Many native English speaking ESL teachers are unfamiliar with R Controlled Vowels. However, these can be challenging for multilingual students. Many instructors teach R vowels as they are encountered. For example, when mother/father are words in a story or when first/third are used in a text, "er" and "ir" are taught respectively.
A picture of a car with a tree limb on top of it helps students remember this key sentence. Underline and review the R vowels and their pronunciations. The chart above illustrates the five basic spellings and sounds with beginning ESL words.
Three of the R vowels ("er", "ir and "ur") make the same sound /er/. This sentence contains five spellings which say /er/.
Her first nurse works early.
Some alternate spellings of R vowels include the following:
As seen above, when "w" precedes an R vowel, its sound changes. Because "w" is a vowel, it often affects an adjacent vowel. It may be necessary to point out this effect.
Some students will get confused by vowel team words and silent e words that contain a vowel followed by a "r". "Hear" has a vowel team followed by "r" so it says the long e sound. "Care" is a silent e word with "r" as the middle consonant. Therefor, "care" says the long a sound , not the /ar/ sound. A good technique is to contrast vowel team and silent e words with R vowel words.
Another little known English rule is when there is a double r, the preceding vowel is usually long. Examples include words such as:
carry marry berry cherry
Learning about R controlled vowels gives English learners another tool for decoding and pronouncing new English words. Although some students will pick up these sounds and apply them to new words, most students require direct instruction.
*The R Vowel Word Families anchor chart provides words for reading practice for beginning reading students.