Phonics and Spelling rules for the order of introduction for Orton-Gillingham Phonics
Compiled by Carol Mayer 2012
1. Emphasize that you use K before e,i,or y. Use C before a,o,u, or any consonant. Often called the cat
rule because you can draw a cat to show what goes with c.
2. First introduction to a digraph. Emphasize that a digraph is two letters that make one sound. The H-
brothers, ch,wh, th, sh. Ch likes trains and makes train noises,”choo, choo”. Wh likes to try to whistle but
can’t quite make it so he blows the wh-sound a lot. Th is a rascal and sticks his tongue out a lot to try to
blow raspberries but he has a lisp problem. Sh is tired of all the noise and tells everyone to shhhh.
3. F,L,S,Z rule: A one syllable, short vowel word that ends with the consonants f,l,s,or z must double the
final consonant. Remembered by the slogan: Freddie Loves Sticky Zebras.
4. Consonant blends: tackle initial blends first. Introduced with the image of a twist cone where you
taste both flavors, so too, you have to hear both sounds of the blend. You may need to take these one
blend at a time at first but once they get the concept of blending the two sounds you can speed up.
5. K/CK generalization: Use ck after a short vowel in a one syllable word. Use k after anything else, such
as a vowel team, dipthong or another consonant.
6. A syllable is a word or a part of a word that has a talking vowel.
7. Magic-e/Sneaky-e: An e at the end of the word magically makes the first vowel say its long name.
1. Nasal Blends: these are blends that distort the vowel sound because the n-sound is so nasally.
Feel the bridge of the nose for the vibration of the n-sound. The hardest, IMO, is spelling the i
with a nasal-n because it distorts the i into an e-sound.
2. Plural s: An s at the end of a CVC word changes the meaning from one to more than one.
3. S=z: An s between two consonants usually makes a z sound. Sometimes it can make a z-sound
when used as a suffix.
4. Extension of Syllable Division Pattern1: If there are more than two consonants between the
vowels, circle the consonants that work together, like a digraph or blend, and divide before or
after the blend but not between them.
5. Open syllable: if there is no consonant after a vowel in a syllable, it is considered open and says
its long name. At this point you are looking at one syllable words anyway but it becomes more
important when you get to VCV pattern words.
6. Y generalization: Y spells I at the end of a one-syllable word, but spells E at the end of a two or
more syllable word.
7. Ch/tch generalization: Use tch after a short vowel in a one syllable word. Use ch after anything
else. Very similar to the k/ck generalization.
8. Vowel Team concept: When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking. Teach these
teams as separately as needed to insure students know when to use them. For instance: ai and
oa, ee, and ea are usually found at the beginning or middle of a word, while ay, ow,oe,and ey
are usually found only at the end of the word. (unless in compound words)
9. R-Control syllables: If you see a vowel with an R, chances R, it’s a bossy-R. er,ir,ur are considered
triplets and there is no good rule to use to know when to use them. Repetition of seeing words
with these combos are the best in learning them. Ar and or are given their regular r-controlled
sound here because they are used in accented syllables. We won’t discuss their /er/ sound here
because that occurs in an unaccented syllable, like in the words dollar and doctor.
10. R-control, magic-e: A magic-e has more power than a bossy-r so the vowel says its long name
before the /r/ sound comes in.
11. R-control, vowel-team: Same principle as #10.
12. Special closed syllable patterns: The vowels i and o can say their long name if followed by two
consonants. Sometimes called wild colt words because these two words demonstrate the rule.
When an a is followed by an l, it makes a short o sound.
13. 3 sounds of ed: This is the first time you really talk about the concept of a suffix. At this point
there is no good rule to teach as to which pronunciation needs to be used. They just have to try
14. Vowel-teams as diphthongs. Teach the word diphthong so it differentiates from a regular vowel-
team. A diphthong is two vowels that come together to make an unusual sound. OO can make
two different sounds. Usually ou is found at the beginning or middle of the word while ow is
found at the end. However, there is a tricky spelling rule to teach here: If the final consonant in
the word is l or n, or the last two letters are er, use ow in the middle of the word.
1. Oi is usually found at the beginning or middle of a word while oy is usually found at the end
of a word. Au and aw follow the ou/ow rules. I call the other vowel-teams in this sequence
rascal vowel teams because they don’t follow the ‘two vowels go walking’ generalization.
Igh is called a trigraph so you can teach that it is three letters that make one sound.
2. SUVZ rule: A word doesn’t end in s,u,v,z, unless with letter e. These words end with a silent,
not magic-e. examples: use, glue, glove, haze
3. I combine this with #4 and teach the syllable division pattern as I review what an open
4. Syllable Division Pattern: VCV1 This is the first time we’ve looked at words with one
consonant between two talking vowels. I limit the list to those words in which the first
vowel stays open to say its long name.
5. Diagraph ph: why this isn’t included with the h-brothers is probably because it is not used
that often and remember, this series is listed from most frequently to least frequently used
concepts. Ph can be found in all three positions. There is no good spelling rule to follow with
this, familiarity of ph words is the best way to remember when to use it.
6. Schwa: An open a in an unaccented syllable will make a short /u/ sound.
7. Plural s or es: You need to use es with words that end with a hissing sound, such as an
s,x,z,ch,sh. You also use es after words that end with a consonant-o (ex: tomatoes, heroes).
Note: there are exceptions like with auto, piano, zero,casino. If a word ends with an f ,
change the f to v, then add es. I break this concept in level 3 into about three different
8. I combine #8 and #9 together, although you may want to take a day to talk about the
meanings of the suffixes. To figure out whether to double a consonant before adding a
suffix, look at the root word first. In order to double the final consonant, the word must be
one syllable, have one consonant, and have one vowel. That’s why it is called the 1-1-1 rule.
This works only with vowel suffixes! With a consonant suffix, don’t worry about the root
word and just add it on.
9. Suffixes: define the suffix’s meaning and determine whether it is a vowel or consonant
suffix. That is determined by the starting letter of the suffix.
10. VCV2 pattern: IN order to determine whether to divide a VCV word before or after the first
vowel, the student now has to try out the word both ways to see which way makes a real
word. Students need to remember that if the vowel needs to be short, they must make a
closed syllable by dividing after the consonant.
11. Hard and Soft c,g: Now is the time to relate why we learned the cat rule. If a c or a g are
before an e,i,or y, the c or g will take its soft sound.
12. Possessives: Usually by this time, I’ve already taught possessive nouns in grammar, but if
not, teach that in order to show who or what owns something, we use an apostrophe-s.
13. Contractions: I first teach what it means to contract something; that is, to squeeze it very
hard. In a contraction, two words are squeezed together so tightly that some letters pop
out. The slogan is: ‘You take the letters out and put the apostrophe in’. This is accompanied
by arm movements pantomiming the slogan.