I love teaching students Orton Gillingham spelling rules and the very first rule I teach is the FLOSS Spelling Rule. As a Certified Academic Language Therapist and literacy specialist, I love teaching spelling rules because it empowers students with closed-syllable words. The FLOSS rule gives struggling readers another chance to practice with closed syllables. The Floss Spelling Rule teaches students why certain words with short vowels like ‘miss’ and ‘pill’ end with a double consonant, but other words like ‘mop’ do not end in a double consonant.
The reason behind this double consonant phenomenon is a spelling rule called the FLOSS Spelling Rule. This spelling rule can be easily taught to struggling readers. This Spelling Rule has nothing to do with dental hygiene. It is a mnemonic. Students remember spelling rules better with a mnemonic to help them. In our blog post, we will review what exactly constitutes the spelling rule as well as tips for teaching the FLOSS Spelling rule in your classroom using engaging activities for learners of all ages!
What is the FLOSS Spelling Rule?
The floss rule is a go-to guide for spelling one-syllable words ending in l, f, s or z. The FLOSS Spelling rule states that if the word ends in the letters l, f, s or z they should be doubled when they appear in a single-syllable word after a short vowel sound – so if you’re ever stuck on how to spell a floss word like “mess,” “fluff,” “tell”, and”fizz”, the answer lies with this helpful spelling rule!
Some Literacy Programs do not include the <z> in the FLOSS Spelling Rule
Due to the limited number of words which end with a double z, some educators and literacy resources opt out of teaching the double z part of this spelling rule. Even though there are not too many words that have the double <z>, I will list them in this post.
What are the exceptions to the FLOSS Spelling Rule?
As is true with almost any spelling generalization, there are a few rule breakers: Thankfully there are only a few exceptions. Most one-syllable words will follow the FLOSS Rule.
Some High-Frequency Function Words (words that end in <s> but have a /z/ sound)
An exception to the Floss Rule lies in words that end in a final <s> and produce the /z/ sound. Function words or grammatical words give readers structure in the sentence. They are often called “sight words” or high-frequency words. These short words such as is, as, was, ‘has’ and ‘his” should have one <s>. They have only one vowel but do not end in a double ‘s’ and the ‘s’ says a z sound. In words that follow the Floss Rule like ‘hiss’ the double <s> will say /s/.
Some Words do not follow the Floss Spelling Rule are shortened forms
Also, common words like ‘bus’ and ‘gas’ are shortened forms of the longer multisyllable words ‘omnibus” and ‘gasoline.’ These words do not follow the Floss Rule and do not end with a double ‘s’ This is a common occurrence with spelling rules. Other multisyllable words also can have the doubled consonant <s> but that rule will be covered in a different blog post.
Shortened words follow their own rules. For example, the word ‘flu’ is short for influenza so it does not follow the spelling rule that says English words do not end in the letter ‘u’. Teaching students why exceptions exist will help a struggling reader understand why spelling makes sense.
Plural Words that end in <s>
Plural words that end in <s>should be highlighted. If a base word needs a suffix -s to indicate it is a plural word then we do not double ‘s’ and use the floss rule because the ‘s’ is needed for a grammatical purpose. In this case, the suffix -s may say the z sound if base word ends in a voiced sound e.g. (seeds, toys, fans). Pointing out the function of the suffix will help students to see why the ‘s’ is not doubled and ensure it is spelled correctly.
Foreign Origin Words that end in <f> <l> <s> or <z>
You might also find exceptions in common words from foreign origins, for example, the word ‘chef’ from France. But because there are so few words that don’t follow the floss rule students can feel confident in using it for most words.
Closed Syllable Exception Rule Words
A few words have a long vowel and a doubled vowel ending. Words that end in <oll> can have a long sound in the vowel. (e.g. toll, poll,roll)
Floss Spelling Rule Activities for Making Teaching the FLOSS Spelling Rule Fun
Do Creative Word Sorts in the Classroom
Help students remember the double letters in floss rule words. Have students practice and sort floss words. We know that the FLOSS spelling Rule says that in a one-syllable word with a short vowel sound, we usually double the final consonant of the word if it ends in <s> <l> <s> and <z>. If students sort floss words, it helps to cement this rule for students.
One way to sort words in the classroom is to have students write floss rule words on index cards. I like to use index cards in neon colors to make word sorts more fun. Have students sort the floss rule index cards into different boxes. Get my Anchor word list chart with example single-syllable words with this pattern. Example words would be huff, fluff, wall, tell fuzz, jazz, grass, boss.
In my FLOSS spelling rule pack you can find fun literacy resources. Use my coloring sort so that students can focus on the bonus last letter. Then they can use the examples from that floss rule coloring sort to write words that end with double consonants.
You can have the word charts and word sorts for free in the Freebie Library
Floss Rule words Spelled with Double SS Word List
Floss Rule Words Spelled with Double FF Word List
Floss Rule Words Spelled with lL Word List
Floss Rule Words with Spelled Double Z Word List
Have fun with Floss Words and orthographic mapping
When students write FLOSS words individually with orthographic mapping, the process with show students that in most words if it has only one short vowel and the final consonant is f,l, s, or z, the last letter will be doubled. It also shows students how the bonus letter is just pronounced once but then the letter is written twice in one sound box. We know that words are mapped through auditory processing and the alphabetic principle. So this activity can be fun for students but is also research-based teaching.
Play Games with Floss Words to Increase Fluency
The more struggling readers practice in the classroom with closed syllables like FLOSS words the more their fluency with those words will increase. Games and floss rule activities are an ideal way to foster this practice. Playing 4 in a row is fantastic for kids because it is a fast game that students love to play over and over again.
Read Decodable Passages with the FLOSS words
Kids love decodable passages because they feel successful reading and the success motivates them to keep reading! When we give students stories they can read independently, it fosters confidence so it is my favorite activity to do with struggling readers and beginning readers.
Use Cloze Passages with Floss Words
Cloze Passages are a great resource for the Floss Rule give students a good reason to reread a passage and they are also a good check on comprehension of the passage and get kids writing those bonus letters!
Give Your Kids a Floss Words Mini-Book to Practice
Have your students read a mini-book with FLOSS words. This is a fun way to get them to read the Floss words and also have their own book to take home and read with family members or friends. I love to teach with mini-books because they are so motivating to students.
The Floss Rule is More than Just a Spelling Rule
By teaching the FLOSS Rule, you can help your students become more confident spellers and readers. With just a few creative activities, you can entertainingly engage your students while also helping them practice closed-syllable words for fluency. Plus, these activities and this rule will give them a better understanding of why English words are spelled the way they are! Download the free sample lesson and help your students with the floss rule today!
Free Sample Lesson with lesson plans and decodable passages and activities
Q: What is the FLOSS Rule?
A: The FLOSS Rule states that when a word has one short vowel and a final consonant of f, l, s or z, the last letter will be doubled. This rule is used to help students learn how to spell words correctly.
Q: Does the floss rule include Z?
A: Yes, the floss rule includes Z. Words such as ‘buzz’, ‘fizz’, and ‘fuzz’ follow this rule because they have one short vowel (u) and a final consonant of z. Due to the limited number of words which end with a double z, however, some educators and literacy resources opt out of teaching the double z part of this spelling rule.
Q: What are some activities that I can do with my students to help them learn the floss rule?
A: Some activities you could do include playing 4-in-a-row, reading decodable passages, using cloze passages, and even giving your students a mini book to practice. These activities are fun and engaging while also helping your students gain fluency with closed syllables. With the right resources and guidance, you can help students become more confident spellers and readers!