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r-Controlled Vowels

A colorful chart explaining r-controlled vowels, showcasing examples and illustrations.


Have you ever wondered why some words sound different even though they contain the same vowels? The secret often lies in the "bossy r." When a vowel is followed by an 'r,' it creates a unique sound known as an r-controlled vowel. For students, teachers, and parents, understanding r-controlled vowels is crucial for mastering English pronunciation and spelling. Let's dive into the fascinating world of r-controlled vowels and discover how this "bossy r" changes everything!

What are r-Controlled Vowels?

An r-controlled vowel occurs when a vowel is immediately followed by the letter 'r,' altering its usual sound. This phonological phenomenon is also known as "bossy r" because the 'r' changes the way the vowel sounds. Here are some common r-controlled vowel sounds:

  • /ûr/ as in "shirt"

  • /âr/ as in "care"

  • /ôr/ as in "horn"

  • /är/ as in "march"

Why are r-Controlled Vowels Important?

Understanding r-controlled vowels helps students improve their reading and spelling skills. Recognizing these patterns can make it easier to decode unfamiliar words and understand their pronunciation. This knowledge is particularly useful in early education, where phonics and word recognition are essential building blocks.

Examples of r-Controlled Vowels

Let's look at some examples to better understand how r-controlled vowels work:

  • /âr/: care, share, fair

  • /ôr/: horn, torn, born

  • /ûr/: shirt, dirt, bird

  • /är/: march, start, part

Teaching Strategies for r-Controlled Vowels

Teaching r-controlled vowels can be fun and engaging with the right strategies. Here are some effective methods:

  1. Introduce the Concept: Explain how the 'r' changes the sound of the vowel.
  2. Use Visual Aids: Charts and flashcards can help visualize the concept.
  3. Practice with Words: Provide lists of r-controlled words for reading and spelling practice.
  4. Interactive Activities: Use games and interactive worksheets to reinforce learning.
  5. Multisensory Techniques: Encourage students to write words in the air or use tactile materials.

r-Controlled Vowels Activities

A. Select the Word that Rhymes with the Given Word.
B. Choose the Correct Word with an R-Controlled Vowel Sound to Complete Each Sentence.


Mastering r-controlled vowels is a vital step in developing strong reading and spelling skills. By understanding how the "bossy r" changes vowel sounds, students can improve their pronunciation and become more confident readers. Whether you're a teacher, parent, or student, exploring r-controlled vowels can open up new avenues for learning and growth. So, embrace the "bossy r" and watch your language skills soar!


Q: What is bossy r? 

A: "Bossy r" refers to the phonological pattern in English where the letter 'r' influences the preceding vowel sound, causing it to be pronounced differently than usual. This pattern is also known as "r-controlled vowels."

Q: What are schwa r-controlled vowels? 

A: Schwa r-controlled vowels are vowel sounds that are reduced to a schwa (ə) sound when followed by an 'r' in the same syllable. Examples include the 'er' sound in words like 'her,' 'term,' and 'bird.'

Q: What should be taught after r-controlled vowels? 

A: After teaching r-controlled vowels, teachers may move on to other vowel patterns, such as vowel digraphs (e.g., 'oa,' 'ow'), diphthongs (e.g., 'oi,' 'ou'), or irregular vowel spellings.

Q: What is the rule for r-controlled words? 

A: The rule for r-controlled words is that the vowel sound is influenced by the following 'r,' resulting in a different pronunciation than the typical vowel sound. For example, the 'a' in 'car' is pronounced differently than the 'a' in 'cat.'

Q: What are the r-controlled vowel sounds? 

A: The r-controlled vowel sounds in English are:

  • /ɑr/ as in 'car,' 'far,' 'star'
  • /ɛr/ as in 'her,' 'term,' 'bird'
  • /ɪr/ as in 'fir,' 'stir,' 'bird'
  • /ɔr/ as in 'for,' 'or,' 'corn'
  • /ʊr/ as in 'fur,' 'curl,' 'hurt'

Q: What are the r-controlled vowel representations? 

A: The r-controlled vowel representations (letter combinations) in English include:

  • 'ar' as in 'car,' 'far,' 'star'
  • 'er' as in 'her,' 'term,' 'bird'
  • 'ir' as in 'fir,' 'stir,' 'bird'
  • 'or' as in 'for,' 'or,' 'corn'
  • 'ur' as in 'fur,' 'curl,' 'hurt'

Q: How do you teach bossy r (r-controlled) words? 

A: To teach bossy r (r-controlled) words, you can:

  1. Introduce the concept of the 'r' influencing the vowel sound.
  2. Provide examples of r-controlled words and have students identify the vowel sound.
  3. Practice reading and spelling r-controlled words.
  4. Use multisensory activities, such as writing the words in the air or with different materials.
  5. Provide opportunities for students to sort words based on their r-controlled vowel sounds.