River Otters - Tip Sheet

Cover page for the book titled "River Otters" showing two river otters leaning on each other in front of a small river


River Otters - Teacher Tip Sheet

Blue Series - Book 7 - River Otters

Grapheme/Phoneme Correspondence

Tips and Activities to Try

Introduced in This Book

  • <er>/er/ (e.g., otter)

Previously Introduced


  • all short vowel, <u>/o͝͝o/
  • <o>/ō/, <e>/ē/, <y>/ī/, <ee>/ē/, <ay>/ā/, <ai>/ā/


  • all single consonants and clusters
  • <ng>/ng/, <nk>/nk/
  • <s> /s/ and /z/, <c>/s/


  • <th>/TH/ voiced, <th>/th/ unvoiced, <ck>/k/, <ff>/f/, <zz>/z/, <ss>/s/, <ll>/l/, <sh>/sh/, <ch>/ch/, <qu>/kw/, <-tch>/ch/, <-dge>/j/, <wh>/wh/

Additional Concepts

  • <al> (<a> as short /ŏ/ before <l>)
  • <wa> (<a> as short /ŏ/ after <w>)

Key Concepts to Understand

  • the phoneme /r/ can change the quality of the preceding vowel (e.g., cat vs car and her vs hem)
  • the <er>s in “River Otters” are not suffixes (they are graphemes that are part of a base)
  • <-er> as a suffix is introduced in the Purple Series

Words and Phrases for Reading and Writing

Here is a list of words that can be used for phonemic awareness activities, reading, dictation, games cards, etc.:

  • her, germ, fern, herb, herd, perk, perm, term, verb, love, glove, shove, cover (see below in Orthographic Conventions/ Patterns and Generalisations for more information regarding these words)

Here are phrases that can be used for reading and/or dictation practice. These phrases can be combined to create sentences.

Noun Phrase

Verb Phrase

Prepositional Phrase

her pink gloves


on the covers

the green fern

loves the rain

next to the train tracks

a herd of sheep


by her hedge

her truck


by the dry grass


You can differentiate for your students by dropping some of the words in these phases (e.g., “the green fern” can just be “the fern”).

Orthographic Conventions/Patterns and Generalisations

Tips and Activities to Try

  • r-controlled vowel
  • <o> is often pronounced as /ŭ/ when followed by <v>  (e.g., “love”)

Key Concepts to Understand

  • rhotic vowels are often referred to as “bossy r” or “r-controlled vowel”
  • Note: not all English speakers are ‘rhotic’ (e.g., pronounce the /r/ in words with <ar>, <ir>, <er>, etc.)
  • historically <u>s were written as <v>s and therefore are often not found beside each other (e.g., love would have looked like lvve)
  • One job of marker <e> is to ensure that complete English words do not end in <v>s

Provide students with the following (unsorted) words:

/ŭ/ represented by <u>

/ŭ/ represented by <o>

bump, bunk, budge, fluff, clunk, shrunk

love, glove, shove, cover, hover, above,


Ask students to sort the above words based on these two categories. Have them investigate when <o> is used vs when <u> and pronounced as /ŭ/. Prompt: “Circle the grapheme that comes after the /ŭ/.”


Tips and Activities to Try

  • suffix <-ed> added to noun to form adjective

Key Concepts to Understand

  • suffix <-ed> can be attached to nouns to form adjectives
  • students need to be aware of the difference between <er> as part of a base and suffix <-er> (will be introduced in the Purple Series)

Activities to Try (can be done orally as the focus is not on decoding the base but rather attaching the suffix)

  1. generate nouns with students (e.g., shock, thrill, disgust, hood)
  2. students create word sums to build these adjectives (see Page 3 in Morphology Background Sheets)

e.g., shock + ed → shocked

Refer to Page 4 in Morphology Background Information Sheets when creating word sums with suffixing changes

High Frequency Words

Tips and Activities to Try

  • “love”

Key Concepts to Understand

  • see above explanation of the spelling of love

Comprehension Corner - River Otters

Vocabulary Development

  • How long do you think the pups stay with their moms? 

Making Connections

  • Do you like to do any of the things that river otters do?
  • What do river otters and human children have in common?


  • What do river otters love to do?
  • How do you think river otters can smell fish under the water?


  • Retell the story and state your favourite part.


Tip Sheet written by Shari Kudsia and Helen Maclean - April 2023 - ©SyllaSense Inc.