Spelling Strategy: C or K?

Updated: Nov 14

... or CK, of course? Doesn't this decision often pose a challenge for our younger spellers?


Knowing when to use C, K, or CK does, typically, confuse our younger students. Luckily, there is a fairly trustworthy rule for spelling the sound /K/ in most words. I have created the following tips and materials that help students apply this concept in a funny way as well!


>>> Hang around until the end of the post, and you'll find the link to a few freebies that you can immediately use in your classroom. >>>



Explicit Instruction

We want to be crystal-clear when explaining phonics concepts to our children!


To begin with, C is typically used to spell the sound /K/ prior to the vowels a, o, and u. These vowels are commonly referred to as the "fat vowels," and I use this visual aid to help students mentally store this reference.


In the past, I have sketched this image for students, but now I have created reference posters to easily depict this concept. Notice the placement of the vowels on the t-shirts. I explain that a, o, and u appear to have "bellies" that hang beneath their shirts. These letters are too "fat" for their shirts, so they need a "fat c" to spell the sound /k/.


We discuss familiar words that follow this rule, such as cat, cop, and cup.


K, on the other hand, is typically used to spell the sound /K/ prior to the vowels e and i. These vowels are commonly referred to as the "skinny vowels," and I use this visual aid to help students mentally store this reference.


Notice the placement of these vowels on the t-shirts. I explain that, unlike a, o, and u, the vowels e and i do not have "bellies" that hang beneath their shirts. These letters are "skinny" and have no trouble fitting in their shirts, so they need a "skinny k" to spell the sound /k/. For the record, some students question e because it does have a rounded shape on the bottom that could be confused for a "belly." I tell them that since it is not connected, as in the letters a, o, and u, we don't consider that a "belly," but he probably should go on a diet soon. ;)


Again, we discuss familiar words that follow this rule, such as key and kite.


Multi-sensory Experiences!

Visual references such as these are a great starting point for this skill, but it is important to provide students with opportunities to immediately apply the concept through hands-on experiences as well.


The following activity is a simple, but effective tactile experience in which students can engage. I use foam squares and die cuts to create a lot of tactile c's and k's.

Then I simply write examples of words that begin with the sound /K/, but I leave out the c or k. Students use their tactile letters to fill in the blanks and correctly spell each word. It looks like this...

Simple, right? My students love this activity, though. Every. Single. Time. We want their learning experiences to be fun, while also effective, right?


One additional method is to give students an opportunity to create their own reference materials with this skill!


I give them a blank kite template, usually one I have hand-drawn on a folded piece of paper (hamburger fold!) They add an "e" and "i" to their kites, and then I create a "K" using the left sides of the kite to help form the letter. They love watching this process! I usually have a few "ohhh's" and "wow's" when they watch. They add their own unique designs to their kites.

Then, on the inside, we practice apply the concept through dictation with words and sentences.

They take away a hand-made artifact that will provide future reinforcement and reference with this skill! Our children are always proud to create their own pieces of work, and I love incorporating that intrinsic passion into our phonics lessons!


I hope you can use some of these tips as well! To make it a bit easier, I am providing my C and K reference posters for free! You can access them in the Tally Tales TPT store here.


If you need additional materials, I also have an additional 4-star product that applies specifically to this concept. Check out The Sounds of /k/ - Literature-Rich Resources (Stories, Sorts, and More!).



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