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How to Handle Spelling Rule Breakers

Learning how to spell words that don’t follow the rules can be … well boring. And we can’t have that!

In All About Spelling, we’ve labeled unruly words like said, who, and been as “Rule Breakers,” and we’ve created several motivating ways to make learning to spell these words a bit easier … and a lot more fun!

The word "been" is a spelling rule breaker since it doesn't follow typical spelling rules

When your student encounters a Rule Breaker in All About Spelling (or the real world!), just reach for one of these activities and let the fun begin!

Feed the Puppy - a spelling activity

Feed the Rule Breaker to the puppy!

When you encounter a word that breaks the rules, this adorable puppy is ready to help you deal with the misbehaving word! Download our Feed the Puppy activity.

Jail for Rule Breakers - a spelling activity

Throw the Rule Breaker in jail!

A short time out just might help control those Rule Breakers. Download our Jail for Rule Breakers activity.

Have an older student? Older kids like these treatments of unruly words just as much as younger ones do, so pick your favorite and see how those tricky words stick in their minds!

Two More Ways to Handle Rule Breakers

  1. Writing Intensive

    1. Look at the Word Card and then look at an empty spot on the table.

    2. Picture the word on the table and spell the word aloud three times.

    3. Using a finger, “write” the word on the table three times in VERY BIG LETTERS.

    4. Spell the word on paper three times.

    In the space of a minute or two, your student will have practiced the word nine times.

  2. Tactile Practice

    In this exercise, your student “writes” the Rule Breaker on a tactile surface, using his pointer finger instead of a pencil. Some surfaces to consider include:

    1. Sand in a shoe box lid

    2. A sheet of fine sandpaper

    3. “Feely” fabrics such as burlap, velvet, or corduroy

    4. Salt poured into a baking pan

    5. Plush carpet square

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.

Most Words Do Follow the Rules

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 student can spell hundreds of “law-abiding” words. Then—and only then—begin teaching the unruly ones.

Which spelling words cause your student the most difficulty? Let me know in the comments, and then download my free e-book called “Six Ways We Make Spelling Easy” below!

Six Ways We Make Spelling Easy Report

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Andrea

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My kids have always loved throwing the rule breakers in jail! The puppy rule breaker activity looks fun also!

Alēka Kahealani

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My kids will love the dog rule breaker activity, thank you!!

Lynda

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Great tips!

Miriam

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Love the resources! My kid loves hands on learning!

julia

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Both of these games are great! I have one kid who loves to feed the dog and another who loves to put words in jail. Great idea for older kids too! Thank you for the information!

Maritza Lopez

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Love the activities!

Brittany

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Love the resources in this blog! Thank you!

Monik Folkman

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Thankful for the tips!

Alexandra Entner

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Fantastic ideas, thanks!

Linda Torres

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Such great ideas! I will be incorporating and trying them out with my kiddos.

Beth

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Good ideas to keep kids engaged but working proactively on spelling these correctly. Thank you for these tips.

Rebecca Bechler

says:

Love this and looking forward to trying out with my daughter!

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Rebecca!

Jen

says:

Love that these games are easy to do with things at home and minimal prep

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thanks, Jen! We understand how busy homeschool parents, tutors, and classroom teachers are!

Susanna S.

says:

This is excellent. I was just talking with my 8 year old a few days ago about words that don’t follow the rules. I’ll have to try some of these activities.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Susanna! I hope these are helpful for your student.

Charlotte

says:

brilliant ways to help with rule breakers. downloaded! thank you!

Robin

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Charlotte! Enjoy!

Felicia

says:

I remember struggling with rule breakers when I learned to read. Love these options of making it a game when my child gets to this level!

Robin

says: Customer Service

Felicia,
I hope that rule-breakers don’t become a struggle for your child. However, if you ever have questions or concerns, please ask. I’m always happy to help!

Beth

says:

That’s a great approach to spelling.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Beth!

Elisabeth Negley

says:

I love the idea of putting rule breakers in jail. Students in my class really struggle with words that don’t follow the pattern and are always stumped on how to spell them.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Elisabeth,
The act of throwing the word in jail, or feeding it to the dog, helps children to put the blame for the misspelling on the word and not on themselves, as well as helping children remember the word for the future. It’s a great approach to rule-breakers!

Kg

says:

I look forward to trying!

Olivia

says:

I love the different learning style ideas (visual, tactile, auditory) mentioned! I think that’s what it takes sometimes for it to click with different kids.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Yes, so true, Olivia! Thank you.

Jennifer

says:

I really appreciate that the materials are designed to be appealing to my kids. Framing the activity as “Feed the Puppy” is so much more engaging than a standard “trash can”-type of example.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Jennifer,
Thank you! Our team works hard to help make learning very engaging!

Th

says:

Looks great!

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thank you!

Megan

says:

These activities look so fun!

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Megan!

S

says:

I’m going to try this!

Robin

says: Customer Service

Great! We’d love to hear if it’s helpful for your student.

Victoria

says:

Multisensory is so so good to help our kiddos in solidifying our learning.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Yes, so true, Victoria! Thanks you.

Sonja Smith

says:

I have heard such good things and love all of the ideas about how to handle words that don’t follow the rules.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Sonja.

Kathleen

says:

This seems like a simpler way to teach those words that don’t follow the rules.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Kathleen!

I personally love that this approach moves the blame for these tricky words onto the word itself, and not on the child.

Kellen

says:

These look like so much fun! My daughters will love them. They love to pretend to put bad guys in jail :)

Robin

says: Customer Service

Kellen,
The jail was a hit with my kids too. They even threw non-rule-breakers in there for “disturbing the peace” if it was one they found tricky to master.

Kathy

says:

My daughter struggles with spelling. This looks like this might be helpful.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Kathy,
I’m sorry to hear your daughter is struggling with spelling. Do you have any questions or specific concerns? I’m happy to help!

Elizabeth H.

says:

The Jail for Rulebreakers activity looks really fun