Orton Gillingham Spelling Rules

Last Updated on October 10, 2023 by Editorial Team

Communication skills and literacy are crucial for interaction. But there is something that is even more crucial than these—spelling. While various autocorrect software are made available, these skills are turning down their significance, which is actually pivotal. On the other hand, adults may not be aware of these rules due to the orthography they have in the language.  

Thanks to education systems for their focus on it. Even if the child is learning compromised, approaches like Orton-Gillingham, with plenty of programs available, have come forward with a specialized set of rules to aid. In this context, let us assimilate in detail the spelling rules in the Orton-Gillingham approach. 

Orton Gillingham Approach- making spelling rules distinct.

Before we can ponder the set of rules, we would be obliged to know how distinct the Orton-Gillingham approach is. Despite the use of manipulatives, this approach turns idiosyncratic by focusing on why the words are spelled a certain way rather than how. 26 alphabets in English amalgamated to form 44 sounds that can be spelled in almost 250 ways. This makes learners acknowledge finer. Thus they need organised learning. The Orton-Gillingham approach straightens out by preaching them via phonograms, making training effortless. 

Research by Peter and Olsson[1] says that dual-route models, including morphological and phonological rules, give better outcomes in training spellings. However, for people with personal challenges, a phonological approach fits. You can assist the learner with sight words and regular practice.

General spelling rules- you need to know.

Since some rules form the foundation of spelling, these regulations are the same for all approaches. In Orton-Gillingham, these are sometimes preached with multisensory interactives. Let’s explore them for better comprehension:

1. Basic Spelling Rules

Spelling rules can be broadly split up into basic and master spelling rules. Every learner has to initially grasp basic rules to interpret master rules. Let’s comprehend the essential rules:

  1. Every word in English has a vowel in it. 
  2. Being the elementary unit of pronunciation, a Syllable always has one vowel sound, but may or may not have consonants in it
  3. C in a word spells /s/ before E, I, and Y. For instance–city, cycle. It spells /k/ otherwise—for Instance, Cat, clip.
  4. G spells /j/ before E, I, and Y and /g/ otherwise. For instance, gem and Giant give out the sound of ‘j’. But garden and glad are pronounced with a ‘g’.
  5. Q is always followed by ‘u’. For instance: Que, Queen.
  6. Consonants are always doubled at the end of a one-syllable word with one vowel. For instance: Stiff, pass. This is also known as the Floss Rule.
  7. ‘Ck’ is used to spell /k/ at the end of words for short vowels. For instance: pick. K is used otherwise. For instance: silk, and milk.
  8. At any place in the sentence—capitalize names. For instance: Where is James?

2. Mastery Spelling Rules

Once the learner masters the basic spelling rules, they can get ready to learn the next set of high-level rules. They are: 

  1. Vowels like A, E, O, and U spell their name at the end of syllables. For instance: Apron, unit, me, key
  2. Words never end with V and J—a silent e is added at the end. For instance: give, wave.
  3. I and O are spelled/i/ and /o/ before two consonants. For instance: kind, sold.
  4. ‘Dge’ is always spelled/j/ after a short vowel. For instance: wedge.
  5. At any place of a sentence, capitalize places. For instance: I will visit Paris.

3. Phenogram Rules

A phenogram is evidently a letter or a combination of letters that represent a sound, which forms the basic unit of spelling.  Thus it is crucial to grasp some crucial rules while learners transit them. We have seen so far comprehended general rules that apply to the Orton-Gillingham approach; Let us now explore phenogram rules : 

  1. Any Word having Phenograms like ‘CI’, ‘SI’, and ‘TI’ are spelled as “sh” at both beginnings of a second and subsequent syllable. For instance, frusta tion, man sion, ra cial
  2. CK’ is one such phonogram that can be put after a single vowel (a,e, i,o, or u). For Instance: quack, snack, lick, clock, luck
  3. The phonogram ‘DGE’ may be employed only after a single vowel that says A, E, I, O, or U. (grudge, wedge, pledge, fridge, smudge).
  4. A base word can have ‘SH’ at its beginning or end. For instance: Sheep, Spanish. This phonogram can end a syllable. For instance: latish. But it can never begin with it unless the word ends with ‘ship’. For instance: warship, Relation ship
  5. The phonogram ‘ED’ has three sounds. If a base word ends in the sound d or t, adding ed forms another syllable that spells ed (seed ed, chart ed). If the base word ends in a voiced consonant sound, the ending ed spells D (lived). If the base word ends in an unvoiced consonant sound, the ending ED spells T (pumped).
  6. SI’ can spell ‘sh’, ‘S’, or ‘zh’. It spelled ‘sh’ when it is preceded by a syllable ending S. For instance: expression. It is spelled ‘S’ when the base word changes. For instance: Lens, Pen sion. It spells ‘zh’ in the word ‘vi sion’.

Orton Gillingham Spelling Rules- Some Momentous Rules

Orton-Gillingham’s approach focuses on how the word is spelled, which makes it unique. It believes in guesswork games during this expedition. Thus, grasping what phenograms are and how they work becomes crucial. In this accord, some rules need special care to comprehend and thus need momentous supervision. Here are the rules:

1. The K or CK Rule

This rule applies at the end of the words or a syllable. This basic rule says if the /k/ is heard after a short vowel or end of a word, then it is spelled ‘CK’ For instance, Sock, Quick. On the other hand, if /k/ is heard after a long vowel, it is spelled with K, For instance: Spook. Learners are often bewildered between the two. The best way to evaluate is by checking if the word has one long vowel or a short vowel. Activities, dictation, and games can develop this rule. 

2. The CH Rule

Another common area where learners are bewildered is between CH and TCH. The rule hypothesis is that if you hear a /ch/ sound after a syllable and precede a short vowel, it is spelled ‘-TCH’. For instance: watch patch.  While it is spelled ‘-CH’ if there is a consonant or vowel before /ch/. For instance: church, and branch.  Moreover, ‘-TCH‘ will never start a word. 

Learners can evaluate the word to get an answer— First, by checking if the word has one syllable, and then if it is a short or long vowel. Apart from games, activities, and dictation, verbalizing can evince comprehension. 

3. Long A Vowel Teams

As the learner stretches their knowledge of vowel teams, spelling choices increase; thus, they would need tools to train. One such area is distinguishing between AI and AY in certain words. To tackle this, they need to be taught some tips to identify. These are: 

  • Recognizing the base word
  • A long sound at the end of the syllable is spelled AY.  For instance: pay, ray.
  • A long sound at the beginning is considered AI or AE. For instance: Brain.

Teaching this rule is effortless if you follow an organized procedure. Start with known words, then review their activities. Games and dictation can be obliging.

Summing up

Learning spelling rules is not facile, even for those with learning complexities. But these rules turn out to be crucial for better comprehension of fluency, and thus language mastery. Everyone comprehends the relevance of spelling in the curriculum, but there is a debate among them about how it can be taught in schools.

The education proceedings may get yet more critical for special needs children. The spelling rules illustrated above can be implanted through specialized phonic instructions, and interactive activities to make them potent to compete.  


[1] Learning Morphological and Phonological Spelling Rules: An Intervention Study: Bryant P. & Ollson J. (2009 November 19)

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