Kids usually learn r-controlled sounds in first or second grade.
These sounds can cause some confusion during spelling activities. For example, if you have your student spell “card,” he might write: crd. This is a good time to remind your student that every word must contain a vowel.
Thus, if he hears an r-sound and he hasn’t written a vowel (as in crd), he must choose an r-controlled sound. In the word card, he can break the sounds into: c-ar-d. Thus, he can identify the ar phonics sound and change crd to card.
R-controlled sounds include:
ar as in bark
er as in clerk
ir as in swirl
ur as in burn
or as in corn
Include blends with the letter r in your r-controlled reading and spelling lists.
Since kids often struggle to identify when to use just the letter r and when to choose an r-controlled sound, use both word types in your reading and spelling lists. Interleaving, or weaving material together, can help solidify learning into long-term memory. For example, here’s a good r-controlled reading list (this student has recently learned oo as in moon and oo as in book):
- choo choo
The student should read the above words sound-by-sound and then blend them. This list is a good mixed list for a phonics lesson because it mixes old phonics sounds with new (oo, some long vowels, and r-controlled sounds), it includes words with the letter r blend (like preach, brand, pray), and the list is not guessable.
Teaching r-controlled sounds summary:
- teach r-controlled sounds explicitly (just like you would any other phonics sound)
- include words with the letter r blend (ex. pray, preach, track, drive… etc.) in your reading and spelling lists
- use interleaving, meaning mix old phonics sounds with new
- make sure your lists are not guessable