Understanding the concept of Hard and Soft G can be difficult for some children especially struggling readers. While it’s easy to recognize that two sounds of hard G and soft G are used, many children aren’t aware of why this difference exists.
Hard and soft sounds can be confusing for children. This blog post offers some insight into teaching your students how hard G and soft G differ – with tips on making learning easier! Dive in now for more information on helping your learners succeed.
Hard <g> is the sound of /g/ that we often hear when speaking.
It has a distinctive pronunciation, represented as G and g, and can be heard in words like golf, gasp, gate, gum, or glad.
Other examples of hard G include gone, grab, and rug; grease for your fingers to pass over; gobble down a meal; gain forward movement – even against & again!
Soft G Words
Some soft g words include the examples age, gem, gym, cage, gent, giant, gel, dodge, sage, & badge
When to Teach Hard and Soft G
After your students have gained mastery over consonants, digraphs, blends, and vowel combinations such as silent e’s or ‘floss rule’ sound groups – introducing G sounds makes for a fascinating lesson to see these concepts in action! Providing ample opportunities for hands-on experience with activities like phonics games is the ideal way to teach hard G and soft G in second or third grade.
You may also want to introduce soft and hard c before the hard and soft g. But since the spelling rule or generalization is very similar you will probably want to review the soft c sound during your lesson.
The pronunciation rules for soft c and g involve the same letters. The Barton Reading and Spelling Program teach these letters as the “watch out” letters. You have to “watch out” when you see them because when they come after c and g they often cause c and g to be pronounced with their soft sounds. The hard sounds are pronounced after the vowels a, o, and u or any consonants. The rules for the hard or soft sound for <c> can be taught earlier than the soft sounds for g because the hard and soft c rules are completely consistent with very few exceptions. But soft g sounds in words are not as reliable and have more exceptions.
Special Note for Struggling or Dyslexic Readers for Hard and Soft G
If you teach beginning readers or students who struggle with reading, I recommend waiting until third grade or later second grade until introducing these phonics skills. Many of my dyslexic students say G says the soft pronunciation /j/ all the time. So if they do struggle with the sound of hard g focus on fluency with that sound and wait until they are more consistent with the hard sound for G before adding the soft sound. Since the Hard G sound is the most common sound pronunciation students need to be confident with the hard pronunciation
Tips for Teaching the Hard and Soft G Sound
Teach students to look carefully at what appears after the letter <g>, and they’ll soon recognize it typically has the soft pronunciation /j/ sound as seen in words such as gem, giant, or giraffe. To reinforce this concept create an anchor chart with G words. Then encourage word sorts for practice!
Show the Hard and Soft G in a variety of contexts
When introducing the hard and soft g sound to students, it can be helpful to point out that words ending with only <g> usually are pronounced with the hard <G> sound. As is typical in literacy, there are some exceptions to this rule such as get, girl, and gift; however, learners should find consistency with the application overall.
You may also want to refer students back to their reading strategy of flexing a sound if they have trouble reading a word – So they can try reading a word with a <g> followed by an <e>, <i>, or <y> with the soft g sound /j/ first and then if that does not work they should “flex” to the hard <g> sound.
To introduce and practice this concept further, try doing a word sort where both hard and soft “g” sounds appear together so your students recognize more clearly which letter follows each form of pronunciation found within those two groups.
Point out GE and DGE Words
Give your students a leg up by helping them understand the several ways they can spell this sound! Use the anchor chart below to help children understand the multiple options for writing the /j/ sound. You can introduce words ending in -ge like “huge,” “cage” and “page” and words like “badge”, “fudge” and “judge”. I usually teach the –dge rule or generalization as a separate lesson but it can be helpful to show these types of examples to students when teaching the hard and soft g phonics concepts.
Read Decodable Texts with Hard and Soft G
Decodable Texts are still my favorite way to teach phonics concepts. Children love stories and reading words in context is always the best way to practice skills for reading comprehension. If kids highlight the pattern in the decodable passage before reading it in a small group or a whole group lesson. Give each kid one color and have them highlight the story together. It helps with reading fluency as well as understanding phonics and spelling concepts. Then you can do sorting activities with words from the story.
Use Pictures Hard and Soft G to Make Learning Fun
Teaching phonics can be made fun and engaging with picture sorts! Having students sort pictures can help students to segment sounds and listen for the letter following the /j/ or /g/ sound in a word. Then students can record the words in a list while highlighting certain sounds like hard g versus soft g in different colors, teachers can bring alive learning opportunities that spark the imagination.
Orthographic Mapping with Hard and Soft G
To provide an opportunity for students to expand their hard and soft g knowledge, teachers can introduce phoneme-grapheme mapping. Using the list of hard and soft g words as a starting point, have learners map out different spellings and pronunciations. But teachers need to be extremely aware of the teaching sequence here. The only words that should be used for this activity are the ones that the students have experience with.
If you have not taught the <ge> & <dge> spelling generalization yet then do not give students these words to map. Even if you have taught the spelling rule students need to understand that in the word <gem> we can hear the vowel <e> but in <huge> or <badge> we are not going to hear the vowel <e> or the consonant <d>.
Also in a word like “gym” the vowel <y> is saying the sound of short <i> because it is a Greek word. So if you have not taught these rules, then don’t expect your students to spell with these concepts yet. Control the types of words given so your students do not become confused.
Go Multi sensory with Hard and Soft Sounds
Encourage students to hone their writing skills with hard and soft g with a multi-sensory approach! Utilize the power of magnetic letters, letter tiles, and textured surfaces to explore words containing different kinds of hard and soft sounds. Help your learners learn new words while engaging in fun activities that stimulate both tactile and visual senses! Make a fun center activity with the different sounds. Have the kids glue a soft pom-pom next to pictures and words with the soft g.
Help students practice and show their learning with hard and soft sounds with a quick dictation session! Start by having them spell two different sounds: the hard /g/ sound and the soft <G> sound /j/. Ask them to show all the ways to represent the soft g sound that you have taught them.
- j- jump
- ge- gem or cage
- gi- giant
- gy- gym * in words with Greek origins
- dge-badge * only at the end of words
Then ask them to write 3-5 words they have learned that feature these consonants. Conclude your lesson by dictating 1-2 sentences or phrases. Make sure you use only what’s been taught along with familiar vocabulary for maximum comprehension. Also be sure to avoid words that are exceptions. If needed, utilize my free download orthographic mapping template in the freebie library to get started right away!
Giving students the practice they need to become confident readers is within reach: by introducing the hard and soft sound of <g> with effective instruction and implementing activities such as decodable texts, word sorts, and orthographic mapping along with our curated printable list of words. With a bit of fun practice, your students will have this tricky consonant mastered in no time!
Q: What is a hard G sound?
A: The hard G sound /g/ its pronunciation is the sound we hear in words like “go” or “game.” It is the most common of the g sounds and should be taught to mastery before introducing the soft g pronunciation.
Q: What is a soft G sound?
A: The soft G sound /j/ its pronunciation is the sound heard in words like “gem” or “gym.”
Q: How can I teach hard and sounds to my students?
A: There are a variety of activities you can use to teach G sounds to your students, including phoneme-grapheme mapping, multi-sensory activities, and dictation. Be sure to control the types of words given so your students do not become confused. Utilizing activities such as decodable texts, word sorts, and orthographic mapping along with our curated printable list of words can help give students the practice they need to become confident readers.
Download Free Hard and Soft G Resources