Lesson plan

R-Controlled Vowels in Context

Syllable vowel sounds change when followed by the letter R but also reveal regular spelling patterns. This lesson plan extends student understanding of R-controlled vowels with activities built to strengthen spelling and editing skills.
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Students will be able to identify the R-controlled vowel syllable type in contrast to other closed syllables that do not end in R.

(10 minutes)
  • Draw a square divided into fourths in front of your students and write the following words clockwise in the square beginning with the upper right corner: fir, tip, stir, fit.
  • Tell your class that you are going to challenge them to a game of call and response using those four words. Explain that you will call out a word and they will respond with the word that has the same I vowel sound as yours. If anyone in the class calls out a word that doesn’t have the same vowel sound as your word, you get a point.
  • Begin by having your students repeat each word after you, so that everyone can hear how the word is properly said.
  • Answer any clarifying questions and begin the game by repeating one of the four words that has the same I sound:
    • Say fir. (Your class should say stir.)
    • Say stir. (Your class should say fir.)
    • Say tip. (Your class should say (fit.)
    • Say fit. (Your class should say tip.)
  • Mix up your choices and repeat words so as not to become too predictable.
  • Explain that although all four words have the vowel I, the syllable that has the vowel, makes two different sounds. Furthermore, R-controlled syllables in which vowel sounds change slightly when they come before the letter R.
  • Tell your students that syllables following the consonant-vowel-consonant (cvc) pattern are called closed because the vowel is enclosed by consonants. Syllables spelled like this are pronounced as short vowels. Syllables that end in R-controlled vowels and begin with a consonant are closed syllables, so the I is always short.
  • Share the following lesson objective with your class: Recognize, identify, and apply R-controlled vowel sounds in words and their respective spelling combinations.
(5 minutes)
  • Preview the R-Controlled Vowels and the Fork in the Road worksheet instructions and demonstrate the first sentence activity with your class.
(5 minutes)
  • Guide your class through the second sentence on the R-Controlled Vowels and the Fork in the Road activity and have a students turn to a neighbor and share a likely replacement for the misplaced word.
  • Confirm that the word is hurt because: it has an R-controlled spelling pattern, it makes sense with context clues (i.e., a head can hurt, but doesn’t hunt), and the words hurt and hunt have similar spellings.
  • Review the instructions and answer any clarifying questions.
(10 minutes)
  • Release your students to complete the R-Controlled Vowels and the Fork in the Road activity.


  • Perform the reading “popcorn style,” where students read and say, “Popcorn ____,” naming a peer to volunteer a correct replacement word. If the word is wrong, they can nominate another student to follow up. Continue through the remaining sentences.


  • Students can complete the It’d Better Have an R-Controlled Vowel! worksheet.
  • Students can complete the But They All Have R-Controlled Vowels! worksheet.
  • Using Adobe Spark, draft flashcards of words superimposed on pictures that reinforce meaning (e.g., the word fir superimposed over a picture of a fir tree.)
(5 minutes)
  • Have your students volunteer a pair of words with short vowel sound syllables where the first word has an R-controlled vowel spelling pattern (-ar, -er, -ir, -or, -ur) and the second word uses the same vowel but does not have an R-controlled short vowel sound or spelling.
  • Sample pairs of words include: car and cat, fir and tip, etc.
(10 minutes)
  • DISCUSS: What would a Venn diagram contain if you were comparing R-controlled closed syllables with all other closed syllables?

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