You may find the following teaching points helpful:
- Letter ‘c’ represents a /k/ sound when preceding the letters ‘a’, ‘o’ and ‘u’.
- Short words with short vowels usually end with ‘ck’ and this grapheme never begins words
- Letters e, i or y alert the reader that the preceding ‘c’ will represent the /s/ sound. ( ‘soft c’.)
Keeping these points in mind, you could have a blank chart with 4 columns displayed on your wall.
As suitable words crop up you could list them in the appropriate columns:
- one for words where ‘c’ represents /k/
- one for words where ‘k ’ represents /k/
- one for words spelt using the ‘ck’ spelling
- one for words were the ‘c’ represents /s/ (soft ‘c’)
As the columns gradually fill up, the children (or a child!) may begin to notice a pattern independently and so discover these ‘rules’ for themselves or you may choose to draw their attention to the pattern.
The above teaching points and others which may be of interest (although as this chart is designed for the English accent, some may need to be amended )are taken from a version of the alphabetic code chart provided free in Unit 1 of Phonics International.
Learning which alternative spelling to use simply comes with repeated exposure to words as the children encounter them in their reading or require them for their writing.
I find it helpful to have an enlarged version of this alphabetic code chart (which I have adapted to suit the Irish accent) on display and both I and the children refer to it regularly
It lists the sounds of the English language (indicated by / /) in the left hand column and the spelling alternatives for each sound in the rows across.
We work systematically through the sounds – simple code first, more or less the same as the Jolly Phonics order of introduction, but dip into complex code as appropriate along the way eg. once I’ve taught ‘ai’ as spelling for /ai/, I immediately introduce ‘ay’ as an alternative spelling for the same sound and tell the children that this is usually the alternative used when we hear the sound at the end of words (today, Monday…, say, play…..)
As the children write independently, they are encouraged to sound out all through the words and map the corresponding letters onto the sounds.
While I can’t say I never hear the helpless ‘how do you spell?’ question, I am much more likely to hear, for example, ‘which /k/ do I write in ‘clap’?’ and then I will simply point to the ‘c’ in the /k/ row.
Training the children to work in this way encourages greater independence and a ‘can-do’ attitude.
Alternatively, as I’m correcting their work, I may say,’well done, you knew you needed to write the _ sound, but in this word, the alternative you need is _’ and point to it on the chart.
Another way to use the chart is when a question about alternative spelling crops up eg. I have a child named ‘Philip’ in the class, and when we were working on the /f/ the children were puzzled as to why his name doesn’t begin with ‘F’,. I simply pointed to the ‘ph’ spelling in the /f/ row and explained that this is the alternative used, and that though we haven’t worked on this alternative yet, we will in time.
Having the alphabetic code information displayed in this way, shows the children that while the code is complex, it is contained and manageable.
As well as charting our progress through the code, it provides meaningful opportunities for incidental phonics both from letters to sounds (reading) and sounds to letters (spellings).
It also allows for continuity of approach throughout the school as each room has this chart displayed.