Discovering the difference between hard C and soft C can be quite challenging for kiddos who need a little extra help with reading. Most phonics programs teach hard C words early. The hard c sound as in the words cat and cup are taught in kindergarten and first grade but the soft c can be confusing for students. But no worries we can easily teach how and why this variation exists.
Here’s a blog post full of useful tips to help make learning this concept easier for kids! Get some valuable insight on helping young learners gain confidence in their reading skills and using spelling rules today.
From “can” to “cotton”, the hard C makes a bit of entrance with its sharp /K/ sound. This consonant is one the most common sound for spelling when we hear /K/. It appears at the beginning, middle, or end of words – always making itself known!
Some Hard C Example Words
Some hard C words include cat, car, cobble, cake, and careful. See the free hard c and soft c word lists for more words. Use them for a word sort or for writing words in dictation.
How is the /K/ sound represented?
You’ll find the /K/ sound represented as C, K, and CK in words like can, kite, and back. I covered when to use C vs K in another blog post with the “Kiss the Cat Spelling Generalization.”
When the letter C is followed by an ‘e’, ‘i’ or a ‘y’, it often produces its so-called “Soft C” sound as in ‘rice’ or ‘cell’. This rule of pronunciation applies to word beginnings, middles, and ends of words – however, there are only a few exceptions such as Celt which is a foreign word that defies this pattern!
Some Soft C Example Words
Some soft C words include cent celery, cellar, circle, civil, civic, and cycle. See the free hard and soft c word list at the end of the post for more words.
I also added some nonsense words to the word lists so the teacher can use them for assessment and practice since students can’t memorize nonsense words they must focus on decoding the letters. These word lists are also great for a word-sort lesson without pictures.
When to Teach the Soft C
We always teach hard sounds first. However, by the end of first grade or early second grade, students are ready to take their literacy journey a step further with an introduction to the difference between hard C and soft C. With all consonants, digraphs, blends, and vowel teams under their belt – as well as understanding silent e syllable type plus Floss Words and glued sounds – learners can now dip into this new realm of the reading process with soft c words!
When Not to Teach Soft C
But if you have struggling readers or dyslexic students make sure that they are consistently reading the hard c sound correctly before adding the soft c rules to their phonics instruction. Teaching hard sounds to mastery is key for students who struggle with dyslexia or dyslexic tendencies.
Teaching Tips for Hard C and Soft C
With just a few helpful tips, students can master the concept of when the letter C is followed by certain vowels it often makes an /s/ sound! Create an exercise chart together and provide examples for visual aid. Encourage your pupils to focus on what follows after ‘C’ so they are better able to recognize the distinctive sound this combination produces.
The rules for soft c teach that when the letter c is followed by the vowels, e, i, or y then the C says its soft sound /s/. When a <C> is followed by the vowels a, o, u, or any other letter the <C> says /K/.
The Barton Program teaches these letters as “watch out” letters. You have to “watch out” when you see them because when they come after c they have to be pronounced with their soft sounds. The hard sound /k/ is pronounced after the vowels a, o, and u or any consonants.
Soft C and G
These rules also hold for hard and soft g but the rule for the letter<c> is much more dependable with very few exceptions. I usually will mention the soft c and g together but don’t do in-depth teaching of soft g until quite a while after the concept of hard and soft <C>
Use an Anchor Chart and Word Sorts For Hard C and Soft C
Get your learners to hone in on the sounds and give them clues that the letter <C> often makes a soft /s/ sound like cell, city, or cycle. Present an anchor chart with C words and sounds both the hard sound and the soft sound for students to refer back to as they write. Also, practice sorting activities.
Introduce Soft C patterns slowly
If you have struggling readers they can improve their spelling skills one pattern at a time with hard c and soft c. For instance, words with the letters <ce> such as “cent,” “ice” and ‘center’ are good starting points – followed by <c> followed by <i>-words like ‘city,’ ‘cider’ and ‘circle.’ Finally, challenge yourself with terms beginning in cycle, cyclone, mercy, or icy!
Read Decodable Texts With Hard C And Soft C
Teaching the hard and soft <C> and spelling concepts should be engaging and interactive! Decodable Texts provide an exciting opportunity to do just that. Encourage children’s reading fluency while having fun by using a multi-colored highlight system.
Have every student pick one color, then read the passage together as they all simultaneously underline words based on pattern recognition—a great way for students to understand how context plays into comprehension of text too! Afterward, you can discuss what was learned during the activity by sorting activities focusing on words from the story itself.
Use Pictures with Hard C And Soft C To Make Learning Fun
With sorting activities like picture sorts, teachers can unlock learning opportunities that bring phonics lessons to life and spark imaginations. Students will be able to listen for sound patterns within words and then segment sounds accordingly as they record the outcomes in a list – hard c versus soft sounds like /s/ or /k/ are even more engaging when highlighted with different colors!
Teach Students Orthographic Mapping With Hard C And Soft C
By introducing phoneme-grapheme mapping, teachers can provide students with an enriching opportunity that expands both their hard C and soft C knowledge. It also strengthens students’ understanding of the alphabetic principle.
Learners will be able to explore the fun challenge of differentiating words by spelling and practice reading those tricky Hard & Soft c’s! Make sure that students say the sound of each letter as they segment the words and then say the letter names as they write the word using the boxes.
Make sure to review the “Milk Truck Rule” if any of the words end in the /k/ sound. It may be helpful to just focus on the beginning and middle of words when first mapping hard and soft C especially with struggling learners.
Go Multi Sensory With Hard C And Soft C Sounds
Nurture your students’ writing skills with a multi-sensory approach! Reinforce the hard C and soft C sounds of ‘c’ through tactile, visual activities: magnetic letters, and letter tiles on textured surfaces. Build learners’ vocabularies while they have fun with a word sort.
Have students listen for the different sounds and attach fluffy pom-poms next to images/words that contain soft ‘cs’ – an engaging way for them to hear the different sounds and see spelling patterns in words!
Utilize Dictation for Hard C and Soft C
Let’s give our learners a chance to show off what they know about hard and soft sound of <c>! Let them demonstrate their understanding of hard and soft sounds with an exciting dictation session. Dictation will also help teach the alphabetic principle.
Give your students the perfect opportunity to consolidate their learning by dictating 3-5 words made up of hard and soft c words. Once they’ve flexed their phonemic awareness muscles with the two sounds encourage them to complete an even bigger challenge – construct 1-2 sentences or phrases using the dictated word from the lesson.
To make sure everyone can participate, be sure not to include any tricky exceptions, and simply print the free download orthographic mapping template in the freebie library to help you get off on the right foot.
Teaching Hard and Soft C with Games
Students learn better when they are having fun. Looking for a fun way to practice some spelling and reading? Challenge them with our printable wordlist resources and several exciting games. Each right answer leads to rolling the dice making each experience different, so students can keep advancing on an interactive game board over multiple sessions – until they hit their goal of 20-100 points! Play “Go Fish”, “Memory” or “Word War” – it’s such an effective way to teach spelling patterns at school AND home without kids even realizing how much learning is going on. Plus if you have any other helpful ideas please leave us a comment below, your feedback is always valued!
With the range of resources and ideas mentioned above, you can now confidently help your students explore the wonderful world of words. Use hard and soft c to make learning fun with activities like picture sorts, orthographic mapping, multi-sensory approaches, dictation sessions, and games – we hope they inspire a love of language in your learners!
Happy Smart and Special Teaching! 🙂
Download Free Resources for Teaching Hard and Soft C
Q: What is the Spelling and Reading Rule Soft C?
A: The reading and spelling rule for soft c teaches that when the letter c is followed by a vowel, e, i, or y then the C says its soft sound for the letter /s/.
Q: What is the Spelling and Reading Rule Hard C?
A: When a <C> is followed by a vowel a, o, u, or any consonants the <C> says /K/.