Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sound Catalyst - The Letter R

Good readers (and spellers) understand the letter R's role in words. Yep, R stands by itself in words such as rat and ridiculous, but give that letter a chance and it will influence and confuse. Even alone it creates a problem because many children have learned that R has the "er" sound. No, it has the rrr sound which is close but not the same. We say rat not er- at.  But back to how R influences other letters.
  •  Combine R with an e, u  or i and  you will discover that er, ur, and ir  are all pronounced "er" That is difficult enough for some children to remember while reading. It becomes a major hurdle in spelling because a child can't figure out what to write by sounding it out. She just has to remember when to use  ir, er, or ur in the middle of a word. That memory is probably a visual memory which doesn't help if you have a poor visual memory for print, or if you've never seen the word. Examples: fern-firm, skirt - spurt, nerd-nurse, curl-girl 
    • Children with dyslexia often have a difficult time remembering that er -- the suffix (at the end of a word) is spelled er - runner, writer, player.  I have had children protest, "Why can't it be ir?  How do we know it isn't ur?"  Remember dyslexia often requires direct, uncomplicated explanations and lots of reminders and repetition before the rule is understood and remembered.
  • Put an a in front of R and you have the sound ar as in star.  This means you really cannot sound out the word star letter by letter. This digraph  is difficult for some children because they think it is just another er sound that doesn't look like er.
  • Combine with R and you have or: for, tore, adore ---- unless there is a w in the mix, and then you have word and world.  
  • Speaking of Ws,  or we should say not speaking, because W becomes silent before an R: wreck, write, and wrinkle.
  • What if the group gets bigger ? Ar with an e often sounds like air: care, hare, or dare
  • Ir with an e becomes fire, sire or retire.
  • Children learn that ee is pronounced long e, but put an R into that group and you get: deer, peer, or cheer.
  • Ai has the long A sound such as  paid, maid, raid.  Add an R and you now say: pair, chair and hair.
Obviously, children should not be taught all these rules at one time. I posted this to remind parents that the letter R can make reading and spelling very confusing for a child with reading problems. Sometimes, when they are having difficulty, it help to remind them that R is rather a pushy, demanding letter.

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