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 example 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 example 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?

Want more? Check out the Workbook Store. This information plus worksheets are in the workbook store.

(19) Comments

    1. Try just teaching the rule first. Don’t teach it (the rule and exceptions) all at once. Look in the books I recommended to see what they say about the best way to teach it. I noted the exceptions in my post because I give the entire rule at once when I post, but many times you will introduce a rule as the rule and talk exceptions or additions to the rule after the initial concept is committed.
      You can even teach the exceptions as they come up, or when you see an example word and say, “remember our FLOSS rule? This looks like an exception to that rule.” Mainly, words like is, has, was, his will be the words that get questioned because they are the most used that should follow the rule, but do not. Being able to tell the child, “Hear the “z” as the s? When s says “z,” do not double.” I would not even go into “egg or bus” type of words unless your child asks why they are not doubled. The main goal is to get a student to notice the f, l, s and follow the rule, not to notice the others and wonder why they do not.
      For a dyslexic 3rd grader exceptions would be more something I would go over, but even at that age, not when I first introduced the rule. I would show the rule, send homework home and let them get the hang of it. I would talk about it the next time I saw them, go over the homework. Introduce the “z” sound. Put another homework with that included and see how he/she did with it. Introduce other exceptions, give them a notecard with the rule, examples and common exceptions he or she could pull out and check against. It would be an eventual process, not one lesson.

      Let me know if this does not make sense and anything I can do to clarify or help!
      Thank you for the info on the fruit too! I am going to get one next time I go shopping. I will let you know how I do with it. 🙂

  1. Hi! Thanks for the above tips! We did pretty well with FLOSS rule. We are doing open and closed syllables. Can you explain, if possible, why u-ni-corn has the ni syllable with a short I rather than a long one–since it appears to be an open syllable?

    1. Hi! It could be two reasons. One, I would consider the ni syllable to be a schwa (when a vowel has the short u sound, as in the word “above”). When I say the word fast, I tend to hear the “i” more as a short u.
      Or, another reason is that the uni is actually a prefix, so the breakup could be uni-corn. Even in that case, I would still go with the schwa theory because we don’t say, “unI” (some make it sound like a long e) — we say, u ni corn (and the accent would be on the u, which means the ni is still open to be a schwa, accents do not fall on schwas and no one syllable word can be a schwa).
      I am taking the school real estate exam this week. I am ALMOST done and I will be anxious to be back writing on a regular basis. Hope what I have posted so far is still helping you!
      Thank you SO much for asking questions. Please keep them coming. 🙂

  2. Hi! I’m teaching the FLOSS rule with Barton for my dyslexic students. They understood the whole idea and the \z\ sounding “s”. They even got the whole if the word is a shortened or slang word its not doubled, but what about the word “yes”? That one I’m having an issue explaining. Any help would be awesome!

    1. Hi Lynda! Great question. There is a list of words (see the post where I cover all four short vowel rules) that are the exception words for FLOSS. Let the kids know there are exceptions in every rule. Others for FLOSS besides yes are if, this, chef, bus… I tried to copy and paste the list from the overview post but it would not let me. I’m writing this from a cruise for Spring Break with the family! Hope this helps.

        Thanks!!! I’ve been calling them rule breakers vs exceptions, or even word rebels. They think its funny, and are beginning to recognize them.

    1. Hi Tamara, I took a class at Schenk School in Atlanta and I reproduced the worksheets for my tutoring business (which I no longer do). I suggest the book, Unlocking the Power of Print by Dorthy Blosser Whitehead. It is a wonderful manual where much of this info can be found in print.

  3. Hello, I’m an O-G trained tutor. I’d like to point out that “roll” is a red word and not at all in line with the short vowel marker FLOSS/fzsl rule. The reason for this is that roll has a long o sound, and in with the short vowel marker rule FLOSS/fzsl, it should say a short o sound.

    1. Hi Sarah, you are correct. Of all the words I could have chosen, I’m not sure why I chose “roll.” However, in the book, How to Teach Spelling, the word “roll” is listed under the LL in floss with an asterisk that says, “These words should not be taught unless you explain that they are sight words because of the long-vowel sound.” They also list the words “knoll” and “scroll” and “stroll” with the footnote. I should have not used the word in the first place, but if I did, I should have included a footnote in my post. Thank you for the correction! I am changing the post right now to reflect a better word choice.

    1. Hi Chris, with “all” words, I would not include those in a lesson with FLOSS. Typically, having an “a” before the “l” will not sound like a short “a” — it sounds more like an o. Examples, fall, ball small, squall, etc. These would be taught separately from FLOSS.

Leave a Reply