The C or K rule: Which is it?

The C or K rule. Which is it?! When learning the letter sounds, one tricky sound we come across is the letter sound you know for C. The sound isn’t tricky – the tricky part is that it is the same sound for C and K and CK and KE. How do we know what letter to use??

Naturally, we have some rules to help us know (mostly) which letters are used in different situations. And of course, finding games we can play and activities we can do to reinforce these rules is the best way to learn these rules and start to move them into long term memory. Before I continue, for our new readers/writers, I NEVER use this rule and/or correct them. I want them to use inventive spelling and sound out phonetically (how they hear the sounds)

Alright, so is it C or K?? Let’s get to it.

The C or K rule made simple in this quick blog that focuses on these tricky spelling rules.

Beginning Sounds – C or K?

When we are talking about beginning sounds, we use C when the first vowel in the word is an A, O, or U.

Check out the pictures below that help us remember the c or k rule!

These short vowel sounds help us remember when the letter c is used.

We use K when the first vowel in the word is an I or E. Here are some visuals that help us know remember the c or k rule. Remember though, with our new readers/writers, we want them sounding out with the sounds that they hear. We don’t need to focus on spelling until at least Grade 1.

Here's a great graphic that helps us remember if the beginning sound is c or k. This is a great spelling trick for when kids are in Grade 1+ .

Ending Sounds – c/k/ck/ke

  1. Let’s start with the two most straightforward options. Short vowels and long vowels. 

Short vowels are the usual letter sounds we make for each vowel. Long vowels are when the vowel sound changes (because of the magic e, remember?) to say ‘its name’. Think of the words RIP and RIPE. The ‘I’ sound changes from short to long.

2. When the word contains a short vowel, it will end with CK. Here are a few examples: DUCK, STUCK, DOCK, SOCK, CLICK, FLICK, SACK. Listen to the vowel sound in each and you can hear the short sound consistently.

Ending sounds : what' the deal with the c and k rule? This one is an easy one and so help for our kiddos!

3. When the word contains a long vowel, it ends with KE. Here are a few examples: DUKE, PUKE, POKE, BLOKE, TAKE, MAKE, BIKE, LIKE. Listen to the vowel sound in each and you can hear it say it’s name.

4. Now let’s look at when we use C, and K.

We use C at the end of a word with 2 or more syllables. Think PICNIC, LOGIC, ARCTIC, COSMIC, DYNAMIC, ATHLETIC

spelling tip: the single c is used when there's a word with 2 syllables or more!

We use K at the end of a word when it contains a vowel digraph (a double vowel). BOOK, LOOK, COOK, SEEK, CHEEK, MEEK, CREEK, GREEK.

Double vowel digraphs are always a tricky one for kids to learn, but so important! Now this trick on the c or k rule is such an important and easy one! With a double vowel digraph, the letter K is at the end.

I hope this was helpful for you! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to comment below and/or email me anything. I know how tricky this can be, so I also made a free anchor chart for you! Just pop your name/email in below and you’ll get an email in minutes! Happy spelling! – Kaley

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