6 Fun R-Controlled Vowels Activities

Do you need some fresh activities for teaching r-controlled vowel syllables?  Words with r-controlled syllables can get very tricky.  This is especially true with er, ir, and ur because they sound alike, and there is no clear rule to help students decide which spelling is correct.  

Students must first master the sounds, and then they can tackle the tricky part of choosing the correct r-controlled vowel.  My best success has come from using a variety of engaging resources and activities that give students ample exposure to correct spellings.   From hands-on r-controlled vowel activities to engaging r-controlled worksheets, you should be able to find something to help your students master these tricky vowel patterns.  I made sure that all the activities were easy to implement, and I made two exclusive freebies just for you!

R-controlled vowel syllables activities, games, and worksheets

Drawing Activities

Freebie Alert!

Students love to draw.  These sheets are a great way to integrate drawing into phonics.  Students read the word and draw a picture to show they understand what the word means.  If you’d like a copy of the r-controlled vowels worksheets for all five r-controlled vowels, make sure you read on to the end of the post.

If you prefer, you can write the word on the board and have the class draw a picture on their dry erase boards.  You could also write words on index cards for small groups.  The students take turns picking a card and drawing a picture.  Then, you have a resource for the students to use later.

Free r-controlled vowels worksheets

Fun Letters

Magnetic letters are a great way to practice phonics skills.

Sometimes adding some fun to the materials can make the activity more engaging.  I love these magnetic letters from Amazon for small group word work.  Students can make a variety of words with r-controlled vowels.  I also like to have them switch out a letter and see if they still have a word (part/park and form/farm).

R-Controlled Vowel Syllable Cards

Second Freebie!

These r-controlled vowel word cards are a great way to integrate decoding and meaning cues.  First, students decode the word on the front of the card.  Next, students turn the card over to read the sentence.  Reading the sentence allows students to use meaning clues to determine if they decoded the word correctly.

There are 30 cards in all.  You can use the cards with your entire class, as a partner activity, or in a small group.  Make sure to grab this fun freebie by completing the form at the bottom of the page.

This activity will keep your students engaged in learning about r-controlled vowel syllables both in isolation and in context.

Multiple Choice

Students write all three versions of the r-controlled vowel and decide which one "looks right".

I teach students the “multiple choice” strategy when they are trying to decide between er, ir, and ur.  If students write the word all three ways, they can often find the one that “looks right” based on previous exposure.  

Another way you can use multiple choice is to present the three different spellings to the students and have the class decide which one is correct.  

Finally, you can have three different words for the class to check.  They can find the word that is spelled correctly or the one that is incorrect.

Dry Erase

Sometimes, all you need is a dry erase board.  To practice reading and spelling words with               r-controlled vowels, I create a box for each sound.  The r-controlled vowel sound gets a box big enough for two letters.

For spelling, I dictate the word.  Students either use manipulative letters or spell the word with a marker.

For decoding purpose, I write the word.  I have students point to each sound of the word and blend the sounds together.  For added engagement, I like to use a fun pointer such as a sparkly drink stirrer.


Use sound boxes to help practice r-controlled vowels.

From My TPT Store

You may be looking for additional practice with r-controlled vowels worksheets and activities.  If so, I have a wide variety of activities available in my TPT store.  I included hands-on centers, assessment, games, and activities that are perfect for small group work.

R-Controlled Vowel Centers

This set of three centers will help your students master r-controlled vowels.  Each one is designed to work well as a self-checking center, a small group activity, and a whole class game.  A list of suggestions is provided for each center.  Print-friendly versions are also included.  To view this product, you can click on any of the photos or click on the button following the descriptions.

R-controlled vowel activity sorting center

In the first center, students examine the words cards and decide which r-controlled vowel is needed.  Next, they sort the words and record their answers.  Students should be encouraged to check their recorded responses to make sure that each r-controlled vowel syllable “looks right”.

This r-controlled vowel syllable center with help students practice building two-syllable words. Each words has at least one r-controlled vowel syllable.

In this center, students build words with r-controlled vowel syllables.  There are 32 syllable cards that will allow your students to create 16 different words, each with at least one r-controlled vowel syllable.  Students can write their answers on the recording sheet provided.

Use r-controlled vowels clip it cards to help students practice recognizing the correct spelling of r-controlled vowel words.

This clip it center is a great way for students to independently practice r-controlled vowel syllables.  Students closely examine each word.  They select the spelling they think is correct.  Once they have chosen the spelling, they flip the card over to check.

Print and Digital Activities

If you are looking for in depth practice with r-controlled vowels, I have a great set of activities for you.  There are digital versions included for most of the activities at no additional cost.  Below are some of the activities that are available.  To view the entire set, you can click here, on any of the photos, or on the button below the descriptions.

r-controlled vowel task cards
R-controlled Vowel Task cards are extremely versatile and will provide you students with great practice spelling words with r-controlled vowel syllables. The task cards are also available on Google Slides and a self-checking Google Form.
I have who has game for r-controlled vowels will give your whole class practice reading and spelling r-controlled vowels.
This set of 32 I have... Who has... cards will provide your entire class with engaging practice on reading words with r-controlled vowels. Try timing your class the first time and then playing again to beat their previous time.

Super Low Prep!

Incorporating games is a great way to keep your students engaged in learning.  This set has a variety of games that are great for partners, literacy centers, and small group work.  

This set includes a variety of low prep games that will provide your students with practice on the individual r-controlled vowels as well as mixed practice with all the r-controlled vowel syllables.

R-controlled vowel worksheets can help you assess students' understanding.

This set of r-controlled vowel worksheets with allow your students to show you all they know about r-controlled vowels.  Each worksheet is designed to be used as a formative or summative assessment.  There are plenty of r-controlled worksheets to choose from.  This allows you to differentiate and provide extra practice to those students who need it.

Digital versions are a great paperless alternative!

If going digital is more up your alley, I have you covered.  The task cards and most of the printable activities also come in digital format.  These activities are all set for Google Classroom.  Digital activities work great to add variety to literacy centers.  They are also an effective way to help students who are absent for an extended period of time.

R-Controlled vowels definitely get tricky.  If you are interested in grabbing the two freebies mentioned earlier in this post, just fill in your email below.  They will be delivered straight to your inbox.

This activity will keep your students engaged in learning about r-controlled vowel syllables both in isolation and in context.
Free r-controlled vowels worksheets

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Teaching blogger for elementary teachers

Mary Wingert, licensed educator (K-12 Special Ed. & 1-8 General Ed)

I started teaching in 1993.   I have taught special education, fifth grade, and fourth grade.  I moved to second grade in 2015, and I am still there today.  

I believe in teaching strategies that are effective, differentiated, and engaging. I am looking forward to building a community of teachers who feels the same!  Read more here.