The best part of using Orton Gillingham to teach or tutor is that the rules are clearly defined. For the Short Vowel Rules there is FLOSS Rule, “CH Rule,” “J Rule,” and “K Rule.” Here we are going to talk about strategies for teaching FLOSS.
Typically, Short Vowel Rule words are simple looking, one-syllable words that come from the Anglo-Saxon language. Words like, sack, dodge, grass, hatch. Longer words are typically Greek or Latin words.
FLOSS Rule Defined
The Floss Rule says, Double the f, l, and s at the end of one-syllable words following a short vowel.
Depending on the age of your student, you can explain that the word FLOSS is an example (a mnemonic) of the rule.
Teach simple words first. Words that follow the rule clearly. For example, the words grass, fill, and cliff, are easy and clearly follow the rule.
I say this because you have to be careful when dealing with words that have an a before the l. The a will not sound short. For example, fall, ball, squall.
The u can also take on an “oo” sound, which is considered a short u sound. This is not something you would begin teaching this rule with, but you would incorporate it into later lessons, explaining that u saying, oo, is a short vowel sound. Example words are full and pull.
Another letter that changes is o can take on a long o sound in words like, knoll and scroll. You would not want to use these words to teach this rule.
There are one-syllable words that do not double, but they should. They are if, clef, pal, nil, gas, this, us, thus, yes, bus, pus, plus
There are other one-syllable words that do double, but they should not. They are ebb, odd, egg, err, shirr, buzz, fuzz, fizz, jazz.
Note: the z doubling can be taught two different ways. There are very few of these words, so you can teach them as part of the rule (z always doubles) or you can teach that they are words that double but should not.
Multi-syllable words ending in s will usually end in ss, for example the word, address – is this part the FLOSS Rule? No. FLOSS is only in one-syllable, short vowel words. The ss ending on multi-syllable words is because many words in the English language use a single s to make a word plural.
Suffixes -less and -ness will double the final s.
What if my student finds an exception I didn’t teach?
I see a lot of questions that ask, “What do I tell a student who asks, why is this word not following the rule?” The answer is there are always exceptions (there is no exception to there being exceptions to every rule!). This is not what you tell a student right away though. First, establish the rule, then get into exceptions.
The goal is to ease into the information and add more information after the rule is digested.
Repetition is key to getting this information to be automatic – making sure that students not only know the rule by definition, but can write words by following the rule (writing the words by hearing them through dictation) and reading the words (sight).