Learning how to spell words that don’t follow the rules can be…well…a bit boring. And we can’t have that! So the All About Spelling program has a fun and motivating way to teach these Rule Breakers.
We throw them in jail, of course!
That’s right, we put these words behind bars. Words like said, who, and once—they don’t follow the spelling rules, so they deserve to be locked in the slammer.
A jail is included in All About Spelling Levels 2 and 3, but if you don’t have one yet, you can download one here.
To prepare the jail for teaching, cut out the spaces between the bars so the Rule Breaker can peek through.
Then the fun begins.
Let’s say your child is learning to spell the word said.
See the bad guy on the Word Card above? He’s a Rule Breaker. The letters “ai” almost always work together to say the long A sound, but in the word said, they say the short E sound. That’s breaking the law! So, here’s what you do:
Your child circles the “ai” (the letters that don’t say what we expect them to say). Next, he colors in the circle to highlight the problem, and then throws the Rule Breaker in jail. In the final step, he writes the word said on paper.
Here’s a silent film-style video straight out of the old West that shows our strategy in action.
Keep this strategy in mind even if you’re working with older learners, since older kids like this treatment of unruly words just as much as younger ones do. Try it and see how it sticks in their minds!
In the space of a minute or two, your child will have practiced the word nine times.
In this exercise, your child “writes” the Rule Breaker on a tactile surface, using his pointer finger instead of a pencil. Some surfaces to consider include:
We treat Rule Breakers differently from other words to help kids learn them soon after they are introduced. Two effective ways to burn something into memory are frequency (repeated review) and intensity (different and surprising treatment), so keep these ideas in mind as you handle the Rule Breakers. Doing whatever it takes to enable your student to spell these words correctly right from the start will prevent problems later.
Thankfully, the vast majority of spelling words do follow consistent patterns. And when kids first start out, we are careful to work only with words that follow the rules. This helps kids internalize the fact that there are reliable rules and that they can make sense of spelling. They discover that they don’t need to resort to guessing or memorizing strings of letters.
So, before introducing the first Rule Breakers, make sure your child can spell hundreds of “law-abiding” words. Then–and only then–begin teaching the unruly ones.
Which spelling words cause your child the most difficulty? Let me know in the comments, and then download my free e-book called “Six Ways We Make Spelling Easy” below!