Orton Gillingham for All

Breaking the Rules: Wild Old Words

I’ve written in the past about closed syllables and how if a syllable is “closed in” by consonants, then it will be a “closed syllable” and the vowel will be short. However, there are groups of words called Wild-Old Words that are “fossil” words left from Anglo Saxon times that do not follow the rules. These words are common but irregular.

A student can learn that some common words ending in ld, st, nd, and lt have a single vowel with a long vowel sound.


  • comb
  • roll, troll, stroll
  • mold, told, sold, scold, old, bold, cold, fold, gold
  • bolt, colt, dolt, jolt, Holt, molt, volt
  • bind, find, mind, wind, blind, grind, hind, kind, rind
  • both, don’t, won’t, host, most, post, ghost
  • pint, mild, wild, child, blinds
  • minded, kindly, kindness, unkind, behind, blindfold, remind

Sentences for dictation and reading:

  • This wild child is a troll.
  • Jane will rope the colt to a post.
  • It is cold in summer also?
  • I combed the old, kind dog with a small comb.
  • I wish I had a pint of gold.
  • Hold the wild colt.




Source: Unlocking the Power of Print, Dorthothy Blosser Whitehead


Spelling Is Easier with Generalization Rules: OI/OY, OU/OW, AU/AW

In keeping with the past two posts on spelling consonant sounds and spelling vowel sounds, I am going to cover oi/oy, ou/ow, au/aw generalizations; when to use each to make their sounds. I mentioned these generalizations in my last post in a “Miscellaneous” category. Here I am going more in depth on when to use each letter combination.

It can look confusing at first glance to read what I am writing below. If you are not familiar, take your time looking at the rules. Then do the worksheets (or hand give them to a student). On all of these combinations, the dictation is as important as the worksheet. Knowing which combination to use to make the sound is great, but you also want to know how to spell the whole word.

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.

OI – beginning or middle of a word

Practice for reading: adenoids, anoint, boisterous, celluloid, coinage, devoid, embroider, exploit, thyroid, loiter, oilcloth, turmoil, embroil

Practice for spelling: avoid, boil, choice, coil, hoist, join, joint, moist, moisture, noise, noisy, oil, ointment, point, poison, rejoice, soil, spoil, toil, void, broil, coin, groin, loin, toilet, goiter, voice, foist, poise, foil

OY – at the end of a word

Practice for reading: alloy, cloy, corduroy, coy, deploy, Savoy, Troy, viceroy

Practice for spelling: annoy, boy, decoy, employ, enjoy, joy, soy, toy

Common Exceptions in a sentence for remembering: the Loyal Royal Oyster took a Voyage

Other, less common, examples: arroyo (a big ditch in the desert), boycott, Boyd, clairvoyant, flamboyant, gargoyle, Lloyd

Here are worksheets for practicing the “oi” sound. Be sure to not only do the fill in the blanks. Dictation is important for learning to spell the whole word.

oi oy dict oi oy

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.

See examples below in spelling practice.

OU – at the beginning or the middle of the word

Reading practice: blouse, crouch, pounce, shroud, slouch, sprout, stout, trousers

Spelling practice: around, bounce, count, flour, found, ground, house, loud, mouse, mouth, ounce, out, scout, shout, sound, sour

Exception: foul (bad)

OW – at the end of a word for the sound

Reading & Spelling practice: allow, brow, cow, how, now, plow
Spelling practice

N: brown, clown, down, drown, frown, gown, town
L: fowl (bird), howl, growl, prowl, scowl
EL: towel, trowel, vowel
ER: flower (plant), tower

Exceptions: coward, crowd, chowder, powder

Here is a sentence to help remember the exceptions to this spelling rule:
The coward put foul powder in the crowd’s chowder.

Here is a worksheet on OU/OW Generalization. Be sure to also do the dictation sheet so that the entire word is learned rather than just what to insert.

ou ow  ou ow dict

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.

AUat the beginning or the middle of a word for the sound

Reading practice: audition, cauliflower, caustic, centaur, daub, daunt, fauna, fraudulent, laudatory, laureate, laurel, mausoleum, nautical, pauper, saunter, tarpaulin, taut

Spell practice: auction, August, applaud, author, auto, because, cause, faucet, fault, gaudy, gaunt, haunch, haunted, jaunt, launch, laundry, pause, sauce, saucer, sausage, vault

Exceptions: haul, Paul

AW – at the end of the word for the sound

Reading practice: coleslaw, craw, macaw, pawpaw, prawn, seesaw, taw

Spelling practice: claw, draw, flaw, draw, jaw, law, outlaw, paw, raw, saw, squaw, straw, thaw

L: awl, bawl (cry), brawl, crawl, scrawl, shawl
K: hawk, squawk
N: dawn, drawn, fawn, lawn, pawn, spawn, yawn

Exceptions: lawyer, awe, awesome, awful, awkward, awning

Here is a worksheet and a dictation page on the usage of AU/AW. Be sure to do the dictation as well as the worksheet.

au awau aw dict

1 Comment »

Spelling Vowel Sounds: What Music They Make

In my last post I talked about how to spell consonants. This week, we will cover how to spell vowels.

It is important to note that when I say “spell” consonants and vowels I am talking about how letters can make more than one sound. For example, a makes a long and short sound, as in make and tack. But to spell the letter a, we can use many combinations to make the long a sound. For example, the long a sound can be spelled using the letters ai, as in rain, train, brain.

The difference that comes out of this is, if someone asks, “What does the letter i say?” You would say, ĭ as in igloo, or ī as in pike. If someone asks, “How do you spell i?” You would say, “With the letters I and y, as in pick or gym.

Here are the vowel sounds and how to spell them.

Long Vowel  Sounds

ā – a, a-e (make), ai (rain), ea (steak), ei (feign), eigh (freight), ay (hay), ey (they)

ē – e, e-e (Pete), ea (eagle), ee (bee), ei (ceiling), ie(thief), ey (monkey), y (candy)

ī – i (hi), i_e (pike), y (cry), y_e (type), igh (light), ie (pie)

ō – o (po), o_e (pole), oa (boat), oe (toe), ow (snow)

Long U makes two sounds – yoo and oo

yoo – u, u_e (cute),ew (few), ue (rescue), eu (Europe) – Tip: for long u, deciding if the word is yoo or oo,  if a word begins with c, f, or m it will be yoo rather than oo sound – examples: cube, few, mew, fuel, muse, music.

oo – u, u_e (dune), ew (grew), ue (soup), oo (food), ou (soup), ui (fruit)

Short Vowel Sounds

ă – a (apple)

ĕ – e (med), ea (bread)

ĭ – i (igloo), y (gym)

ŏ – (odd)

ŭ – u (mud), o (oven, love, come, brother ), ou (touch, young, double, tough)

oo – oo (blood), u (tulip)

Misc. Sounds

oi – oi (foil), oy (oyster)

ou – ou (noun), ow (now)

ô – a (all), au (auto), aw (saw)

ә (schwa)  – a (above), e (legend), I (unicorn) o (cotton), u (fortune), y (syringe)

Here is an exercise on how to use this spelling vowel sounds concept.

spelling vowels

1 Comment »

How to Spell a Consonant Sound

Often in spelling and writing the letters and their pronunciations are considered, but what I had never experienced until working with OG is how to spell a letter sound. This post is on how to spell consonant sounds. Next week, I will cover spelling vowel sounds.

There are letters that make sounds, d says “d” (dog), and there are sounds made up of letters, the sound “sh” can be made using the letters sh (shout) or ch (chef). We call that how you “spell” a sound.

This can come in handy when teaching how to spell and read. Knowing that certain letters and letter combinations make certain sounds that may not look right at first, can make a word that is foreign suddenly make sense. Once it is realized that gh can say “f” in a word like laugh or cough, spelling these word groups doesn’t seem so hard.

Here is a list of each consonant and how to spell the sounds :
“h”           h (hip)
“j”             j (jump), g (e,I,y) (gem), -ge (rage), -dge (judge), du (educate)
“l”             l (liver)
“v”            v (violin)
“b”           b (best)
“m”         m (milk), -mb (comb), -mn (column)
“sh”         sh (shower), ch (chef)
“r”            r (rest), wr (wrench), rh (rhino)
“p”           p (pest)
“f”            f (fish), ph (phone), -lf (calf), -gh (laugh)
“sk”          sc (scoot), sk (skate)
“ks”          x (box)
“n”            n (nose), gn (gnome), kn (knife)
“ŧh”          th (thimble) unvoiced
“g”            g (glue), gh (ghost), gu (guitar)
“ch”         ch (church), tch (match), tu (picture)
“kw”         qu (queen) (qu together are considered a consonant in OG)
“s”            s (scar), c (cist – e,I,y, rule), sc (science), ps (psychic)
“gz           x (box)
“k”           c (cram), k (kick), ck (kick), ch (Christmas), lk (chalk), que (antique)
“ng”         n (think, thing)
“w”           w (wing)
“d”           d (dog), -ed (bogged)
“t”            t (tick), -ed (jumped)
“z”            z (zoo), s (was)
“hw”        wh (while)
“th”          th (mother) voiced
“y”            y (yes)


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)


CLOSED Syllables – Breaking down REVLOC

For the purpose of understanding the REVLOC system, we can look at each syllable type more closely.
First, let’s define what a syllable is. A syllable must contain a vowel. As in nan ny – two syllables. (In this case, the first syllable is closed and the second is open.)
A syllable can be a stand-alone vowel, but not a stand-alone consonant. As in, a lone (the a is a syllable and a schwa).
I’ve gone through what REVLOC is, but now I want to go through each letter in individual posts. Starting with C.
C stands for closed syllable.
A closed syllable is one that has consonants “closing in” a vowel. This “closing in” causes the vowel to be a short sound. Of course, there are exceptions, but nine times out of 10, you may follow this rule and know that when a vowel is closed in by consonants, the sound of that vowel is short.
One Syllable Words.

These words are labeled with the pattern, CVC – Consonant, Vowel, Consonant
Up (p closing in u still keeps vowel short)

Two Syllable, Closed Words.
In OG, these types of words are called Rabbit Words.
In order to determine our syllables, we would underline the vowels, look at the pattern of consonants and vowels, decided where to break up the word, and pronounce. This simple syllable pattern is also a good time to start practicing accenting, so we can determine where to put the emphasis on our speech.

Examples of Two Syllable Rabbit Words and how to divide.
Rabbit words contain a pattern VCCV or Vowel, Consonant, Consonant, Vowel. Rabbit (underline vowels). When you have two consonants together, especially in a word like this, you will divide between the two consonants.
So Rabbit would be VCCV, two closed syllables – Rab bit.
(A=vowel, B=consonant, B=consonant, I=vowel – all equaling VCCV pattern)

Based on the two closed syllables, someone can know that the word is rabbit. If it were ra bit, without two b’s, the a in the first vowel would be long and the word would be pronounced as such.
Here’s another example,
Napkin nap’ kin
(A=vowel, P=consonant, K=consonant, I=vowel – all equaling VCCV pattern)
Notice: at the point we underline the vowels, we start looking at the pattern. CVVC. Divide between the p and the k and you get two closed syllables. This means we now know to pronounce each syllable as a Closed Syllable and each vowel will be short.
Here are other examples. See if you can notice the CVVC pattern and why each word is divided where it is divided.
Expel      Ex pel
Admit    Ad mit
Confess  Con fess
Compel   Com pel
Kitten     Kit ten
Witness    Wit ness

Using nonsense words, such as Convat (con vat,) is a great way to make sure someone understands the concept rather than just breaking words where they know them to be broken.

Nonsense Examples VCCV:
Hanzad     han zad
Rogdit      rog dit
Proptem   prop tem
One note to keep in mind; when you have an R closing in a vowel, it will be R-controlled because, R “trumps” C in the REVLOC system. Example, Bird isn’t pronounced with a short i because the r is changing its sound.
Once getting the hang of why we are doing this, it is easier to move on to other syllable types and vowel-consonant patterns of where to divide words. Pretty soon, someone can divide up three syllable words and four syllable words and have a reason for pronouncing each vowel or consonant a certain way because there are rules to follow. English makes more sense knowing that rules can be followed for pronunciation and spelling!


%d bloggers like this: