This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching grade K-3 students about the r-controlled vowel sound. It is designed to complement the Bossy R topic on BrainPOP Jr.

Before you begin, we recommend screening the following BrainPOP Jr. phonics movies for review: Short Vowels, Long E , and Long A. In the Long E movie, Annie and Moby introduce these vowel sounds and explore different vowel patterns that form each sound. We suggest turning on closed captioning while watching any movie to support children’s development of word and sound recognition skills and to build phonemic awareness.

Remind children that vowels (a, e, i, o, u, and y) can have a short or long sound depending on other letters in the word and the pattern they make. Review short and long “a” vowel sounds together by writing and saying words that make each sound (e.g., cat, cane, tan, tame).  

Write the word cart on the board. Point out that the letter “r” after the “a” causes the vowel to make a different sound than the short or long vowel “a” sound–it’s a  “bossy r” because it bosses the vowel it follows and changes its sound. Together, brainstorm words with an a followed by a bossy r: park, lark, shark.

Now review short and long e sounds: fee, mess, need, kept. Ask children what they think happens to the “e” sound when it’s followed by a bossy r. It makes a new “e” sound. Share some examples and ask children for others: herd, serve, under, clerk.  Repeat with the “i” sound. Encourage children to brainstorm words with long and short “i” sounds, such as pie, thing, sigh and bring. Now give examples of i words with bossy r or have children suggest some (e.g., girl, twirl, shirt,bird). 

The word fog has a short “o” sound. The word toad has a long “o” sound. Now share o words that have a bossy r: born, torn, worn or horse. Ask how the bossy r changes the o vowel sound in these words. 

Challenge children to review short and long “u” sounds like tub, tube, cub and cube. Now have them listen to the word curb. It has a different vowel sound. Can they think of other examples of a bossy r changing the sound of the vowel u?

Finally, have children note that in some cases, bossy r makes different vowels sound the same. Model this by writing these words on the board as you say them aloud: learn, twirl, and turn

Remind children that whenever they come across a new word, they should try pronouncing it in different ways until it sounds right. When they read, it helps to take note of any r that follows a vowel: that’s a clue that the vowel sound might be different. Encourage children to keep a notebook of new words and to read and write every day. 


Filed as:  Bossy R, BrainPOP Jr., phonics