Teaching the Tricky R-Controlled Vowels

Teaching r-controlled vowels to first graders can be a tricky business! This concept can take some extra practice for firsties, but with the right techniques, your students will grasp it in no time! Today I'm sharing some of my favorite ways for practicing and teaching r-controlled vowels in the primary classroom!

Whether you call them r-controlled vowels, tricky r, or bossy r, this concept can require some practice to fully understand. In my classroom, I'm a big fan of making tricky subjects fun and easy to master with practice activities like games, centers, and hands-on learning. When it comes to tricky r, I've got plenty of fun lessons and activities that help my students learn this concept in a snap!

Use these fun and engaging activities as you are teaching the tricky r-controlled vowels to your first graders this year.

Introducing R-Controlled Vowels 

As with many things in the first-grade classroom, our lessons on r-controlled vowels always begin with a solid introduction. I'm a big fan of working with my whole class together for phonics instruction. Using this whole group learning style helps to make new lessons feel like a community-building activity while also prepping all of my kiddos at once before we split off into small groups. 

I love to use a fun, instructional video like this one to be the catalyst for our lesson. The children always perk up when there's a fun video or song to relate to what we're learning and it helps to lay the foundation for teaching r-controlled vowels. I like videos that simplify the concept and provide some good examples for the kiddos. 

After we watch the video, I like to continue offering examples and make an anchor chart with my students. I like to start with "ar" words. I work on teaching students that "bossy r" changes the vowel sound for the letter before it by comparing it to other CVC words with a short "a" sound. 

For example cat, cab, can, and cap all contain the short a sound. If we swap out these ending letters with our "bossy r", the sound of the letter "a" changes. We continue to illustrate this with more words using "ar" like car and far. After we've run through some examples, it's time to dive into practice. This is where the magic happens! Learning how to use tricky r really comes into play after plenty of exposure and practice reading these words. 

Using Color By Code to Read Words with R-Controlled Vowels

One of my favorite ways to get students working on reading words with those tricky r-controlled vowels is with fun secret code worksheets. These color-by-code pages are so much fun for students and offer many opportunities to read words using r-controlled vowels. After our introduction, we start off with the pages for "ar" words. This is a great place to start with tricky r!

To solve the mystery code, students will look at the pictures and write down the beginning sound for each word. Once they do this, a word is revealed. Students will use the color code to determine what color to make that word in their picture and fill it in accordingly. 

Color by code activities like these make teaching the tricky r-controlled vowels fun for your first graders.

This resource comes with 2 pages each for a, e, i, o, u, and 3 pages of mixed practice as well. I love using these for independent practice right after our initial lesson. I walk around the classroom and observe how students are doing with reading these words. This gives me a chance to offer additional teaching and address the class as a whole. These pages also make great activities for center time and homework!

R-Controlled Vowels Mystery Puzzles for Center Time 

Speaking of centers, I'm a big fan of using low-prep activities like these R-Controlled Vowels Mystery Puzzles during center time. All you need to do to get these prepped is print them off and stack them on a table with scissors and crayons! Mystery Puzzles are a great option for center time since they offer some engaging, hands-on practice without having to spend a ton of time prepping materials. 

Mystery puzzles like these are great for centers and are great for practice as you are teaching the tricky r-controlled vowels.

To use, students will cut out the puzzle pieces and read the word on each one. Then, they find the matching picture for each word and glue it down to their board. Once it's dry, a picture is revealed and they can color it in. I recommend using glue sticks for this since kiddos will be coloring after gluing. 

I love that this activity offers many opportunities to continue working with and reading r-controlled vowels. I like to use these pages throughout the week during centers to focus on a specific vowel each day. The kiddos are always excited to see the picture revealed and I love how easily this activity comes together! 

Using Class Games for Teaching R-Controlled Vowels 

It's no secret that firsties LOVE games. Because of this, whenever we start focusing on a trickier topic like r-controlled vowels, I'm intentional about making sure we have a fun game planned to practice. The key to mastering r-controlled vowels is plenty of practice and repetition reading them. And there's no better game for reading repetition than BINGO!

In my classroom, we use an R-Controlled Vowels BINGO game throughout the duration of our focus on this phonics concept. The cards we use contain mixed practice of all the vowels. To start out, we use cards that have words along with a picture. This is a great activity to use when your kiddos are just getting started with r-controlled vowels and need a little prompting. Once kiddos are more accustomed to the vowel sound changes of tricky r, we switch over to the cards without pictures. I love that this one change offers a new level of difficulty for my students as they progress in this skill. 

Teaching the tricky r-controlled vowels is fun when you turn it into a BINGO activity your students will love.

When it comes to BINGO games, I love to have colorful cards prepped and laminated ahead of time. I store them in a bin with fun BINGO markers like mini erasers. Then, we can pull this game out to play as a class at a moment's notice. Using BINGO is a fun way to end the day and also comes in handy when you only have a few minutes to fill. 

I also have these cards in a black-and-white option that I like to use during small groups. When I play with small groups, kiddos use BINGO daubers to cover each space as it's called.  No matter how we play this game, it's a student favorite and such a great way to get even more practice in reading words using r-controlled vowels. 

Grab a Freebie to Get Started! 

Ready to start teaching this skill in your classroom? I have a fun freebie for you that's perfect for center time! Try my free Bossy R Word Building game to use with your students. To play, students will look at the pictures on each card and decide the sound they hear in the word. Then, they place a letter wand in the correct spot to complete the word. 

Grab this FREEBIE today to help you get started with teaching the tricky r-controlled vowels.

This activity would be a great small group activity when you're just getting started with r-controlled vowels or a fun center activity for continued practice! Grab the freebie and get started with tricky r today! 

And don't forget, you can find all of the activities mentioned here in my TpT Shop along with tons of other fun R-Controlled Vowel Activities! 

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Teaching the tricky r-controlled vowels doesn't have to be complicated. These simple and fun activities include everything you need to help your students practice and learn those tricky r-controlled vowels. Use these activities as part of your center activities, independent practice, or even a whole class activity like BINGO. No matter when or how you choose to use these fun and engaging activities, you can be sure your students will be well on their way to learning and understanding those tricky r-controlled vowels in exciting ways they will love. Grab the FREEBIE to get started teaching the tricky r-controlled vowels in your first grade classroom today! #thechocolateteacher #rcontrolledvowels #teachingrcontrolledvowels #r-controlledvowels #teachingr-controlledvowels

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