Most native English speakers are unaware of R-Controlled Vowels. However, these can be troublesome for English language learners. Teach R-Vowels as students encounter them in class. For example, when mother, father, sister and brother are taught, teach 'er' says /er/. Likewise, when shirt and skirt are taught, teach 'ir' says /er/. This sentence contains five R-controlled vowels which say /er/ is
Her first nurse works early.
A good warmup sentence to introduce the R-controlled vowels is -
The storm hurt her first car.
A picture of a car with a tree limb on top of it helps students remember the key sentence. Underline and review the r vowels and their pronunciations.
This chart shows the five basic spellings and sounds. I find that students often like to learn each separately, in a systematic manner.
When the letter 'w' precedes an R-controlled vowel , the sound changes. Students are often familiar with the words: war, word, and work. Since many of my students are refugees, the word 'war' is common in their vocabulary.
So what about the words like 'hear' or 'fire'? 'Hear' has a long vowel team followed by 'r'. Also, 'care' has a silent e long vowel followed by a 'r'. I contrast these by talking about hear vs her and care vs car.
Another little known English rule is when there is a double r - the vowel is usually long. This includes words such as carry, marry, berry, and cherry.