Spelling Rules for Base Words

English has a lot of spelling conventions, or rules, that must be followed when building a base word. Being aware of these, especially as a teacher, helps you understand more about why words are spelled the way they are. This page is presented in the order I teach the skills. You will see that these skills The Sequence of Phonics Instruction page.

Syllable Types

There are 6 main syllable types. Every syllable has one vowel sound. The spelling rules that I have shared  start off with teaching children about short vowel sounds in a closed syllable. Understanding syllable types is an important step to spelling correctly. However, these stories help the children remember silly stories to help them understand the vowel sounds  in each type rather than name them.

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I like to start off the basics by helping children understand the rules through stories. To understand about short vowels, I created a story called Short and Happy Vowels. Each of these stories have actions to help the students remember. Watch the video below to find out about Short and Happy Vowels.

Long Vowels

To understand about long vowels, I tell the story about Naughty Vowels. This story also explains why we need to double the letter in a word like “hopping” when adding a vowel suffix or why the “i” is long in the word “tiger.” Watch below to find out about Naughty Vowels.

FLOSS rule or the Big Ol’ Baby letters

When a one syllable word ends in the letters F, L, S, or Z, and immediately follows a short vowel, you double the letter. I say that these letters are Big Ol’ Babies because they don’t want to be at the end of the word by themselves so they need their twin to be with them. It’s silly, but children relate to being scared so it creates a memory trick. Watch this video to see how I practice this rule.

Hard C, K, CK rule

To help students remember the rules about c vs. k vs. ck, I made up a story and picture mnemonic. Watch the video to hear how I explain this rule to children.

 

CH vs TCH

To help children understand about using the CH or TCH, I created the story called The Spitting CH.  To see how I teach this skill, watch the video below.

 

As you may have noticed, there are quite a few SHORT VOWEL rules.

1. When you hear /k/ after a short vowel, you usually pick “ck.”Ex: duck, stack, flick, etc.

2. The FLOSS rule: When you have a 1 syllable word, and the letters F,L, S, or Z are after a short vowel sound, you double the letter. Ex: off, class, bell, jazz. (It’s been dubbed the FLOSS rule simply because it uses the letters F, L, and S.)

3. Ending /j/ sound: There’s a rule that no English word can end in the letter J. So when you hear the /j/ sound after a short vowel sound, use “dge.” Ex: judge, ledge, badge, etc.

4. Ending /ch/ sound: When you hear /ch/ after a short vowel sound, use “tch.” Ex: watch, fetch, catch, etc. (There are a few words like “much” and “such” that are different because of their word origin.)

A Few More Rules and Things to Know about English

Here are a few more rules that often create questions for students and teachers alike:

1.  English base words are not allowed to end with the letter “S” because it is too similar to the suffix-S-  which indicates more than one. That is why there is an “E” after the “S” in words like house, moose, please, etc.

2.  Words are not allowed to end with the letter V. That is why there is always an E after it, and it doesn’t always make the vowel long, such as in the words have, love, give.

3.  Sometimes the letter O makes the /uh/ sound. This is actually because of an issue with the printing press! The old way of making the letter U (in the gothic alphabet) made it confusing to differentiate from the letters “V,” “M,” and “N.” At that time, spellings changed the letter U to the letter O, such as in the words month, love, and from. 

 

When you have a question about a word, first think of the base word. All of these rules apply to English base words. Exceptions can generally be explained by examining the word’s origin. Check out this site www.etymonline.com to look up a word and see its history.