Thursday, January 8, 2009

K versus C

How do you teach a kid which words start with a "k" and which words start with "c". Well, here are two ways:

  1. Remember that the combinations "ce" and "ci" make the soft "s" sound, not the hard "k" sound. So, a word spelled "cite" would be pronounced like: site. So, that word must be spelled with a "k": kite. (A similar rule exists for "g": "ge" and "gi" frequently make the soft "j" sound, particularly in the middle of words: eg. engine.) Everything that has a different first vowel starts with a "c".

  2. Just remember: "Hey kid! Kiss the kind king, and keep the key in the kitchen with the kite, and never kick the kitten, the kettle or the kangaroo."

I came up with that phrase this way: I went to the Dolch words* and found the few that start with the hard "k", I also went to the Fry words* and found the hard "k's" there. Then, I added "kid", "kettle" and "kangaroo" from memory.

Kangaroo is obviously the exception, since it has an "a" as leading vowel.

* The Dolch words are a list of words that kids are supposed to be able to sight read at different ages. The list is broken down into Pre-Primary, Primary, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. But the way I see it, a first grader should pretty much know them all.

The Fry list is a bit more interesting. A researcher added up all the words we encounter as adults on a regular basis. Counted each instance of each word and ordered them from most common to least common. What he figured out was that half of all the words we encounter every day are the same 300 words: a, an, the, and, etc. That's the Fry list. I figure that if a kid can sight read those 300 words, reading becomes a snap--a kid already knows half of all the words on the page.

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