R Controls: “Bossy R’s”

I thought I might start blogging about specific activities in my products and different ways you can use them with your reader. Every reader is different after all, and some respond better to certain activities than others. I find it is always nice to have many options!

This week, on social media, I have focused on R Controls (ar, or, er) and their many spellings. R controls are really tricky for young readers. However, once they train their noodles (brains) to recognize the specific sound/spelling patterns it becomes automatic. There are several strategies readers can do to help with this training. The more opportunities they have to practice the sound/spelling patterns in a variety of ways the better their brains will remember it! That is why I like to include a variety of activities, some repetitive, others new so the brain doesn’t become complacent in learning (just my opinion based off of teaching experience).

Below are some activities you will find in Month 3 Week 3 that cover R controls. I call them Bossy’ R’s because the vowel and the r stuck to the vowel become bossy and say a new sound. Sometimes telling a story about the sound/spelling pattern and why it is that way helps readers remember the sound/spelling rule.

Read, Roll, and Color: 

This is such a fun and easy activity with lots of easy ways to add repetition into the activity. You can follow the activity as the instructions say at the top of the sheet. However, I always like to add more into my activities! Here are some ideas:

  1. Highlight the sound, read the word: Give your reader a highlighter and tell them to read each word and highlight the bossy R sound (check the list at the bottom of the page for all of the bossy R sounds).
  2. Highlight the sound, say the sound, read the word: For even more repetition, give them the highlighter and tell them to highlight the Bossy R sound and say the sound out loud, but not to read the whole word. Then when they have highlighted all the sounds, go back and read each word with the highlighted sound easily recognized.
  3. Timed Reads: Do one of the above highlighting activities and then tell your child they have one minute to read as many of the words as quickly and as ACCURATELY as the can. Be sure to set the expectation that reading words wrong wont count. You can even take a pencil and put a little dot on the words they read incorrect so your child knows to work on sounding those words out. IMPORTANT: Whenever you do a timed reading activity it is crucial to repeat it at least 2 more times, so a total of 3 times timed reading). The time limit should only be 1 minute long and your child should mark where they stopped when the timer went off. Then repeat 2 more times, each time seeing if they can beat their score. I had students that wouldn’t go faster but they would read with less mistakes each time. They deserve praise for both accomplishments! Remember: Reading with speed but making a lot of mistakes does not make a strong reader!
  4. Roll, Read, and Color: Or just stick with the directions as pictured below!

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Bossy R Clip:

This is a simple and effective way to test your child’s knowledge of just the bossy R sounds. It is a good way to know if they can hear the difference between the sounds by saying what the picture is and trying to identify the sound they heard in the word. It is phonemic awareness in a sense with a mixture of phonics. Here are some other ways to enhance this activity:

  1. Dictation Practice: After your child has completed the activity as designed, have your child stretch the sounds in the whole word on their fingers. Here is an example: Your child will pick the “ladder” card and stretch the sounds for ladder on their fingers, each finger representing one sound.  They would stretch /l/ /a/ /d/ /er/, clip the /er/ sound and then you would have them write the whole word down on their dictation board.
  2. Underline the sound: After they have written a word they have stretched reinforce the sound/spelling pattern by having them underline or highlight the bossy r sound in their writing.
  3. Phonemic Awareness: This activity just requires their fingers. Tell the child one of the words from the card like “shirt” and have them stretch it on their fingers saying each sound out loud. Then ask them where they heard the “bossy r” sound and have them point to which finger they stretched that sound on. So if they stretched /sh/ (index finger), /ir/ (middle finger), /t/ (ring finger) and you asked where is the “er” sound? They would point to their middle finger.

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Bossy R /er/ Sort: 

This activity is important for visual memorization of the three different letter pairs that make the same sound “er”. Ir, ur, and er all make the same exact sound and can therefore be really tricky for kids when it comes to spelling–tricky english language! So I have developed a simple picture matching game to help readers differentiate between the 3 spelling patterns for the same sound. Here are a few extension ideas:

  1. Spelling Practice: Have your child practice this activity several times, then turn the cards over and do a practice spelling test with 5-10 of the cards. It is a good quick assessment for you if your child is memorizing the different spelling patterns, or still guessing.
  2. Write it Out: When in doubt, write! Let your child practice writing sentences or a quick story with some of the cards, always ensuring that they are underlining the “er” sound in each word they use.
  3. Underline and Read: While this is not a laminated activity, a pencil or a highlighter wouldn’t harm the cards! Have your child underline the “er” spelling pattern on the cards so those spelling patterns pop out to them each time they read it.



R-Control Spelling Patterns:

AR: spelled ar and are

OR: spelled or and ore

ER: spelled er, ir, ur


There you have it! Lots of extensions to use with Month 3 Week 3 on Bossy R’s. Enjoy! As always, please feel free to reach out with any comments or questions!