R-Controlled Vowels

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Arg! You’ve taught all the basic letter sounds, maybe some blends and digraphs. Your students can read 3-letter words with short vowel sounds swiftly and are sorting out long vowels, too. But then, bam. Smack an R after a vowel and you can’t call that long or short.

The letter R alters the vowel sound enough (at least in American English) to warrant a separate lesson in pronunciation. Here are 120+ printable word cards to help you teach r-vowels. They’re divided into 6 sets: AR, ER, IR, OR, UR and AIR-rhyming words.

The 6 sets of cards represent 4 different vowel sounds. AR, OR, and AIR are decidedly different sounds. Although ER, IR, UR make the same sound, we are listing them as separate sets for the purpose of teaching spelling patterns. Those three could be combined into one lesson.


6 Printable Word Sets of R-Controlled Vowels

Set 1 – AR Words

  • 26 word cards
  • ordered by word length
  • only one syllable words
  • prints on 3 pages

Word list:
ark, art, car, far, jar, bark, Bart, Carl, card, dark, fart, farm, harp, lard, Mark, park, part, star, tarp, yarn, chart, quark, march, smart, shark, start

Download Set 1 – AR Words

Set 2 – ER Words

  • 17 word cards
  • includes ten 2-syllable words
  • prints on 2 pages

Word list:
her, herb, herd, fern, Bert, baker, clerk, over, after, Amber, better, flower, finger, sister, tiger, winter, iceberg

Download Set 2 – ER Words

Set 3 – IR Words

  • 17 word cards
  • includesconsonant blends and digraphs
  • includes two 2-syllable words
  • prints on 2 pages

Word list:
fir, sir, bird, dirt, girl, firm, stir, birth, dirty, first, skirt, shirt, swirl, smirk, third, twirl, thirsty

Download Set 3 – IR Words

Set 4 – OR Words

  • 25 word cards
  • includes consonant blends and digraphs
  • mainly 1-syllable words, only three 2-syllable words
  • prints on 3 pages

Word list:
or, for, born, cord, cork, corn, horn, form, fork, more, port, worn, sore, forty, north, porch, torch, sport, storm, snort, short, store, story, scorch, airport

Download Set 4 – OR Words

Set 5 – UR Words

  • 16 word cards
  • mainly 4- and 5-letter words
  • prints on 2 pages

Word list:
fur, burn, burp, blur, curl, hurt, purr, turn, curly, burnt, burst, purse, slurp, church, purple, Saturn

Download Set 5 – UR Words

Set 6 – AIR Words

  • 28 word cards
  • 3 spelling patterns + miscellaneous rhyming words
  • prints on 4 pages

Word list:
ARE: bare, care, dare, fare, blare, flare, share, stare, square
AIR: air, fair, hair, lair, pair, chair, stair
EAR: bear, pear, tear, wear, swear
OTHER /ɛr/ spellings: err, heir, prayer, their, they’re, there, where

Download Set 6 – AIR Words

R-Controlled Vowels
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