory learning activity.
Putting it into Practice
Now that students have learned the general and had opportunities to see how the rules work in words, it’s time for some practice. With this, as with any new skill or concept, it is important for students to gets lots of opportunities to put the new learning into practice.
I like providing a variety of different activities for my students. Not only does this maintain their interest and engagement, but it also helps students with different learning styles.
I like to focus on one r-controlled vowel combination at a time and give students opportunities to work on that new sound before moving to the next one. Generally I work on them in this order: ar (because talking like a pirate really helps to solidify the story), or, er, ir, ur.
Boy, oh boy, do my students love mini-books! What’s better than a mini-book but an interactive one where they get to have a part in writing the words. Simple concept but they sure do love them!
These r-controlled vowel mini-books are a great way get students started as they begin working with these new rules and sounds. Each mini-book focuses on one r-controlled vowel combination. Students get opportunities to write in related words. In my classroom we really focus on saying the work, listening to the sounds and then writing down the sounds we hear. This really helps students make the connection between the new r-controlled vowel sound and the letter combinations used to make it.
Once done, students love reading their mini-books. Not only does this reinforce the r-controlled vowels but they get practice with sight words too!
2. Printable Practice Sheets
These no prep printable worksheets are another way students work with r-controlled vowels and related words. Each r+vowel combination has a variety of practice sheets that students love.
- Color by Word
- Spin and Read
- Roll and Write
- Unscramble the Words
- Build a Word
- Read & Write the Room
There are so many fun and interactive activities. Many feel more like a game than work and students love completing them. Students can work on these individually or some work great as partner activities too!
3. Clip Cards
This next activity is fun hands-on center activity with a great fine motor addition. These r-controlled vowels clip cards have students read the word on card then clip a clothes pin onto the picture that matches. It’s a great way to strengthen those little hand muscles that are needed for writing.
I also love that I can easily do a quick check on the student’s reading comprehension. I can do this by just checking as they work and making note of what they are clipping. If the word and picture don’t match, I can check-in with the student to see if it is a reading issue or a vocabulary issue.
If I want to do a more formal type of assessment, I can use the black and white version of these cards and print them as a worksheet. Students can color or circle the correct picture. I love printing these pages as half size using the 2 to 1 feature on the copy machine. This prints 2 different pages on one page, giving students twice the practice.
4. Bossy R Hats
If your students are like mine, and many others that I know, they love any type of learning project that they can wear! Not only do they wear it – but they wear it proudly. Almost as if to say “go ahead – ask me what I learned!”
These Bossy R Hats are a great wearable learning project. I like to use them as we wrap up each r-controlled vowel combination as a review. On each hat, students will color the Bossy R vowel combination and then add a few words with the focus sound and spelling pattern.
Help Your Students Master R-Controlled Vowels
I know that with this variety of activities, your students can master reading r-controlled vowels just like mine have. Engage your students from the anchor chart to the final activity with this fun and quirky bossy pirate! You can find all of these activities in the Emily Education store.
Save these Fun R-Controlled Vowels Ideas!
I hope you found some fun and engaging ideas here that you can use in your classroom. Just save this to your favorite classroom Pinterest board so you can quickly come back when you are teaching r-controlled vowels.