A Rule to Know for Better Spelling: “K” Rule and How To Teach It

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, “CH” Rule, “J” Rule, and “K” Rule. Today we are going to talk about strategies for teaching “K” Rule.

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.

“K” Rule Defined

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

“K” Rule Strategies

The sound “k” is usually spelled using c, ck or k.

Use ck after one short vowel at the end of one syllable words to spell “k.” Examples, lick, dock, deck, stack, stuck

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

For example:

  • trunk (after a consonant)
  • spook (after a diphthong)  
  • make (in a magic e word)

The letter c is the most common spelling for the sound “k” by far.

More than half the time, the c will be a hard c.


When k is used as an initial letter (rather than a c), it is to keep the “k” sound hard, if it occurs before e and i – if a c was used before these it would be soft, as in city.

Generally, when a k is followed by an a, o or u, these are taken from a foreign language. For example: kabob (Turkish) or kosher (Yiddish).

In some French words, -que makes the sound “ek,” which can sound like “k.” For example, technique, antique

When adding a suffix that begins with e, i, or y, insert a k before the suffix to prevent the final c from being pronounced as “s.” Examples, frolic + ing = frolicking, picnic + ed = picnicked


There are exceptions. Words with Anglo-Saxon roots do not change the root spelling, so multi-syllable words like, chicken, locker, thicker, sticker, etc. will be spelled with ck.

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).

Want More?

Want more Short Vowel Rules? Visit the Workbook Store for Short Vowel Rule Packets. Or see the Scope & Sequence Workbooks.

OGforALL is also on TPT! https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Og-For-All

(2) Comments

  1. I teach this little “diddy” to the tune of “Twinkle, twinkle…” “-ck comes at the end of a word, after a SHORT vowel is heard and we emphasize the word, “SHORT” very loudly.

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