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Spelling Strategy: C or K?

... 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!


>>> Hand 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. >>>

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.


Visual references such as these are a great starting point for this skill, but it is important to provide students with an opportunity to immediately apply the concept 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.


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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