A Deeper Dive into Generalizations OI/OY, OU/OW, AU/AW

I’ve written about Orton Gillingham Generalizations before, but I want to take a deeper dive into this topic.

What Are Generalization Rules?

Generalizations or Generalization Rules are vowel teams that sound alike and also have general rules or situations for when to use them. There are three:

  • OI/OY saying “oi” as in oil/boy
  • OU/OW saying “ou” as in out/cow
  • AU/AW saying “ô” as in auto/paw

Generalizations are rules associated with certain sounds that help know when to use each vowel team and in what position to use them in a word. They are tools for spelling and reading words.

When do you use each Generalization?

OI/OY Generalization

  • Use oi at the beginning or in the middle of a word for the “oi” sound.
  • Use oy at the end of a word for the “oi” sound.

OU/OW Generalization

  • Use ou at the beginning or in the middle of a word for the “ou” sound.
  • Use ow at the end of a word for the “ou” sound.
  • If a single l, n, el, or er follows the “ou” sound at the end of a word, use ow.

AU/AW Generalization

  • Use au at the beginning or in the middle of a word for the “ô” sound.
  • Use aw at the end of a word for the “ô” sound.
  • If a single l, n, or k follows the “ô” sound at the end of the word, use aw.

What order are they taught?

There are many OG Scope & Sequences around, but the way I have them listed in Scope & Sequence is: OI/OY, OU/OW, and AU/AW

This is important because these are not just Generalization Rules, these are Vowel Teams, and vowel teams are taught in Scope & Sequence order as well. These vowel teams just happen to have some handy rules for remembering and have been labeled “Generalizations.”

These vowel teams have rules with their sounds, so teaching them together for the audible portion of learning is very good. You can say, “When you hear the sound “oi,” it will be OI/OY…”, “When you hear the sound “ou,” it will be OU/OW…”, “When you hear the sound ““ô”, it will be AU/AW…”,

This can get tricky because OU and OW make more than just the “ou” sound. OU can say “oo” as in soup, and OW can say long o (“?”) as in snow. You would teach sounds of the vowel team before you teach the generalization, so the student knows the generalization is a branch of the sound “ou.”

Always teach the sounds as vowel teams before teaching as a Generalization Rule.

Are there other vowel teams with generalizations?

While there are other vowel teams that make the same sounds and probably are in general positions (like ea/ey saying long e), to my knowledge, Generalization Rules apply only to those taught here.

What’s the best way to teach generalizations?

Generalizations should be discussed and dissected verbally and auditorily, as well as written, before going into just the written portion.

This is not a good topic to lay on a student then jump immediately into fill in the team worksheets. Really talk about it, read sentences, do dictation and writing of words, use the words in sentences. You know your students, so you will know when they grasp the concept enough to fill in the blanks.

One more thing… there’s no exceptions to there being exceptions.

There are exceptions to every rule; every, every rule. There is no perfect rule. So, if you teach generalizations, or any spelling rule, know that they are guides to help with the general way words work.

If you have a student ask, why is powder spelled with -ow instead of -ou and it isn’t followed by any of the letters you said, you can say, “every rule has exceptions.” (In fact, ou/ow rule has foul, crowd, chowder, coward, powder as exceptions to the rule – they all have exceptions.)

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(2) Comments

  1. I always heard that the /ow/ in powder was “ow” because it is at the end of the syllable. That would work for chowder and coward also.

    1. Hi Debra, that makes sense — you also have the word power.
      I would probably stick to “these are exceptions” for simplification (in terms of introducing a rule, adding another “rule” to the exceptions could be confusing), but I looked and it looks like two syllable words do seem to have an “ow” if it is two syllable and the first syllable ends in “ow.”
      If a student asks, it can be good have an answer, but I also think saying, “it’s an exception to this rule,” is acceptable.

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