R controlled vowel sounds (/ar/, /er/, /ir/, /or/, and /ur/) are tricky! So it’s essential that we teach each of them in isolation before adding in more.
In this post, we’re going to dive straight into /or/ words (divided into lists by number of syllables) but I’m also sharing all of my best tips and tricks for teaching “or” and how to keep your students engaged with or words phonics activities.
Or Words (One-Syllable Words)
Or Words (Two-Syllable Words)
Or Words (Three-Syllable Words)
Or Words Phonics Exceptions
Teaching Or Words to Students
The key to teaching or words to your students is helping them understand what r-controlled words are and where they might find the different /or/ sounds before introducing some engaging or words phonics activities.
So let’s look at each of those individually.
1. What are R-Controlled Vowels?
An R-controlled word, also known as an “r-controlled vowel” or “bossy R” word, is a type of word in the English language where the pronunciation of a vowel sound is influenced or “controlled” by the letter ‘R’ that follows it.
Basically, these words don’t have the traditional short sound /o/ or follow the normal short /o/ pattern because the presence of the “R” alters the pronunciation.
And since these words violate all of the rules for short vowel sounds (and don’t sound like long vowels either), they can be very difficult for young children to master.
There are five common R-controlled vowels in English:
In words with “ar,” the ‘r’ affects the vowel sound, making it more pronounced. For example, in the word “car,” the ‘a’ is pronounced as a combination of the /k/ sound and the /ar/ sound, resulting in the /kar/ sound.
In words with “er,” the ‘r’ modifies the pronunciation of the preceding vowel. For instance, in the word “her,” the ‘e’ is pronounced as the /er/ sound.
The presence of “ir” in a word influences the vowel sound. In the word “bird,” the ‘i’ is pronounced as the /ur/ sound.
When “or” appears in a word, it changes the way the vowel is pronounced. For example, in the word “fork,” the ‘o’ is pronounced as the /or/ sound.
In words with “ur,” the ‘r’ affects the preceding vowel sound. For instance, in the word “fur,” the ‘u’ is pronounced as the /ur/ sound.
And while it is important for our kids to learn them all, they need to be taught one at a time so as not to confuse them.
2. Where can the /or/ sounds be found in words?
The quick answer…anywhere!
The “or” blend can be found at the beginning of a word, in the middle of a word, at the end of a word, in the first syllable, in the last syllable, following single letters or consonant blends.
Helping students recognize that the location is irrelevant (most of the time) is an important piece of the learning puzzle.
Of course, now that I’ve made that statement, let me also point out that the most obvious exception to this rule is when the “or” follows the letter ‘w.’
In this case, the “or” doesn’t make the traditional /or/ sound…it makes the /er/ sound.
3. Or Words Phonics Activities and Games
The key to getting students interested in practicing new skills is making it fun!
You can click the image above (or click here) to be taken directly to the activity bundle!
I know this seems obvious, but sometimes, we forget that just adding movement or an opportunity to color or draw a picture gets students engaged.
So here are some easy-to-implement ideas that are sure to entice your young learners.
Cut and Paste Activities
Phonics worksheets are always an option for practicing skills, but if the phonic worksheets are NOT interactive in some way, your students will HATE them.
So if you want to incorporate worksheets, opt for those that encourage drawing, coloring, cutting, or pasting.
I know, as a teacher, cut and paste activities can be annoying.
It never fails that someone loses an integral piece that is inevitably hidden beneath another piece.
Trust me, it’s ALWAYS beneath another piece.
Or Word Search
Print out the “or” word search included in the bundle. Students will simply circle all of the words to solve the puzzle.
And the best part…there’s an answer key!
You could also use this same concept and make a crossword puzzle that is age-appropriate for your classroom.
I know I talk about BINGO a lot, but honestly, you just can’t lose with this engaging activity!
To make it ideal for practicing “or” words, print out the BINGO boards included in the bundle.
Then following traditional BINGO rules, the first person to get three in a row (and of course call out “BINGO”), wins!
Memory is ALWAYS a winner with kids and it is an excellent way to have them practice their new “or” words phonics skills.
You can make simple word cards using the “or” word list and then have students try to find the matching word, or you can have students create their own memory game.
They can either write each new word twice (one time on two different cards to create a match) or they can write the word and then draw a matching image!
Trust me when I tell you, they would LOVE having the opportunity to create their own game.
Then you could laminate their memory game for long-lasting fun!
Once your students have made their very own memory card sets, you can encourage them to group the word cards into word families.
This will encourage them to tap into their understanding of the /or/ words phonics lessons you’ve been working on as well as the spelling patterns and individual letters they see in each word.
In theory, this should help them make the connection between the different sounds they hear and the/or/ words they see.
This is an awesome name for a super-simple activity.
Simply pass out blank paper to students before having them fold their paper into 4 sections.
You will then call out four specific “or” words, and students will write one word at the top of each square.
When they have written the appropriate “or” words, they get to draw an illustration of what they think that word looks like.
Once students have had a certain amount of time to complete their masterpieces, review the correct spelling of the “or” words, and allow students to share their works with the class.
But why is OR words phonics instruction important?
Students (just like adults) really like knowing why they are learning things.
The truth is, we all want to know that we aren’t just wasting our time learning meaningless and irrelevant information.
So give students an inside look into the progression from phonemic awareness and phonics instruction to reading and fluency.
Help them understand that if they want to become strong readers, they have to learn short vowels, long vowels, and r-controlled vowels.
Revealing that there is a specific sequence for teaching letters, sounds, and those letter-sound relationships before they can become independent readers and writers will give students the desire to do what they must to build a strong foundation!
We want students to feel confident reading new words and texts on their own, but this doesn’t just happen with repeated exposure to words.
It requires laying the necessary groundwork and introducing words in a systematic way.
Phonics instruction contributes to reading fluency, and this fluency leads to confidence that will be carried with our students forever.