Orton Gillingham for All

Short Vowel Rule: “CH” Rule – An Important Batch of Words

This week we will cover the last of the Short Vowel Rules in Orton Gillingham. So far, we have made it through FLOSS, “K” Rule, and the “J” Rule. The fourth and final short vowel rule is the “CH” Rule.

The “CH” Rule says: -tch is used after one short vowel at the end of one syllable words to spell “ch.”

This means, in a one syllable word where there is a short vowel sound followed by a “ch” sound, the letters –tch are being used to make that sound.

Examples of this rule are:

ă              snatch, match, hatch, patch

ĕ             sketch, stretch, fetch, etch

ĭ               ditch, snitch, stitch, switch

ŏ             splotch, scotch, blotch

ŭ             clutch, hutch, crutch, Dutch

Of course, as with most rules, there are exceptions. There are four words which should use –tch but they don’t:

  • Which
  • Rich
  • Much
  • Such

In class, we were given the acronym, WØRMS (the O is not really used) to help remember the words.

This word should NOT have –tch (because it is a multi-syllabic word) but it does: dispatch

Someone learning this rule might have a desire to put –tch after every short vowel they hear, especially in a one syllable word like, lunch.

It is important to distinguish that if there is a consonant between the short vowel and the “ch” sound, then –ch is used.

Examples: scrunch, bunch, finch, bench, pinch, punch,

In order to be sure that the rule is learned, dictation with nonsense words can be given. Words like: splutch, quitch (remember: qu is considered a consonant, so the ui is NOT a vowel team in this instance), bletch

Here is a “cloud sheet” from my class.

ch rule cloud


Short Vowel Rule: “J” Rule – Make a Pledge to Learn This Rule

Following in the path of my post last week, today we cover the third of four Short Vowel Rules in Orton Gillingham. It is the “J” Rule. So far, we have covered FLOSS and the “K” Rule .

The “J” rule says: -dge is used after one short vowel at the end of a one syllable word to spell “j.”

This means, in a one syllable word where there is a short vowel sound followed by a “j” sound, the letters –dge are being used to make that sound.

Examples of this rule are:
ă       badge, cadge
ĕ       pledge, edge, wedge, sedge, hedge, ledge
ĭ        ridge, bridge, smidge
ŏ       dodge, lodge
ŭ       budge, fudge, smudge, judge, nudge, trudge

Of course, as with most rules, there are exceptions.

There are 5 multi-syllabic words which use –dge to spell “j”:
• Partridge
• Cartridge
• Knowledge
• Acknowledge
• Porridge

In contrast to the use of –dge when there is a one syllable, short vowel word, there is another way to spell “j” that should be addressed.

The sound “j” is usually spelled –ge or –dge.

Using –ge to spell “j” requires going back to another rule called the C&G Rule, which says that when you have the letter C or G followed by e, i, or y, the c will make the “s” sound and the g will make the “j” sound. This is why –ge at the end of words spells, “j” and not “g.”

Use –ge after a consonant, diphthong, and in a magic e word.

Examples: merge, stooge, rage

There are other letters and combinations that make the “j” sound, but I am going to save them for an overview once I have covered all of the Short Vowel Rules. It is the “j” sound in multisyllabic words and it gets too confusing to put them all in one post. For now, the “J” Rule and its exceptions are important to learn. As well as the contrasting –ge use in one syllable words. If it is a one syllable word and it isn’t a short vowel then it isn’t –dge, it is –ge being used to make the “j” sound.

Here is a “cloud sheet” on the “J” Rule.

J Rule Cloud 

Here is a dictation sheet on the “J” Rule. The dictation should use real words first then move to non-sense words to ensure the rule is being used rather than memorization.

J Rule Dictation

 Nonsense words can be something like: smedge, crudge, bidge, ladge. Have students put the words you speak out loud into the correct column on the sheet.

The point to dictation is to be sure that the correct short vowel can be heard with the “j” sound. It commits to memory that sound and associates it with one syllable, short vowel words.

In addition, something fun could be incorporated, like draw a picture or have kids draw a picture using the words. Or write a story using as many of these words as possible.

Example of a drawing or story: a bridge, by the water’s edge with a judge sitting on top playing dodge-ball with a man that has is a bit of a pudge.

Or, a lodge where they make fudge and all the cooks pledge not to nudge the customers to eat too much fudge so they will not wedge themselves in the lodge.

Each person can then share their picture or story and show it – ask them to trace the letters as they talk about each word. Anything to make sure that the rule is seen, heard and used in a physical manner.

That’s OG – be creative and get really involved with each concept on multiple levels of understanding. Not only does this insure that there is a broad understanding of the concepts, but it also does not assume that everyone learns the same way as the next person. It allows each person to learn the way they learn best.


Short Vowel Rule: “K” Rule — The Pick for Learning when to use –CK

In Orton Gillingham, basically the whole English language is divided up into categories and each category is divided into rules. I have given one “Short Vowel Rule,” known as the FLOSS rule. Today, I am moving to a second (of four) short vowel rules: the “K” Rule.

The “K” rule says, -ck is used after one short vowel at the end of one syllable words to spell “k.”

This means, one syllable words that contain a short vowel and the “k” sound at the end will have a –ck to make the “k” sound. If there is not a SHORT vowel sound, then it is not –ck.

Examples of when to use -ck:

ă              sack, pack

ĕ             deck, fleck

ĭ               sick, click

ŏ             sock, lock

ŭ             duck, luck

K is used at the end of one syllable words following a consonant, a vowel team, or a long vowel sound (magic e) to spell “k.”


Consonants (after L, N, R)                            stark, bark, milk

Vowel Team                                                      speak, peak, spook

Long Vowel (magic e)                                    bike, poke, mike, make

As in most, there are exceptions to this rule. Words that have short suffixes use –ck in the middle of the word to spell “k.”                Examples: Chicken, thicket, thicker

C is used after one short vowel at the end of MULTI-syllable words (except in the compound words) to spell “k.”

Multi-syllable                   picnic, fantastic, zodiac, maniac

Compound                         backpack, hayrack, thumbtack

Here is the worksheet I was given in class, called a “cloud” sheet, which helps with the rule. It’s a great tool to give students for an overview of the rule, its exceptions, and it provides  for thinking about the rule and what it means by having to fill in some of the information themselves. It is also a good visual for a classroom discussion.

k rule cloud

A good way for students to practice hearing the rule is to dictate to them using nonsense words. You will know if they really get the rule or have memorized words. Remember, OG’s method is to see, hear and physically get involved with these terms. So you want to introduce something visually, have them hear it out loud and let you know they understand it in an auditory way, and have them writing what they are learning.

Below is a worksheet for dictation. You can call out a nonsense word (or a real word) and have the student(s) put it in the column it would correspond to. What you are doing is making sure they hear the correct short vowel and the -ck; what those sound like together. The extra column is for words that do not belong in the columns – words like “pike.”

For younger kids, I would not call out words that do not belong in the columns. They will still be working on hearing the sounds.  I would also begin with real words then move to the nonsense words.

A couple of examples of nonsense words would be:

Meck – goes in –eck

Gruck – goes in –uck

Grack – goes in –ack

K rule dictation


More Syllable Division: The Long & Short of –ci, -si, -ti, -xi

Today, I received a great question from a reader. After my last post on syllable division, she asked me, “What do you say about the letter i in the following examples: div i sion in ci sion de li cious am bi tion ig ni tion???”
I can understand the confusion, based on my previous posts. According to what I have said so far, those I’s should be long because the syllable is considered open. Now we get into a more advanced rule of division. It has to do with the suffixes on those words.
This division rule has to do with -ci, -si, -ti, -xi being suffixes. They are Latin in origin.
In words containing these suffixes, you look at the letter preceding the suffix to determine if it is a long or short vowel.

A’s, O’s and U’s are always LONG
E’s are sometimes long and sometimes short
I’s are always SHORT
Examples of words for each letter:
A: com pli ca tion (that I in the syllable before the ca is a schwa), spa cious, gla cial, na tion — A is always LONG
O: so cial, fer o cious, ex plo sion, com mo tion — O is always Long
U: con sti tu sion (I in syllable before tu is a schwa), con fu sion, eff u sion — U is always Long
E: com ple xion (e can go either way, long or short! must test it because there is no rule), com ple tion, pre cious, spe cious
I: ig ni tion, am bi tious, in ni tial, arti fi cial (I in syllable before fi is a schwa), di vi sion — I is always SHORT
A trick to remembering these is: you can “Fill In” letters that are “strong” (or LONG).
Picture an “a” where the space is filled, O filled in, U can be filled in. “e” can only fill a little bit (in that top part) so it is sometimes long sometimes short, but the “weak” “i” holds nothing, so it is always short.

ci si ti xi long short


Here is a work sheet I did in class and an answer key (in case my writing is illegible).

ci si ti xi worksheet

ci si ti xi ans key



A Mountain View: Labeling and Syllable Division

We have covered all of the components of REVLOC and the different syllable division rules. Today, I would like to condense that down to an overview, so, hopefully, a bigger picture can be formed.

First, REVLOC, stands for types of syllables. These syllables are then classified by the corresponding letter from the REVLOC system. Once classified (or maybe labeled is a better term), the word can be broken down and pronounced based on the rules associated with each syllable type.

The word “REVLOC” is what it is because that is the order in which each syllable type should be considered in pronunciation. For example, the word “war” might look like it is a closed syllable, however, the “ar” in this word make it an R-controlled syllable. R comes before the C in the word REVLOC, so that is how we know that the R-controlled is the rule to follow rather than Closed.

R – R-controlled

E – Magic E

V – Vowel Teams

L – Consonant + LE

O – Open

C – Closed


Once the labeling of syllables based on the REVLOC system is learned, moving forward into different types of words based on this system of labeling the syllables makes the words easier to pronounce.

What you get is a system of labeling syllables and then applying those labels to types of word-patterns. These word-patterns are based on vowel-consonant patterns within the words.

To overview these patterns:

Compound words: Divide between the words.                  Cow       boy                        Sun        set

Prefix/Suffix words: Divide between the prefix and/or the suffix and root. (un  im  press  ive  ly).

Consonant + LE (puzzle words): Count back three letters              Cir           Cle

Words with ck divide after the c                                Spec      kle

VCCCV (ostrich words): Do not divide consonants that go together, like blends and digraphs.

An          them

VCCV (rabbit, hornet, candy words): Divide between the two consonants.          Mag net

VCV (tiger, camel, hotel, motel words): 60% of the time, divide after the first vowel to get a long vowel sound. (pi  lot).

40% of the time, divide after the consonant to get a short vowel sound. (cab  in).

Special cases (hotel and motel), divide to get a schwa vowel in an unaccented first syllable (Japan). (pe  can). These are based on where the accent goes (which is determined by where the emphasis is when pronouncing a word).

VV (Lion and poem words): Divide between unstable digraphs and diphthongs or between vowels that do not form digraphs or diphthongs. (ru  in)  (li  on)  (e  on)

A diphthong is a word that had a vowel team which starts out as one sound but ends up as another, so that both vowels are pronounced. For example: coin, lion, ruin. Digraphs are two letters that come together to form another sound all together, like th or ch, tch.


CW = Compound Words
The first three of the diamond are for older kids/adults
Teach VCCV first and VV last (it is advanced)


SOS – A Technique to Save Spelling

In learning through OG, words are broken down into the REVLOC system and pronounced by rules. But what about sight words? Those pesky words that do not follow the rules and you just have to memorize.

OG has that covered too. I would like to introduce a learning technique called SOS. This stands for Simultaneous Oral Spelling.  One thing to remember to digest this technique is that Orton Gillingham uses multi-sensory tools to learn the English language. We want to see it, feel it and hear it – all of “it.”

Learning to spell can be challenging for anyone, but throw in a word that makes no sense in its spelling and it can throw a person for a real loop. The word might be digested only to have letters transposed or the spelling forgotten again.

That is where SOS can come in handy.

Let’s use the word, Said. In this word, the “ai” sounds like a short “e” sound.

This is sight word. There’s nothing to group it with.

In the SOS method someone would:

1.  Pronounce the word.  Say, “said.”

2.  Analyze the word. In said, the trouble area would be that the ai sounds like short e.

3.  Copy the word, naming each letter as you write it. For younger children you would have it on a word-card.

4.  Study the spelling. Look at it closely. It is spelled strangely! Talk about it.

5.  With a pencil (or fingers for younger children who have word cards), trace the word while naming each letter. Do this 3 times (VERY IMPORTANT to do it THREE times). After the word is traced, underline the word with a pencil or finger moving from left to write.

In our example word, said, trace the word three times while naming letters: “s-a-i-d – said” “s-a-i-d said”  “s-a-i-d said” (Underline the word each time with a pencil or finger)

6.  Hide the word (or if using a word-card turn it over); write the word on paper. Name each letter as you write. In our example: “said)

Write the word from memory – read – check – cover

Write the word from memory – read – check – cover

Write the word from memory – read – check – cover

7.  Read the word you just wrote. Check against the traced word to make sure you are correct.

8.  Hide-Write-Read-Check until you have written the word three times correctly, from memory.

A word can usually be retired and considered learned after 10 times of being spelled correctly. But I would start the next lesson with the same word to be sure it is committed after a break from it.

Some unphonetic sight word examples are below.

These words are good to use the SOS technique with.

  • Pre-primer: a, come, one, said, the, to, two, where, is (these would be done on word-cards at this age)
  • Primer: are, as, do, four, have, pretty, there, they, want, was, what, who (could do a combination of word-cards and writing the words depending on level)
  • Grade 1: again, any, could, give, live, of, once, put, some, were, walk, know
  • Grade 2: been, buy, don’t, many, pull, their, very, would, your
  • Grade 3: carry, does, done, full, laugh, only, small
  • Grade 4 and above: again, also, always, blood, beautiful, build, calf, clothes, cough, courage, door, debt, doubt, enough, eye, February, flood, friend, from, goes, gone, guard, guest, guy, half, ocean, often, pull, push, son, should, talk, touch, though, Wednesday, whom, whose, wolf, worm.

These are just a few examples I used from the book, How to Teach Spelling.


Short Vowel Rule: This FLOSS is Not About Teeth

Today’s topic is FLOSS, and I’m not talking about teeth here. FLOSS is a helpful reminder to a short vowel rule that says: double f, l and s after a short vowel at the end of a ONE SYLLABLE word.  This concept is taught in mainstream methods, but calling it FLOSS is something done in OG.

For example:

















Seen here is a whole list of words from a book, How to Teach Spelling.

floss words

As in most rules, there are exceptions to the FLOSS rule.

First, when a final s makes the “z” sound it is never doubled, Examples: is, as, has, was, his

These words do NOT double, but if we were following the rule, they would.

Examples: Bus, gas, plus, if, chef, gal


And, some words double but they should NOT.

Examples: egg, odd, add, err, shirr


Some proper names ending in consonants will double.

Examples: Matt, Todd, Squibb

See the worksheet here for a great representation of the FLOSS rule. As you can tell, the O in FLOSS is just there to create the word to help to remember the other three letters.

Floss cloud sheet

Here is another worksheet on FLOSS that gives dictation and examples.

Floss work

Another letter that doubles after a short vowel in a one syllable word in most cases is z.







Now, about your teeth, have you FLOSSed lately?


Welcome Gentle Cindy, C&G Rule

I haven’t disappeared, I am taking a real estate course and it is taking up much of my time these days. The good thing is that it takes only a couple of months and I will have a license to sell real estate!

I miss writing though. So I am taking a break from studying to let you know about a rule that comes in handy when reading. The rule is called the C and G rule. What the C & G rules says is, if you have a C or a G followed by an E, I, or Y, then the C takes on the “s” sound and the G takes on the “J” sound.

Important to remember is that the e, I, or y FOLLOWS the C or G. If is BEFORE the C or G, then this rule does not apply.

Have you ever wondered why the word Cat starts with a C but Kitty or Kitten start with a K? It is the C & G rule in action.

Cat – c a t             The c says “k”

BUT, if you were to spell  Kitty, Citty, the C would no longer be “k” sound it would be a “s” sound as in “City.” So in order to keep the “k” sound, we must change the “C” in Cat to a K. Same with Kitten. If we kept that C that we use to spell Cat, we would have a Citten, and it would be pronounced “S”itten.

Here are examples of the C saying “s”:





Examples of G saying “j”:





Gentle Cindy is a great graphic to remind us of the C & G Rule.

Gentle Cindy


Go to the End and Count Back Three, if You See Consonant + LE

The syllable pattern in REVLOC is is a departure from the Vowel-Consontant-Vowel patterns. This one is Consonant+LE. It is the L in REVLOC.

If you have not read the post on REVLOC, please read it and come back.

When you have a word with a Consonant+LE at the end, count back three letters, then divide the word. Consontant + LE is ALWAYS at the end of the word.

The C+LE endings are:
• ble
• dle
• fle
• gle
• kle
• tle
• zle
• ple

They are pronounced as:
• ble = b’l (as in bubble)
• dle = d’l (as in idle)
• fle = f’l (as in ruffle)
• gle = g’l (as in giggle)
• kle = k’l (as in pickle)
• tle = t’l (as in turtle)
• zle = z’l (as in sizzle)
• ple = p’l (as in people)

Within this syllable division type there are different kinds of words.

One, when the middle consonant is doubled.

For example: Cuddle, sniffle


Or, when there is a consonant you can hear.

For example: shingle, tangle, purple


Or, when there is a ck inside the word.

For example: crackle, fickle, freckle, pickle

In this case, when dividing the word, you DO break up the CK.


So, to actually divide a word, it would look like this:

• Cuddle (Oh! I see a C+LE!) I go to the end, count back three, and divide

Cud (closed syllable or C) dle (Cons. + LE or L)

• Purple (I see C+LE at the end!) go to the end, count back three, and divide

Pur (r-controlled or R) ple (Cons. +LE or L)

• Crackle (I see C+LE at the end! But oh no, there’s CK and I have been told to leave blends and digraphs together. RULE: In cons. + LE you are allowed to break up the CK)

Crac (Closed or C) kle (Cons. +LE or L)


Here is a worksheet to try. It asks that the student write the sound of each Consonant + LE syllable just like the list I wrote above. Not sure why this is coming out sideways, but on my computer it is right side up. Please use your viewing program to turn it or comment to me to send it to you personally.

cons + le worksheet


Get Mixed, Blends & Digraphs

In my last post of the VCCCV syllable division pattern, or Ostrich words, I talked about blends and digraphs, and I said I would make my next post on these concepts so that Ostrich words will make more sense. That was three Mondays ago – I was out of town in Florida visiting my mom for the past two weeks. Even though I had good intentions of posting, it didn’t happen. But, now I’m back and ready to talk about Blends and Digraphs.

First, let’s cover blends.

Blends are consonants that when put together we can hear the pronunciation of each letter sound. For example, BL is “b,” “l” as in BLack. Or LM, is “l,” “m” as in caLM. There are even three letter blends. An example is SPL, “s,” “p,” “l” as in SPLash.

Pronunciation of these blends is important when teaching or learning blends. According to the class I took, there is a tendency to mispronounce “r-blends” and “l-blends.” For example, if the blend tr is pronounced “ter,” the word train would sound like “ter rain” with two syllables.  There is a similar problem with “l-blends” if gl is pronounced as “gul” and you have a word like glee. It can sound like “gull y” with two syllables.

Because it can be difficult to pronounce the letters in blends together, Gillingham did not teach blends as blends. She taught them as consonants that are blended together so that each sound is heard. This is the purpose of starting in OG teaching and learning to pronounce each letter sound and make sure it is correctly pronounced. When blends are taught, the correct individual sounds are already known and it is easier to understand how blends are just combinations of the two consonant letter sounds.

In my class, they taught blends with both real and nonsense words. Our teacher said words out loud and we had to spell them. This taught us to listen carefully to what was being said.

Some blends can be used in both the initial and final positions of words and others are limited to one location within a word. Three-letter blends are harder to learn than two-letter blends. Initial blends are easier to learn than final blends. It is recommended to start with two letter initial blends and move on from there.


Digraphs are different than blends in that we do not hear each letter sound. A consonant digraph is two written letters that do not say their usual sounds. A student must learn the “new” sound that each digraph makes and that it is considered to be one sound.

A little ditty I learned in class was called “The H Brothers.” It is to help with learning digraphs. It is meant for younger children – I use it to tutor second graders and I would use it on older children if I thought it would help.

The H Brothers Story

Shelby was saving money to buy gifts for his brothers.

For Whitney he bought a whistle.

For Charles he bought a cherry red choo choo train.

For Phinneas he bought a phone.

For Thaddeus who was taking sewing in school, he bought a thimble.

Whitney enjoyed blowing his whistle.

Charles pushed his train around saying the three sounds for ch, “ch,” “k” “sh,” “ch,” “k,” “sh”

Phinneas got on his phone and called his friend Phil.

Thaddeus did not like his thimble, stuck his tongue out and said “thhhhhhhhh.”

What do you think Shelby said? “Shhhhhhhhhh.”

Digraphs and Key Words:

Ch                           Chair/Christmas/Chef    “ch”/”k”/”sh      The chair of the Christmas chef.

Gh                          laugh                                     “f”

Ph                           phone                                   “f”

Sh                           shoe                                      “sh”

Th                           mother/thimble               “th” (voiced)/”th” (unvoiced)

Wh                         whistle                                 “hw”

It is important to often re-tell the meaning of a digraph and blend to students. It can be a difficult concept to remember.

Here are two worksheets on blends and digraphs. One to read and one to do. There is a book called, “How to Teach Spelling” that is helpful in teaching this concept as well. Pages 16 and 17.

Bl Dig Sheet Bl Dig worksheet


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