The /er/ sound, like many sounds with alternate spellings, can be tricky. Lots of practice helps! Here’s a quick way to introduce alternate spellings for /er/, plus /er/ worksheets and other tools you can use to provide the practice your students need.
Start by having students listen for the sound. Read a list of /er/ words and ask students what they have in common. If they don’t notice the common /er/ sound, try repeating the words stressing the /er/ sound. If they still can’t tell, point out the common /er/ sound.
Explain that there are several ways to spell the /er/ sound. Write these on the board:
Then show students examples of words for each spelling by writing them under the correct spelling heading:
- er—her, verb
- ir—bird, thirst
- or—word, worth
- ur—turn, hurt
- ear—yearn, learn
As a class, brainstorm other words with the /er/ sound. Help students sort them by spelling and add them to the correct column on the board.
Another way to practice sorting words is to have students do a spelling sort. Set up stations around the room. At each station have a paper with one /er/ spelling on it. Have students think of words with the /er/ sound and write it on the paper with that spelling. When you are done, review the lists. Write the words on the board or a chart, correcting any misspellings.
ER worksheets and other ways to practice alternate spellings
When I teach alternate spellings, I have alternate activities too! From worksheets to games to cootie catchers, I find a good mix of resources helps students get enough practice and the right kinds of practice for each student.
Worksheets are handy for individual work, phonics/literacy stations, and homework/skill consolidation. ER worksheets can include:
- Cut and match
- Say and trace
- Sort the words
- Choose the correct spelling
- Write your own sentences
- Match the meaning
- Synonyms and antonyms for words
- Dictation sentences
- Reading and spelling multisyllabic words
In addition, /er/ fluency charts help assess a student’s fluency. You can use them 1-1 with students or teach them how to use them on their own with a timer.
Stay tuned, my worksheet packs are coming soon and include word posters and sound cards to keep /er/ words in front of students regularly. Plus worksheet packs include games like roll and read, 4-in-a-row, tic tac toe and cootie catchers. Games are great for small group work, partner work or they can be used independently. Many games can be sent home with instructions if students have somebody to play with.
ER cootie catchers
Cootie catchers (or fortune tellers or chatterboxes) are one of my students’ favorite practice tools. You can see how to incorporate them into your classroom in this cootie catcher phonics practice video.
Like worksheets, cootie catchers have many uses.
- Let students work with them on their own for independent practice, recording the words they uncover.
- Have students work with partners, one working the cootie catcher and the other selecting and reading words.
- Put them in your literacy station for students to use alone or in pairs.
- Send them home with instructions for additional practice and skill consolidation outside of school.
These Cootie Catchers for Alternate Spellings (include /er/ along with a number of other sounds). Your cootie catcher pack includes 26 different cootie catchers ready to print along with a word Overview Sheet, and instructions for making and using cootie catchers.
There are lots of phonics games or ways to adapt games to practice phonics. For example, Bingo can be adapted to practice a number of phonics skills, including alternate spellings of /er/.
Spin-a-Word Phonics Games (including /er/) are another favorite. Sometimes called 4-in-a-row because students try to get their color in a row four times, students get practice reading and writing words with the target sound.
ER worksheets, posters, games, and cootie catchers are all part of my teaching tool kit when it comes to teaching the alternate spellings for /er/. What do you need to round out your tool kit?
The Phoneme /er/ Activity Pack is coming to the Top Notch Teaching Store soon as well as other phoneme packs.
Practice spelling with games
I love to use spelling games because I don’t think you can ever have enough. You’re invited to join me for the spelling game challenge! Here’s how it works: Sign up, and each day, for five days, I’ll email you a new spelling game along with a short explanation on how to use it. So go ahead and bring some fun back into spelling.