R-Controlled Syllables


October 30, 2011 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Articles


Now we have just one syllable type left on the poster, the r-controlled syllable. This pattern has one or more vowels, followed by r. This syllable pattern is also not very common. You might call letter r “super r,” or “bossy r” to help students remember that this consonant has a strong impact on the preceding vowels. On my poster letter r is wearing a super-r cape, indicating its special powers.

I use the following story about this syllable type when working with really young students. After learning the pattern they act out words, one child wearing a “super-r” cape. Change  the story a bit to meet older ages of learners:

Super r is an unusual and very strong letter. The vowels admire this letter so much they get rather silly when they see r coming. Surprising things happen to their sounds. Letter o forgets and calls out its name, so we hear o in words like for, and forest. Letter a gets very shy. You can hardly tell it is there because the sound is so much like r’s name. That’s what happens with words like car and star (technically the a is saying “ah”). The other vowels are also hard to hear, the sound of the pattern is much like r’s sound. Say these words: fir, bird, hurt, church, fern, and her.

When spelling r-controlled words where the vowel is hard to hear (i, u, and e in front) it is helpful to know that the most common pattern is er, and the least common spelling is ir. Just as with vowel teams, students might study these three patterns by making lists of words, and perhaps scenes or pictures, with the challenge to include as many of the words from the list as possible. Students might then write a short story describing what is going on in the scene. Visualizing the picture and retelling the story can help establish correct spellings in memory.

This pattern’s exception is a bit complicated. When words have a doubled r, the prior vowel sound will be different. Examples of these words would be: cherry, parrot, sorry, hurry, and worry.