Lesson plan

Can You Find the -er, -ir, -ur Sound?

Poetry? Scavenger hunts? Use this lesson to teach your students about the R-controlled vowels that say “er” using both! Your students will be reading those pesky er/ir/ur words in no time!
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Students will be able to identify and distinguish the sound spelling relationships of R-controlled vowel patterns -er, -ir, and -ur.

(10 minutes)
  • Gather students together for the start of lesson.
  • Say, “Raise your hand if you have a sister or a brother (pause while students raise hands). Then ask, "Are there things you have in common?” Student answers might include similar features, that they live together, they speak the same language, enjoy same things, have the same parents, etc. “Today we are going to learn about the 'er' family. This family might sound the same, but look a little different!”
  • Ask students to listen to you read aloud the poem that accompanies this lesson, and give a thumbs up when they hear the “er” sound (like in “bird”) in a word.
(5 minutes)
  • Project the poem that accompanies this lesson on the board, and ask the students to look at the highlighted words while you read the poem aloud a second time.
  • Say, “All of these words share the same “er” sound, but are spelled three different ways! When a vowel is followed by an R, we call this the “Bossy R” because the vowel changes its sound and can make words spelled with --ir, -er, and -ur all sound the same. We call this the -er family.”
(10 minutes)
  • Provide each student or pair of students with whiteboards and explain that now you will sort the words into three groups, -ir, -er, and-ur.
  • Using the highlighted words from the poem, ask the class which spelling pattern each word contains and have them sort the words into three groups by writing them on their whiteboards under the -ir, -er, and -ur headings.
  • Go over the word lists as a class to review.
(20 minutes)
  • Explain that now students will spend time going on an “er” family scavenger hunt to find more r-controlled vowel combinations in the “er” family. Give students a clipboard and pencil and ask them to search through a variety of books and around the room for -er, -ir, and -ur combinations and record them on their “Read the Room” worksheet.


  • During the independent “Read the Room” 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 using pre-picked materials that contain several r-controlled vowel combinations. For students who need further support understanding how to sort the words, provide them with the -er, -ir, -ur Family Poem Template.


  • For more advanced students, have them create their own “er” family poem using words found on their scavenger hunt.
(5 minutes)

Collect the “Read the Room” recording sheets and assess whether students were able to correctly identify and sort each word into its’ corresponding spelling pattern.

(5 minutes)

After the 20 minutes of independent work time has concluded, ask students to return to the rug with their recording sheets. Review the recording sheet as a whole class by asking students to share words that they found containing -er, -ir, and -ur. Discuss student questions as needed. Close by saying, “Wowel sounds can be tricky, but if we remember that when the letter r follows the the vowels e, i, and u they all say 'er,' we’ll be able to remember how to pronounce the word.”

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