Introducing R-Controlled Vowels with a Mentor Text

A Day At Berns Family Farm is a great text that features R-Conrolled Vowels. Use this text to introduce the new phonics skills with your students and practice decoding strategies.
Hello and WELCOME! Thank you for joining me, and The Reading Crew for another Mentor Text link up. Each blog, will be sharing a mentor text lesson, using a book we've chosen. The lesson will model a vocabulary, comprehension or writing skill. 

A Day at the Berns Family Farm: A Book of Phonics was written by Laura Hudgens, and just published in March. So it is HOT OFF THE
PRESSES! This is a cute story about a family, and all that goes on during the day, on their farm. I think what I loved most about this book is that it was written by an educator, who has worked with K-3rd graders for 16 years. In the note to readers, she writes "This book was created for the student or child that is learning to read and recognize diphthongs." All throughout the book, the vowel teams, r-controlled vowels, and diphthongs are highlighted within the words to help the reader identify them while reading. In full disclosure, I find the highlighted text to be slightly distracting, HOWEVER, my students enjoyed how easy it was to identify the sounds. 

When I introduce a new phonics skill, I try to provide my students with as many concrete "triggers" as I can. I aim for a text, a visual image, and a physical artifact. When teaching R-Controlled Vowels, I now reach for this book! Even though the book highlights various vowel sounds, the title perfectly lends itself to trigger the sounds for R-Controlled Vowels. My students help me come up with images for our phonics skills. This year, my 2nd graders picked a pirate for the /ar/ sound, popcorn for the /or/ sound and a grumpy dog for the er, ir, ur /er/ sounds.  These images are something they can visualize to help them recall the correct sounds. Finally, I try to pick a physical artifact. I found pirate patches at the party store for our /ar/ week, and during our /or/ word study, we popped popcorn. Even more than an image trigger, the multi-sensory experience connected with these fun memories help to develop a strong sound association for my students.

I believe it is important to involve our students in the process of creating reference resources for themselves.  So, we worked together to make this anchor chart that displays the trigger images and words that match the phonics pattern. It is simple, not terribly fancy and something the students can use to help them when reading and writing. However, I have terrible anchor chart envy. I am no artist (I traced the pictures on the anchor chart), and my handwriting skills are not worthy of being on display! So, I created these digital anchor charts. While I illustrated our classroom anchor chart, my students had these personal charts so they could develop their own word list. These charts are stored in their reference folder (a folder that goes back and forth between school and home to provide help when needed).

digital anchor chart to display on board and complete with your studentsWhen teaching R-Controlled Vowels visuals can help trigger the correct sound. Use this visual anchor chart with your students, and brainstorm words for each vowel sound

Modeling, exposure and practice help to yield some of the
best results with our students. One way to provide consistent modeling and exposure for your students, is to instruct them on how to identify vowel sounds in words. Vowel sounds are the key to both encoding (spelling) and decoding. Each time we introduce a new phonics pattern we can give our students practice with these skills. As we know, vowel sounds dictate the syllables in a word. If a student is able to understand this, they will be more successful readers and writers.

After reading A Day at the Berns Family Farm, you can lead your students through this decoding practice, featuring words from the book.  Then, with this list of newly acquired words, your students could write their own "Bossy R" story.

Not sure how to explicitly teach your students how to decode an unknown multi-syllabic word? Following this step by step procedure might help them, when sounding out the whole word is just too overwhelming:
You can also check out THIS post/video on how to decode ANY multi-syllable word! you are looking for more practice for your students, this FREE R-Controlled Interactive Mini Book focuses on ar and or phonics skills.  The notebook is made of half page foldables that introduce twice the content, in half the space. And because time is precious, there is limited cutting and pasting! Your students will have picture clues (picked by my students) to help recall the correct sound each vowel sound makes. Additionally, the list of words I generated with my students, has been included in a completed "anchor chart" reference page. Your students can practice encoding words with Bossy R sounds, as well as decode multi-syllablic words that feature R-Controlled syllables. Lastly, your students can cut, sort and glue picture cards identifying the vowel sound in each word. This resource is full of explicit practice perfect to include in your teacher guided whole class or small reading groups, while the R-Controlled concepts are still "new learning".
If you are looking for the ar, or, er, ir, ur notebook, you can get the FULL version for just $1.00 your students become more comfortable with R-Controlled vowels, it is time to release some of the control back to the students. You can first do that through the use of collaborative centers - where your students work together - two minds are better than one. Together, your students can:
  • assemble puzzles featuring R-Controlled vowels. 
  • identify which word is spelled correctly, using a "what looks right" strategy
  • write more stories using "Bossy R" words
  • complete a word search full of R-Controlled words
And finally, because our students deserve it... some FUN! After a few weeks, I like to incorporate a little review, by playing a game with spiraled phonics skills. My students love a good BINGO-like game that encourages quick and accurate reading of previous taught phonics skills. Now that our students have had plenty of practice, it is OK to the put the pressure on, and keep the pace of the game up. Hopefully, a few weeks out, our students are recognizing the vowel patterns more quickly and decoding the words accurately.
 Thank you for stopping by and reading about how you can introduce new phonics skills using a mentor text. Our students love being read to, and by sharing literature that reinforces the skills we are teaching, our students will acquire the new skills with ease. I am always interested in find new ways to introduce phonics skills to my struggling readers, so if you have a book, or multi-sensory concrete artifact you would like to share, please leave it in the comments!

If you are looking for more mentor text lessons, you can check out other SPRING and SUMMER texts here. 

This post was part of a mentor text link up hosted by The Reading CrewOn each blog, a lesson using a book and focusing on a vocabulary, comprehension or writing skill has been featured. The posts and resources from The Reading Crew, never disappoint, and this time was no different. Check out all the posts below
An InLinkz Link-up

How to Effectively Instruct Sight Words in Context

 Hello, and welcome to the third (and last) post in my "Teaching Sight Words" series. If you are just joining me, I have recently posted about making your sight word instruction explicit and hands on, as well as 10 amazing literacy centers, you could implement tomorrow. Today, I would like to share with you, how you can take your sight words from isolated instruction and practice, to real context application.

In my small groups, I am challenged with having 25 minutes with each group. Now of course, I want my students to practice their reading as much as possible. However, skill work is just as important, so they can practice reading accurately. As a result, in one (maybe two) sessions per week, the majority of my focus is just on sight words. A lesson looks something like this:

When the students first come in, we may play a sight word game called Teacher vs. Students, my friend Jenn, from Reading in Room 11 shared about the game HERE. It is a very engaging game, that the students always enjoy (because they always win)! Otherwise, they will practice some word identification with their sight word tents (you can read about them in my last post, #1). These are great bell-ringers, or warm-up activities to shake out some cobwebs, or for you to complete an informal assessment.

Then, I will walk them through the steps of our multi-sensory "red" word routine. You can read more about this lesson structure in my first post.

Next, I will begin to bridge the connection between isolation, and context by using a pocket chart, with sentences and missing sight words. The students work together to complete the sentences, before I ask them to read aloud the sentences to a partner. Again, this is a great opportunity to take notes on how the students are transferring the words from isolation, to context.

After that, I introduce a text. I try very hard to find a text that provides repetition of the sight word(s) we just practiced. I am very lucky that my school district has a subscription to Reading A-Z. This website has a wide selection of leveled texts, that also support repetitive sight word reading. In addition to the leveled book library, they also have High-Frequency word books. Unfortunately, there is no way to search for a sight word, so I usually do a lot of clicking and searching. Thankfully, I have found it to be (VERY) worth my time so I can give my students the support they need with reading sight words in text.

Writing paper from Teaching in the Tongass

Finally, I have created this sight word "homework" template. I customize the word each week to provide more simple sentences, and fill in the blank sentences for my students to read. You can grab my EXCLUSIVE BLOG FREEBIE template here. With any remaining time, my students can complete this activity. Or, they may take it home for practice, or I have used it as a bell ringer the following day. No matter how I use it, when completed, I keep this page in their sight word folder for review.

After this lesson, I progress monitor my students on weekly basis. I check their words in isolation, but I'm always cognizant of how they are doing with reading sight words in text. I check in with informal reading conferences, when my students read aloud to me, formal running records and fluency assessments. I also open a Padlet for my students to post sight words they have found in a text. When I am working one-on-one with a student, my other students are tasked with reading independently. While reading, I post 2-4 sight words I want them to look out for. If they find one of the words in their book, they need to add it to the Padlet with their name. I just leave my iPad open, and the students can add their word without interrupting my time with another child.

For more exposure, and to help sink these new sight words into memory, we will continue to play games like Road Race, Jenga and sort our Cheetah Words.
The growth I have seen with this predictable lesson outline has really helped my students make great, LASTING gains with their sight words. Sometimes this foundational skill can be difficult to teach and plan, so I hope I have given you some ideas to add to your tool-box.

10 Engaging Centers to Improve Sight Word Recognition

Welcome back! This is Part 2 of 3, of exploring new ways to teach sight words. Last time, I shared how to effectively and explicitly teach sight words using a multi-sensory approach to ensure we are engaging all our diverse learners. If you missed that post, you can check it out HERE
This week, I would like to share 10 of my favorite ways to practice sight words. Now that your students have been explicitly (and systematically) introduced to their new words, it is time for them to be exposed to these words over and over again. I have read that it takes approximately 30 exposures, for an adult to commit something to their long term memory - I can believe that it may take more for a child, especially a struggling reader to commit these words to automatic memory. The following activities can be used in a teacher guided instructional group, independent or collaborative center, and some can even be sent HOME for your students to practice. 
Please be sure to make your way through this post. There are several FREEBIES included, and some are exclusive to YOU, my loyal teacher friends. don't know if sight word practice could get any easier than this,
and my students love it! All you need to do, is take an index card, fold it in half and write a word on the card. I do this with 4-6 words at a time. You can even have your students make their own 'word tents' in an independent center, so they are ready when they get to your group. To start, I call out a word, and the students hold up the card that matches. Once I see that they are correctly identifying the words, I up the game. I will use a word in a sentence. Now the students can hear how the word is used in context, and they need to be careful listeners to see what word I use, so they can hold it up. You can switch this up again, by spelling the word (or singing it, if you gave it a tune) - then students would need to hold the word up and verbally identify it.
Last time, I focused on using multi-sensory strategies to clearly new sight words. However, engaging your diverse learners during practice will continue to help solidify these words in their long term memory. We cannot diminish the fun behind using play-doh or wikki stix to spell sight words. I'm not sure if there is a better way to clean our tables than to whip out the shaving cream and let our kiddos go to town writing their words.  And there is no doubt, my students LOVE using stamps or an old key board to practice too. These are all amazing, and low-prep ideas to keep your literacy centers fresh! My students also like to use this FREE sight word mat, to practice reading, spelling, and drawing their sight words. It has editable sections, so you can customize it to fit your words for the week. You may choose to put this in a dry erase pocket so you can reuse it again and again. Or, you can make copies for each student, to later add to a practice folder, and eventually send HOME.
When I was a kid, I loved puzzles. I'm finding that my students are not much different than I was. To create this center/intervention activity, you can just cut up flashcards. To create mine, I typed up my sight word lists, and increased the spacing between each letter. Then, I printed, laminated and got to cutting. The increased space, allowed me to cut between each letter easily.  It would be tight cutting if you were to use standard spacing. If you use Dolch Sight Words, you can check out my already made puzzles HERE (page 2 and 3 have each level listed separately). This activity would help to reinforce sight word spelling (visual). If you had each student spell/read their would aloud, it would also support your auditory learners, and the hands on manipulation of building the word supports your tactile learners. These puzzles are also a great activity to send HOME with your students, so they can keep practicing. I have sent these puzzles home with my students, and they can send me a picture of the completed puzzles via ClassDojo.
The Sight Word Tents (#1) might be the easiest activity to prep, but for my students, Road Race is the most fun! Remember when I said it takes 30 repetitions (give or take) for someone to commit something to long term memory? Well this game will get you to 30 repetitions with ease! Road Race is a two player game, and to play, you will need:
  • a two column board with (the same) 6-10 words on each side, arranged in a different order. 
  • sight word flash cards
  • 2 game pieces have created this editable template for you, so you can customize the words (or math facts) for your students. Once you have your game board all set, your students will begin flipping one card at a time. They will be looking for the first word in their column. As the cards are flipped, the students must read them aloud. When they see their first matching word, they can move their game piece. They only move ONE WORD AT A TIME. Once the cards in the deck have all been read, they are used again...and again...and again. Because students can only move one word at a time, they end up re-reading the sight words several times before the game is over. The first student to make it to the end of their "road" is the winner. Again, you can ask students to spell the word (especially if it isn't automatic recall) or use the word in a sentence before moving their game piece. If you are interested in seeing video directions, I included a video tutorial in the freebie above! Also, I have created various Road Race games for special holidays and themes.  When bundled together, they will supply you with a full year's worth of Road Race centers. While the words featured are not sight words, they are words my students like to use in holiday/themed writing, so my game cards double as a word wall when writing.  

If you are any where on social media, you have probably seen teachers playing Jenga to help review skills. Well, this wonderful idea was made popular by the one and only, Hope King of Elementary Shenanigans. In her post, she uses a giant Jenga set to review math facts with her students. However, she explains how she adapted her Jenga blocks to work for any subject or skill. She just painted the ends of the blocks! GENIUS!! I just had to try this idea out with my students. But, rather than getting fancy, I just quickly colored the ends of my Jenga blocks with permanent market.
#notperfect #notreallyeventhatpretty #itstillgotthejobdone #wehadfun

I colored my blocks to match my sight word game cards, which are color coded according to my district sight word lists (Not Dolch or Fry, but a mix of high frequency words). Similar to Hope's game, when a student wanted to pull a block, they needed to pull a sight word card from the coordinating color pile. But, if you know anything about Hope, or any Ron Clark Academy teacher, teaching with a sense of urgency is HUGE - no time for down time. So to get all students involved, in each turn, I had the student pulling the block, and identifying the sight word, read it aloud to the group.  At this time, the other players would use a white board to write the word down. They would have to show the first student, who would confirm their answers before pulling the block. This is truly a great game to play in a teacher guided or independent center. This would also be an easy game to share with families at a back to school night, so it could be played at HOME as well.
Allowing our students to play can be great for social development; they learn to work cooperatively, problem solve, and express themselves effectively. Connecting play with specific learning outcomes can maximize the impact the games have. During my small group interventions, I play a lot of games with my students. Many of my students do not like reading, because it is HARD. Playing games has been an effective tool to take the pressure off of reading, but continue practicing skills. As I try to teach with as much "Hope King urgency" as possible, I do not like to spend a lot of time going over the rules of a game. I aim for consistency.
My student play these same few games throughout the year, and it really minimizes the amount of time I have to spend going over directions. I can also easily assign these as a partner activity during an assessment time, and I trust that my students can play by themselves. I usually start by introducing Sight Word Memory, and Sight Word Go Fish.  These are two games my students often come to me knowing how to play. They are played just like the games you played when you were a kid, with sight words instead of pictures or numbers. Next I introduce BAM! and ZAP!, which are really the same game, just with a different name. I really like this popular game because it is hard for a student to "get out" which means a lot of practice. Finally I introduce the game Don't Feed the Raccoon. I love this game from The Stay at Home Educator, it is another game that makes it difficult for a student get out. If you are interested in using any of these games in your small groups, or centers, check out my top downloaded FREEBIE that is full of games to play. If you would like sight word cards to add to your games, I have Dolch and phonics based game cards available for you HERE. If you print two copies of these cards, they are a very easy activity to send HOME for extra practice!
This is such a FUN GAME! I first stumbled upon this game on Pinterest, as suggested by, Hurray for Full Day Kindergarten. I have played this game when pushing into another teacher's classroom.  We gave each of the students a sight word (we made sentence strip headbands, so we could tape a flashcard to it). The students did not know what sight word they had. The students needed to go around the room, read their friends' sight words and record them on a class chart. By process of elimination, they were able to figure out what word was taped to their head. Such a simple game, but man did our kids have fun with this one. I have tried this in small groups too. It wasn't as much fun without the hustle, but the kids enjoyed it. With only 5 (or so) students, they were able to eliminate words in their head, and a recording sheet wasn't needed. students do not do well in chaos. I do not mean that your classroom is chaotic, I just mean that kiddos thrive in predicable and consistent environments. We can only control our classroom, so we certainly have to maximize our instruction when our students our with us. And we certainly cannot control what goes on at home. We can only hope that our students keep practicing at home, to up those exposures, and commit these words to long term memory. One way to provide some consistency is to share ideas at a back to school night and share the same ideas (plus some new) during parent teacher conferences. The more our families hear our message, the more likely they will use our strategies. Additionally, I have found that families like consistency as much as our students do. By having predicable expectations of my students' families, it has increased at HOME participation a ton. For instance, at the beginning of the school year, I was sending home a variety of ways to practice sight words. I didn't want my students to get bored; I thought I was doing a good thing.  As it turned out, I wasn't getting a lot of at home participation. I switched things up and sent home the same activity for a few weeks, and the participation increased. Let me be real for a second, it is not that my students' families didn't care, I'm sure it's that they are busy - I know I'm a busy mom! Busy cooking dinner, doing other homework, running kids to practice or dance lessons... it was not fair of me to ask the families to learn a new activity to practice sight words week after week. I still send home some of the activities. For example, when their child starts a new sight word list, they get a set of Go Fish cards. I hope they get used, but if they don't at least I don't know it!
Now, my students take home a Bubble Gum practice sheet. On the front, a family member just needs to quiz their child on the sight words, and indicate with a check if it was read correctly. On the back, are ten boxes (one for each word on the front) where the student can write a sentence or draw a picture clue of the word. Grab this EXCLUSIVE BLOG FREEBIE now.

This is another REALLY low-prep practice activity, and an idea that can be shared with your students' families for HOME practice. All you need is a set of flash cards (words written on index cards). Then you stick these puppies EVERYWHERE. If you have a student that wants to use the iPad during centers, they first have to read the password taped to it. Does your student want to use the bathroom? Read the password! Does someone want to ask you a question at the most inopportune time? (gasp! Not my kids!) Give them a password to read first. How Wee Learn shared a tip of how to make this idea work at home. She put words on her stairs, and her little kiddo enjoyed reading them while going up the stairs. How creative!
More than anything, I want my students to love reading! But, I also want them to be careful readers, so they can be thinkers and imaginers. So how do you teach a six-seven year old that they need to read just these words quickly? Of course, some words cannot be decoded, so it is great when a student recognizes they can skip that strategy. Other words can be decoded, but they appear so frequently in text, we want our students to be able to breeze over them. We all have that "one" kid whose ONLY strategy is to "sound it out." This need to over-decode can cripple a student's understanding of a text. For these kiddos, I explain that the (red) words we practice need to be recognized and read as fast was they would their name. My students have helped construct the "cheetah board" which gives them a concrete visual/tracking of how they are doing. This activity has been named "cheetah words" by my students because whenever you ask a kid, "Give me an example of a fast animal." They always say cheetah. I have created a BLOG EXCLUSIVE freebie for you, but feel free to use this idea in your classroom, and allow your students to select the animals on their board.
To use this freebie, you will just flash through some sight words with your student, and sort the cards into automatic (cheetah), almost there (lion), and still practicing (hippo). I have used the space on the side to tally the number of words in each pile. The running record of tallies helps to show the student their progress. I usually keep the "cheetah" words in my group for about a week, first I sort, then I let the student sort where the words will go. When I feel they are confident (and honest) in their independent sort, I let them work with a buddy, and take their sort HOME. Parents have also enjoyed this activity because it is easy, and some have commented that it helped them to realize just how automatic sight words need to be.

I hope these ideas are useful to you, your students and/or your children. All of these activities are ones that can be prepped in little time, so you can start using them next week, if not tomorrow! If you have any questions about these student approved centers, please let me know! I am happy to help in any way I can. If you use any of these ideas, please check back with me so I know how they went.
If you are looking for more ideas, be sure to follow my Pinterest board dedicated to sight words. I am always on the hunt for new and fresh ideas to keep my students engaged.

Check out these related posts:
Establishing Meaningful Word Work Routines

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top