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The Floss Rule for Spelling

Have you ever wondered why some words have a double consonant at the end (such as sniff), while other words do not (such as dog and bat)?

The answer is easy–and we call it The Floss Rule. The Floss Rule is a really simple spelling rule that helps kids remember when to use a double consonant at the end of a word.

Check out The Floss Rule in this video, and then read on for free printable spelling rule posters and a sample lesson!

Why Do We Call It “The Floss Rule”?

The rule states that if a word has only one vowel and ends in F, L, or S, double the last letter.

The word floss is a perfect example of this rule, and it also contains the letters f, l, and s! That makes “The Floss Rule” a pretty handy name, doesn’t it?

infographic showing the floss rule for spelling

Tips and tricks like The Floss Rule are taught throughout the All About Spelling program. Want to see more? Download these two free resources to see just how easy teaching spelling rules can be.

Download All About Spelling Level 1, Step 18.
This lesson shows how we teach doubling a consonant at the end of one-syllable words.

pdf-icon-transparent-background2-small-p3

Download our free Spelling Rules Posters.
This handy resource will help make learning three important spelling rules easy and fun to remember for your children.

Has the Floss Rule helped your child? I would love to hear about it in the comments below! And check out our other spelling rules, too!

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Sireen

says:

Tq. It’s clear many doubts which I have. Now I can clear my students about floss rule.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m happy this was helpful for you, Sireen.

Ssebuggwaawo Robinah Catherine

says:

Thank very much, it has relieved me with many questions.Now am able to help others.
Now if it is teaching individual sounds, do we say. b-e- l-l, g-l-a-s-s?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Good question. No. When you segment words with doubled ending letters, they segment as a single sound, not as a double sound. Students will say /g/-/l/-/a/-/s/. This is because when we speak the word glass, we only hear the /s/ once. To be able to segment the word to have two /s/ sounds requires students to have already memorized how to spell the word and at that point they don’t need to segment. There are too many words in English to make memorizing every word a useful approach to spelling.

Rather, students will segment the word /g/-/l/-/a/-/s/ and will then apply the Floss Rule to know to double the S.

Our blog post on Segmenting: A Critical Skill for Spelling may be helpful for you.

Hamid

says:

Great rule, thanks.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Hamid.

Deena Shahab

says:

Loved the floss rule explanation!! Perfect timing for me I have a class in which I’ll teach it.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this was timely for you, Deena!

trish

says:

Great rule, now is there a ee nad ea rule? leaf or leef?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Trish,
I’m sorry, no. There is no rule for when to use EE or EA to spell the long e sound. These words must simply be learned visually. Here is how All About Spelling approaches tricky phonograms like these:

1) The most frequently used teams are usually introduced first. In the case of EE and EA, EE is introduced first.

2) The students are given a word bank to read and review so they get used to seeing the correct spelling. These are used to help build up the student’s visual memory, and the students practice spelling with just that phonogram. (Part of what you are doing is helping your child create a mental “schema” as he reads these words.) Then, when the student isn’t sure how a word should be spelled, they can do “scratch paper spelling” and recognize the correct spelling.

Over time, AAS is actually teaching several spelling strategies: phonetic, rule-based, visual, and morphemic. Here’s an article with more information on “Effective Spelling Strategies.” AAS gradually teaches students how to analyze and study words, until they can do this independently.

3) Students practice the words with letter tiles and in writing, in dictation phrases and sentences, and with the daily review box. Continual, individualized review is a major component of All About Spelling. With the Spelling Review Box, after the student learns a word, it is not “retired.” We revisit the word in future lessons and make sure that it is indeed mastered. If the student needs additional practice, the word is put behind the “Review” divider in their Spelling Review Box. The cards make it easy to customize the review for your student’s needs.

4) Some students benefit from kinesthetic activities and tactile methods as they practice. Students can use tactile surfaces such as a Salt Trays, plush carpet, or a ziplock bag filled with shaving cream as a writing surface. Write the word in large letters, using the index finger of the dominant hand to practice writing the word.

5) Teaching similar constructs at the same time aids future retrieval; so AAS teaches one pattern at a time. The student will learn a number of words using the same pattern so that he learns to categorize those words together in his mind.

6) The next pattern is not introduced until many lessons later. In the case of EE and EA, EE is introduced in Level 2, while EA is introduced in Level 3. Students get lots of practice with one before another pattern is added.

Presenting multiple ways to spell one sound all at once can undermine that understanding for children who struggle, so AAS separates them and gives children a chance to master them incrementally. But this also means that as you work through the program, you want to make sure they are solid on what they have learned already.

7) After the student has learned a few patterns, All About Spelling will include sorting exercises to help them test out different spellings and remember which pattern goes with which word. This provides an opportunity for you to evaluate how your student is doing with the various patterns. If he makes a lot of mistakes, go back and work on the patterns individually for a time, and then try again.

8) Lastly, when students are simply unsure, they can use a dictionary, an electronic speller, or Google to find the correct spelling of the word.

Teresa

says:

Hi there! So, my daughter (7) asked me the following. Why is puppet a double consonant and not closet? The first syllable in closet has a short vowel and one consonant. So, after seeing your poster, I would assume it’s because it has a z sound…? Or, does the base word actually have to be a “real” word? “Clos” is not a word. :) Or, is closet not doubled for BOTH of these reasons…?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Your daughter is paying attention to words and that is wonderful, Teresa!

However, Floss Rule does not apply to puppet or closet. The Floss Rule only applies to one-syllable words with short vowel ending in F, L, or S. We don’t have a blog post specific to these words, but it is related to closed syllable types and I think you will find our How to Teach Open and Closed Syllables blog post helpful.

The P in the middle of puppet is doubled to protect the short vowel. This makes both syllables closed and the vowels in closed syllables say their short sounds Otherwise the first syllable would be open and the U would say its long sound, making the word pupet /pū/-/pet/.

You are on a somewhat right track about the /z/ sound of the S in closet. Double S almost always says the /s/ sound, and a single S between two vowels almost always says the /z/ sound. However, there are other words that don’t double the middle consonant and still have a short vowel sound. For example: cabin, habit, metal, etc. This is because doubling the middle consonant to protect a short vowel is an “often” rule, not an always one.

Does this clear it up for your daughter? This is covered in All About Reading level 2, but with more depth and detail in All About Spelling level 2.

Melissa Candee

says:

Why is the word “plus” spelled with one s

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

The word plus is an exception to the Floss Rule, Melissa. There are about eight words where a final S is not doubled (us, yes, this, bus, gas, pus, plus, and thus) and about 280 words where it is doubled (grass, miss, less, chess, and many others). So while some of the eight exceptions are very common words that a young reader will see a lot, the rule is reliable 97% of the time for doubling S.

Rochelle

says:

Thank you for this! How does the child drop down the double F, L, or S when spelling with tiles? Does he pronounce one sound (so “f”) and pull down two F’s at the same time? Or does he pronounce the one sound (so “f”) and pull down ONE F and then pull down the second F silently?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Good question, Rochelle.

I think either way you proposed is good, but I think I like the idea of pulling down two Fs (or L or S) at once with a single sound. However, it doesn’t really matter. The purpose is to get the child to think about the Floss Rule and either way will do that.

Susan S

says:

These are great posters; thank you! I also like that you included one for coloring… work on that eye/hand coordination and fine motor skills.

Merin

says:

Great lesson! Where can I get that digital scrabble type board?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Merin,
I think you are asking about our Letter Tiles app for tablets. Our Top Tips for Using the Letter Tiles App blog post includes videos for more details on how the app works.

Let me know if you need anything else.

Olivia

says:

This is very helpful! Are there other videos like this?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Olivia,
Yes, we have lots of videos! Check out our All About Learning Press YouTube channel to search through them. We often have blog posts with free printables that go along with the videos as well.

Olivia

says:

Awesome! Thank you!

Emmanuelle

says:

Fantastic! A great yet simple rule to reminder.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Emmanuelle!

Jancy

says:

very useful

Ernie Fairysha

says:

Making my life easier after watching the video

Ernie Fairysha

says:

the spelling makes me more understand about the flow.

Krisann Brown

says:

Love this

Jorje armen

says:

You made my day after 30 years of MISSPELLINGS

Thanks to you.

Edgar Vasquez

says:

Thank you so much for this nice tool.

Getrude mwanza

says:

Thank you so much for this information.it has really helped me

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Glad this was helpful, Getrude!

Lenora Falciani

says:

May I share this on my website, citing you as a resource of course?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Lenora,
I’ve emailed you.

Christina Murren-Plaitford

says:

Thank you so much, I home school my Grandson as he was bullied in state school because he is unable to read and write like that of his peers.
You have given me clarification on Dyslexia and now I can help him a lot more.
Again thank you

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are so welcome, Christina, and I am so happy that we were able to help you help your grandson! If you ever have questions or need anything, please reach out.

If you haven’t seen it already, we have a Dyslexia Resources Page that I think will be helpful for you.

Simeon kampanda

says:

Am also teaching school students in spelling rules grades 9-12 here in Zambia.Would like posts for such students too .thank you

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Simeon,
There are some articles that should be helpful for older students:
How to Teach Schwas
How to Teach Suffixes
How to Teach Syllable Types
How to Do Spelling Dictation
Teaching Latin Roots with Word Trees
The “Pronounce for Spelling” Technique4 Spelling Strategies You Won’t Want to Miss

I hope this helps! Let me know if there is a specific spelling skill or rule you are looking for.

Simeon kampanda

says:

Very helpful

Esther Okon.

says:

It was really helpful.
Thank you so much.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Esther. I’m glad to hear this was helpful for you.

Sadie R Levine

says:

Thanks- great tips. I am a literacy specialist and the mom of a five-year-old. I appreciate your resources.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Sadie, and thank you!

Asha Evans

says:

Thank you so much.

Georgia

says:

Another common word that does not
follow the floss rule::: “of”

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Georgia,
The “of” is a problem for more than the Floss Rule. The letter F says /v/ and that is not a sound it should be making. It is a rule-breaker all around and All About Reading and All About Spelling teach it as such.

Carol

says:

Wondering if it’s because the letter o is not a short vowel within this word, but instead a schwa sounding vowel.

Angie Lambka

says:

This came at the perfect time! I’m getting prepped to start lesson 18, of AAS level 1, with my 8 year old this week. This is the one rule that my middle son had the most trouble memorizing. This video is amazing! Thanks!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I love great timing, Angie! ?

Sheryl

says:

I often add z to this rule for my firsties: buzz, fizz, fuzz, frizz, whizz, jazz.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sheryl,
We purposefully chose not to add Z because the rule isn’t as reliable for Z. All About Reading and All About Spelling focus on rules that are reliable 95% of the time or more. Z doubles at the end of words something like 75% of the time. There are the words you list, but then there are words like quiz, fez, and whiz (whiz is one Z, not two). Only a few words end in Z or ZZ, so that adds to the less reliableness of the rule and makes it easier to teach them individually.

Thank you.

Kathy

says:

What about the word bus? One syllable with a short vowel.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Good catch, Kathy!
There are almost 300 words that use SS at the end, such as glass, stress, and cross. However, are exceptions. There are only about 8 words that use a single S: us, yes, this, bus, gas, pus, plus, and thus. While the exceptions can be unexpected, the rule holds true approximately 99% of the time and is thus very reliable. The exceptions can be learned as How to Handle Spelling Rule Breakers.

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