Knowing whether to spell words with a <C > or <K> can be confusing for children. This is especially true for struggling readers and spellers. Many children with dyslexia have poor phonemic awareness skills and orthographic mapping skills so they struggle with spelling with<C> and <K> even more than typically developing readers!
Fortunately, there spelling generalizations or spelling rules that can be used to determine which letter to use in most cases. In this blog post, we will discuss the C or K rule. With this spelling rule, students will feel confident spelling with these letters.
What is the Kiss the Cat Rule for Spelling
I love this particular spelling rule. In the Orton Gillingham approach, we sometimes call spelling rules spelling generalizations because there are often some exceptions to the rules. But with C or K in the initial position of a word, the rule is quite consistent. We call it the Kiss the Cat Rule or Kiss the Kitty Cat Rule because it helps students learn the rule and it helps students remember it better.
Provide An Anchor Chart to Explain the Spelling Rule
How do we know when to use the letters c or k at the beginning of words? Teach students to use C when the first vowel in the word is an A, O, or U or any consonant. Teach students to use K when the first vowel in the word is an I or E. It is helpful to provide students with an anchor chart that kids can put in their spelling notebooks.
Play Listening Games
I teach my students the sign language letters for c and k and then we play some games. Beginning with one-syllable words, I explain the rule first “If you hear an A, O, or U or any consonant after the initial sound /K/ in the word then show me a sign for the letter C.
If you hear an I or E after the beginning sound /K/ then show me a sign for the letter K.” This activity gives students lots of practice listening for those vowel sounds. They need to be listening for both a short vowel sound or a long vowel sound. This activity can be done in a small group lesson or a whole group lesson. Kids love to sign the c or k.
Do Fun Listening Word Sort Games
Writing Word Sort
Break your kids into teams with whiteboards or papers that are split into 2 columns of C or K. Then have kids take turns reading a word list. Each student gets a different list of 6 to 10 words.
I put a large word list on the board and have the kids pick the words they want to use. Then they read the words they pick out to their partner and the partner has to write the word in the correct column. Make sure your anchor chart is out in a visible area as you play these games.
Oral Word Sort
If you have students who have trouble writing or you need a faster version you can cut apart the words in the list and then give each kid 6 -10 words. Then the students take turns reading the words to each other and the student listening has to say whether the word begins with a letter C or K.
If the student spells the words correctly then they can keep the word. I like these games better than the traditional word sort because students learn to listen for the vowel sound or consonant sound that comes directly after the /K/ sound. This is an excellent way to deepen kids’ understanding of when to use c or k in the initial position.
Fun Flip Cards
Flip Cards are a valuable tool for independent practice at centers or are helpful to take home and practice with parents. Students will read the visible part of the word and then decide whether the word should be spelled with a C or a K.
It is helpful to point out that the Kiss the Cat Rule includes not only vowels but consonants as well. Remember to begin with the letter C if you hear the Vowel Letters A, O, U, or any consonant after the /K/ sound, and use the letter K if you hear the vowel sounds for the letters E and I.
Do Orthographic Mapping
Use an Orthographic Mapping Template and leave the first box blank until kids decide what the second sound in the word is. Many of the dyslexic students I work with are very impulsive when they are spelling words. I make them “dot” the word first and say the sounds before they can write the word.
Kids get a point for each word they spell correctly however, they don’t get the point unless they “dot” the word and say the sound first. Sounding the word first helps them to represent the correct spelling of the words and build correct orthographic mind maps. If they continually represent the sounds incorrectly or inconsistently then the practice is not valuable for them.
Kids Teaching the Class
Teaching spelling with c or k can be tricky, but getting students to put their thinking into words is an invaluable tool. Have your students take turns explaining why examples – like ‘key’, ‘kelp’, or ‘king’ are spelled with <K> initially.
Then have them teach why other examples like ‘clap’ ‘copper’ and ‘cake’ are spelled with the letter <C> initially. You’ll get great insight into how much understanding there is of the spelling generalization behind it.
You may even find misunderstandings that need clarifying! Helping children verbalize WHY they spelled something helps them understand better and build up metacognitive skills too; what’s not to love?
A spelling rule is there to help your student until they have orthographically mapped words correctly enough times to make reading and writing those words an automatic process.
We don’t want our students to have to carry their anchor charts and spelling notebooks with them forever. So practice, practice when to use c or k. As you are teaching do a spiral review during lessons so kids keep using the rules until they don’t need them anymore. This will create stronger readers and writers. Why not practice with some Boom Cards Fun?
Now that you know when to spell with the letter<C> initially and when to use the letter <K> initially, don’t forget to read up on when to add ck or k in the final position in words.
Also, grabbing our freebie word lists with example words and flip cards will help make your teaching easier! Sign up for my freebie library for even more resources to use in your literacy teaching. With practice and patience, anyone can learn how to spell correctly. Children need to understand these basic rules so they can become proficient readers, writers, and spellers. Happy Spelling!
Q: What is the C or K Rule (Kiss the Cat Rule)?
A: The Kiss the Cat Rule is a spelling rule used to help students understand when to spell with <c> or <k> in the initial position of a word. The rule states that you use C if you hear any vowel sound or consonant sound that comes directly after the /K/ sound.
You use K if you hear the vowel sounds for E and I.
Q: How can I help my students learn when to spell with C or K?
A: There are several strategies that can be used to teach this spelling rule. You can use an Orthographic Mapping Template, have your students take turns explaining why words are spelled with <K> or <C>, and use a spiral review during lessons to help kids keep using the rules until they no longer need them.
Q: How can I make spelling practice valuable for my dyslexic students?
A: Dyslexic students often have difficulty with impulsiveness when it comes to spelling, so you can make spelling practice valuable by having them “dot” the word first and say the sounds before they can write the word. This helps them to represent the correct spelling of words and build correct orthographic mind maps. Giving them a point for each word spelled correctly is also an effective way to encourage learning.