Lesson plan

Bird, Star, and the Bossy R

Ever wonder how to get your students to understand r-controlled vowels? Meet Bird, Star, and the Bossy R! These characters will help your students understand how to read and identify that pesky Bossy R through a story and sorting activity.
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Students will be able to identify and read words with r-controlled vowel patterns.

(5 minutes)
  • Gather students to the rug for the start of the lesson.
  • Ask students to name the five vowels, A, E, I, O, and U. Ask them what makes vowels special. Answers might include, each letter makes two sounds. Vowels are sometimes silent within a word.
  • Say, “Today we are going to learn about special vowel combinations that include the letter R. When a vowel is followed by the letter R, the sound changes to something new. Some people call this the Bossy R for this reason.”
  • In most short words with a vowel in the middle, the vowel sound is the short sound like in the words cat, fat, and sit. If we take the last letter of each word and change it to r, they become new words: car, far, and sir. Did you hear how the r makes the vowel sound change in each word?
(10 minutes)
  • Read aloud the short story “Bird, Star, and the Bossy R” to the class. Pause briefly when you get to a word that contains an r-controlled vowel combination (these words are highlighted in the story).
  • Write each highlighted word on the board as you read it.
  • Ask students to notice the vowel followed by the letter r. Demonstrate how to read each word, noting whether the combination sounds like /er/, /ar/, /or/, or /air/.
(10 minutes)
  • Point to one of the words you wrote on the whiteboard and ask the students to help you identify the bossy r vowel combination. Circle the combination.
  • Pass out a whiteboard and dry erase marker to each student.
  • Ask the students to help you find each bossy r vowel combination by writing each word from the story on their whiteboard and circling the combination.
  • Go over each word by reading it chorally with the class and circling the r-controlled vowel combination on the whiteboard.
(15 minutes)
  • Project the worksheet titled “Bossy R Sort” and go over the instructions with the class. Then have the students complete the worksheet independently.


  • During the independent “Bossy R Sort” activity, group students who need additional support with a partner or gather in a small group and work together with the teacher or aide to complete the activity.


  • Ask students to go on a bossy r scavenger hunt to find more r-controlled vowel combinations. Give students a clipboard and pencil and ask them to search through a variety of books for r-controlled vowel combinations and record them on their paper. For more advanced students, they can sort the words they find into categories of sounds such as /air/, /er/, /ar/, and /or/.
(5 minutes)

Collect the “Bossy R Sort” worksheets and assess whether students were able to correctly sort each word by its corresponding sound.

(5 minutes)

After the 15 minutes of independent work time has concluded, ask students to return to the rug and pass their worksheets to the teacher. Review the worksheet as a whole class. Discuss student questions as needed. Close by saying, “vowel sounds can be tricky, but if we remember how bossy the letter r can be when it follows a vowel, we’ll be able to remember how to pronounce the word.”

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