Phonics Spelling Rules That Should Be Taught

Phonics Spelling Rules That Should Be Taught

When kids and adults learn to read, they make connections between how words sound and what the letters stand for.  The way phonics is taught helps make these connections.

The rules and patterns of spelling are also taught through phonics.  It shows how to use syllables, which are parts of words.  People can get better at reading and spelling if they learn common syllable patterns.

Here are 15 essential rules to remember if you want to do well at reading and spelling.

Rule 1

Long and Short Vowels

 The sounds vowels make vary.  Where they are in a word affects how they sound.

Like, does the vowel come after a consonant?

This helps figure out if the vowel makes a short or long sound.

Examples: go/got, she/shed.

The vowel typically makes a short sound when a syllable has only one vowel and at least one consonant.

Examples: hat, up, ham, fish.

These words are known as having a “closed syllable” pattern.

When a syllable has only one vowel at the end, as in me, ba-by, se-cred, and si-ent, the vowel makes its long sound.  This is known as an “open syllable.”

Rule 2

Vowels in the middle of syllables 

Every syllable in a word has at least one vowel sound.  A vowel can be the only sound in a syllable, like in the words “unit” and “animals.”

Examples: jet, napkin, and fantastic..

Rule 3

Silent e 

When the letter “e” is the last letter in a word, with only one other vowel in that syllable, the first vowel is usually long, and the e is silent, as, in bake and side, this is known as the “vowel-consonant-e” syllable pattern.

Rule 4

Vowel digraphs –

Two vowels are side by side in a vowel digraph.  The first vowel is long and says the name of the letter.

The second vowel is silent.

Examples: boat, paint, and beach.

When two vowels come together, they can make a new sound.

This is what’s known as a diphthong.  A diphthong is a vowel with a distinct sound change inside the same syllable.

Examples: town, play, slow

Rule 5

Digraphs and consonant blends

When two letters make one sound, it’s called a digraph.  When two consonants come together in a digraph, they make a new sound.

Examples: church, ship, school, machine, photo.

Consonant blends are different.

The consonants in these groups work well together.

But unlike digraphs, you can still hear the sounds of each letter even when they are all together.

Examples:  clam, grasp, and scrub.

Rule 6


Most words can be made plural by adding an s, like the word dog becomes dogs.

But when a single word ends in s, sh, ch, x, or z, add an es to make it plural.

Example: foxes, boxes, classes

Rule 7

“Bossy -R” or R-controlled vowels 

When a vowel is followed by a r in a syllable, the vowel is said to be “controlled” by the r.  The r and makes a new sound.

Example: Far, bird, germ, form, and hurt.

This rule is sometimes called the “bossy r” rule.

Rule 8

The sound “schwa

Any vowel can make the schwa sound.

The schwa sound is in words like from and final.

Examples: balloon, bottom, support, family, problem.

It is the sound that is used most often in English.

Rule 9

Words that end in k or ck

If a one-syllable word ends with the sound /k/ after a short vowel, it’s normally spelled with ck.

Example: luck, stuck.

When the /k/ sound comes after a consonant, long vowel sound, or diphthong, it is usually spelled with the letter k.

Example:  make, soak, and thank.

Rule 10

The sound /j/ spelled dge 

When a /j/ sound comes right after a short vowel in a one-syllable word, it’s spelled dge.

Examples: badge, lodge, judge, and smudge.

(The “magic e” rule doesn’t apply to the vowel because of the d.)

Rule 11

Leave off the e after -ing –

When adding -ing to a word that ends with a silent e, leave off the e.

Examples: live/living, give/givine.

This rule also applies to suffixes like -ed, -er, -able, and -ous that start with a vowel.

Grieve/grieved, excite/excited, and hope/hoped are some examples.

Rule 12

Double consonant 

In a one-syllable word with a short vowel and a single consonant, like “win,” double the consonant before adding a vowel-starting suffix.

Examples: Winner, Winning, and Winnable

Rule 13

Y rules 

If a word ends in a vowel and then a y, all you have to do is add an s, as in toy/toys.

When a consonant comes right after a y, change the y to an I and add -es.

Examples: Family, families, treaty, and treaties

Suffixes tend to follow the same rules.

When a vowel comes before a y, leave the y and add the suffix.  Play and playing, and annoy and annoying are two examples.

If a word ends with a consonant and is followed by the letter “y”, change the “y” to an “i” and then add the suffix such as -est, or -ed.

Some examples are carried and carry, as well as happy and happiest.

Rule 14

The “flsz” (floss) rule –

You must double the consonant at the end of one-syllable words that include a vowel (a, e, I o, u) immediately followed by either a f, l, or s, or sometimes z.Example: jazz, buff,  loss, fuzz, shell

Quiz and bus are two exceptions.

Rule 15

The sound /ch/ sound

When a /ch/ sound comes right after a short vowel in a one-syllable word, it’s usually written as tch, as in catch, fetch, stitch, blotch, and clutch.

Only the words, such, much, rich, and which, don’t follow this rule.

Exceptions to the rules:

Most words in English follow the rules about how they sound.  Any exceptions to these rules should be taught and memorized.  These words are often on lists of “high-frequency” or “sight” words.

Students need opportunities to practice working with the sounds of all letters.  There are great video resources that teach letter sounds to students.  We have created a page on the alphabet with phonics with a collection of numerous videos from well-known YouTube channels that can be helpful for students to practice their phonics skills. 


Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get the best of From Free Educational Worksheets to Timely Relevant Blog Posts. strives to be your go-to choice for educational resources.

Please subscribe to our Newsletter.

We don’t send out many emails, but when we do, it’s worth it!

Eureka Math Practice Tests