Teaching the CK rule

One of the hardest spelling rules for my firsties is when to use ck and when to use k. Confession: I spent many years teaching not actually teaching the rule. I had spelling words and spelling tests and word sorts. But I didn't teach when to use ck and when to use k. Finally I was introduced to the Orton-Gillingham approach to spelling and reading for struggling readers. Game changer. I love love love teaching phonics rules that actually make sense of our super confusing language. This is one of my favorite rules to teach now because now my kids know how and when to use ck. Many of the students I work with need extra practice and then some more extra practice. I want to give them plenty of opportunities to practice this skill in a way that doesn't feel repetitive. We definitely want repetition but I don't want the kids to see it that way! 

As always, I start by modeling. I make words using these tiles.  I teach the rule (use ck after short vowels) and then build a bunch of words with ck, pausing to explain why it's ck and not k. 

Then we move on to letting the students try. I build words like seen above and they choose which one works. 

Here is another activity to practice.  I fold the cards so you can only see the picture. We say the word, then stretch the word. Right before we get to the last sound (always /k/) we pay extra attention to that previous sound. That will help us determine which side it goes on (k or ck.) Then we reveal by unfolding.

Some basic word cards always come in handy. They can be flash cards, sorting cards, cards to match with pictures, etc.

I provided a stack of picture cards to use in several ways: match with word, use for spelling activities (say it, count the phonemes, spell the word,) sorting, etc...

I love using onset and rime cards for every phonics skill! These cards can turn in to a bunch of games. You can mix and match like this. Kids randomly mix blues and yellows and see how many real words they make. You can use one blue and 5-6 yellows and see how fast you can read all the different words. 

You can turn it into a game of memory. 

I made this earlier in the year for some of my students. I found that I needed/wanted several pages to choose from. I have these books ready to go so I can use them as I need them. You could also use them as independent practice once students know how to use these. (I would not use them as independent practice right off the bat. Make sure kids know how to use these packs first and perhaps practice with them first and then follow-up with some independent practice.) These were created to be a guided practice pack first and foremost. :)

Click on the picture below to see a 6 second video. 

Click on the picture below to watch a 13 second video to see how this works. 

Watch this short video to see how to use the page above right.  Click on the photo below to watch.

Use the circles as "sound boxes." Then write sentences using that word. 


  1. Hi Sarah
    I want to thank you for introducing me to the Orton Gillingham approach. This is new to me. I think your phonics/intervention activities would be a hit with every student in my class. My question -Do your students use all of the games and folder activities during teacher-led reading groups or is some of this independent work?
    Thank you for your great ideas!


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