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When Two Vowels Go Walking

Catchy rhymes can be a fun and easy way to remember some of those pesky phonics rules. Have you heard this one?

When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking.


It’s a cute rhyme that’s easily remembered, and most teachers simply take it for granted that it is true, especially if their phonics program includes the rule as fact. The PBS children’s program Between the Lions even devoted an entire song to the “two vowels go walking” rule.

The song illustrates the concept with a catchy tune and animated letters that walk together (hand in hand, no less!) on a road. But their conversation is one-sided, since the first vowel is the only one that is allowed to “do the talking.”

For the sake of convenience, it would be wonderful if this rule were true—teaching reading would be much simpler. But this “rule” is actually false 60% of the time.

When Two Vowels Go Walking . . . Not!

Red 'myth' stamp

To test the rule, I took the 1,000 most common words and analyzed them by applying the rule to each one. I discovered that, contrary to the rule’s claim, only 43% of the words actually followed the rule, and a stunning 57% of the words did not! When I analyzed the top 2,000 words, the percentage shifted even further—only 36% of the words followed the rule, and 64% did not. So much for this oft-repeated phrase!

This is not to say that the rule is entirely invalid. There are many cases in which two vowels regularly “go walking,” including ai, au, ea, ee, ei, ie, oa, eo, oi, oo, ou, and ui. And the first vowel is often the one that “does the talking,” as represented in words like green, sea, hair, coat, clean, rain, and peach.

But these same pairs of vowels also exist in many words that don’t follow the rule, including good, about, earth, bear, noise, author, and friend.

Instead of relying on the incorrect guidance of this (fake) rule, teach your students the sounds of the letter combinations (called phonograms). Your student will learn important and fundamental concepts, such as ai says /ā/, au says /aw/, oa says /ō/, and oi says /oy/. This knowledge will give your students some real tools to work with—and there will be nothing to unlearn later!

Vowels A and I walking on a bridge

Were you ever taught that “when two vowels go walking, the first does the talking?”


Free Spelling Rules Posters

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Leave a Comment

Tejaswini

says:

Great article. i totally agree.

MaryAnn Rosberg

says:

Super! Thanks for debuting the old rule

Ray Stark

says:

This very good . And fantastic

Fareeha

says:

This is so useful for my children. Bit it is even more useful for me. I had so much trouble with spelling all my life. And l find the post so use full. Smile

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Fareeha,
We are happy to hear that this has been useful for both you and your children.

Kamal

says:

Experience speaks

Heydy

says:

Thanks for this fantastic video

Chandra Alston

says:

This is very useful.

Mrs. B

says:

Thank you for sharing!

Charlotte McManus

says:

Thanks!

I love this – my 5 year old caught on quick with this catchy rhyme!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kristy,
The purpose of this blog post was to show that this “rule” is a false rule that is wrong more than 60% of the time. We recommend not teaching this rule, but rather focus on teaching phonograms and all their sounds.

Amity

says:

Like this

Nicole

says:

Thank you for your research! My daughter is a rule girl and she would have pointed this out to me if I tried to reach her this rule!

Veronica Trejo

says:

I love singing this with my son when we are covering vowels. “When two vowels go walking, the first dows the talking “. It helpa him remember the rule!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Veronica,
The purpose of this blog post is to show that this rule is a false rule that is wrong more than 60% of the time. We recommend not teaching this rule, but rather focus on teaching students phonograms and all their sounds.

Stacie

says:

I came across this post after my exasperated, “Spock-like” six-year-old pointed out that what I kept repeating (“when two vowels go walking…”) didn’t make any sense, and he was struggling to use these types of illogical rules to decode words. His previous kindergarten teacher had taught him this rhyme, and, even after I pulled him out to homeschool, I kept up the charade. Even he had noticed that it wasn’t always true (same with the “sneaky E”, as in another of your posts). I just didn’t know another way to teach reading, and he started to hate reading because there were too many rules that contradicted each other, especially the more he learned to read. I was searching for help on these matters and came across this post–which led me to AAR–which is what I am now using. So far, so good! As a matter of fact, my son no longer dreads reading, and we’ve only done a handful of lessons! Thank you for these posts and reports as well!

Allan

says:

Its difficult to hav effectiv rules in an inconsistent spelling “system”.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Stacie,
The way you came to be using All About Reading is very interesting, and I am so pleased to hear that you son no longer dreads reading! Thank you for sharing this.

Rebecca L Smith

says:

I don’t remember that I was taught rules, and the only one that I consistently need to remember is that “i before e except after c.”

Michele Ashton

says:

Thanks for sharing this! And thanms doing the leg work to look at thousands of words for us!!

Sheila A

says:

It’s funny because people often mispell my name, writing Shiela instead of Sheila, and I would quote that “walking” rule to help them out. Then I’d have to say it doesn’t follow the “i” before “e” except after “c” rule. Oh well. I am so glad to have AAR and AAS to teach my kids a better way!

Sheila A

says:

*misspell! I misspelled misspell!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sheila,
All About Spelling teaches the i before e rule a bit differently. We teach that when the sound is /ē/ it’s i before e except after c. Then we teach the 10 common exceptions to this rule: weird, sheik, either, neither, leisure, caffeine, protein, seize, Keith, and Sheila!

Anyway, stressing that the i before e rule only applies when the phonogram is saying the long /ē/ sound significantly reduces the number of exceptions. There are still those 10, but many other words like neighbor and weigh aren’t exceptions because ie never says long /ā/.

Daphne

says:

My older two remember this song from Leap Frog and we still use the song to this day with the younger siblings

Lise

says:

The post is actually about why this rhyme is not true for most words.

Marietta McCullough

says:

I fortunately had never learned this little rhyme. A bit ridiculous.

Mindy Bush

says:

This is very good!

Joyce Algra

says:

Thank you so much for this!

Tami Palmer

says:

Great blog!

Emily U

says:

Love your tips for helping these concepts stick! Would love to win the next level!

Rebecca Meservy

says:

This one is repeated at my house very often!

San-Mari

says:

I have never learned about this. English is my second language and it is good to know, as my son is growing up English.

Chelsey Stafki

says:

I remember learning this catch phrase in the 1st grade. I was even teaching this one to my son until we started All About Spelling. We are now finishing up with Level 4 and there have been so many times when the rhyme just didn’t work.

Alexandra

says:

English is my second language so I am very thankful to AAS for the wealth of knowledge and solid foundation helping me to teach my kids. And I learn alongside with them :)

Abigail Frazee

says:

Oh the English language; so many rules. Definitely agree, teach sounds vs a little diddy, which isn’t always correct.

Kristi Wood

says:

I’m glad I read the whole article. I was reminded of this song and thought, “Oh yeah! I should teach that to my kids.” 😆 It pays to read all of the continent. Thanks for doing the research!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kristi,
Oh, that was a close one! I’m glad this article helped to stop you from teaching this “rule”.

Michelle

says:

Thank you for this explanation. I learned this rhyme and never stopped to think about all the double vowel words that don’t follow that rule.

Taimi juarez

says:

I love the fact that you bring light to the fact that many of the rules that were drilled into us are false. Now our kids don’t have to waste their time and effort. Thanks

R G

says:

Hmm. Guess I never heard that catchy ‘rule’, but I guess depending on accents around the world who use the English language, many may actually fall under it.

Kristen Ahrens

says:

I learned so many of these types of rhymes or songs, I am still learning to overcome some of them. We’re so glad to have found AAS for our kids.

Nancy Smith

says:

I’m so thankful to have found AAR for my son! :)

Jessica

says:

Thanks for the explanation.

I have a masters in speech-language pathology and yet, I have learned so much from using AAS and AAR with my children!

Loucrecia

says:

It amazes me how many rules there are that I never knew! I’m not the best speller. I can only spell halfway descent because I love to read. I want better for my kids.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Loucrecia,
Congratulate yourself on being even a halfway decent speller, because reading a lot does not translate into decent spelling for many people. The skills are more different than many realize, and we very often are contacted by parents and tutors of students that read well above grade level but spell well below grade level. My own daughter was that way, and All About Spelling made such a difference that I now ask her how to spell a word occasionally.

Sabrina Hayes

says:

Learning the phonograms have helped not only my children, but also myself. Rules like the two vowels go walking rule made reading and spelling a challenge and I didn’t know why. I have always felt that there was a million exceptions to the rules, so why bother having a rule at all. Because of All About Learnings materials like AAR and AAS, I am empowered by the truth and I can teach my children the true rules to decoding our language and prevent a life time of frustration when it comes to reading and spelling. Thank you Marie for a fantastic product!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sabrina,
Thank you for letting us know how All About Reading and All About Spelling has affected you as a teacher!

Deanna Campbell

says:

That was great! I have struggled teaching this! Great video!

Michelle

says:

THE exceptions to the rules I have always heard throughout the years make teaching long vowels difficult. That is why I plan to use All About Spelling.

Anita C.

says:

I have 2 different learners, but both have shown great interest in this approach and have improved greatly–each at their own pace–which is one of the great features of AAS.

Deanna Dingman

says:

That was a great video! My son has struggled to learn to read proficiently and I think alot of it has to do with invalid teaching methods. Looking forward to trying a new approach this next school year as we switch from public school to homeschool.

Ana Silva

says:

Wow, i’ve heard songs like these also. Thanks for helping us parents and teachers to better teach our little ones.

Great post again!

katie

says:

Thank you for this information! It’s great to know to teach my kiddos.

Amber Petersen

says:

Never liked this rule.

Diana

says:

I’m looking for an easy to follow spelling resource…I think I’ve just found THE ONE :)

Rhiannan Lahue

says:

Thanks for clarifying. I always hated that “rule” and its “exceptions”. Phonograms for my kiddos!

autumn

says:

love this idea for making learning fun

Jeana

says:

We have really enjoyed All About Spelling Level 1

Thank you so much! We love your programs! We did a lesson this morning.

Sara Branch

says:

I hadn’t heard this rule before, but it doesn’t surprise me that it’s more often false than true. I find myself frequently explaining the phonograms and spelling rules in AAS to my 8 year old nephew as he does his homework (I bought AAS for him, but his 2nd grade teacher piles him with hours of homework each night, so we haven’t gotten far in Level 1). I frequently have to remind him of the much clearer phonics concepts in AAS than in his “phonics” based school curriculum which actually the typical list-on-Monday, test-on-Friday system which has failed him miserably. My 6 yr old son is sailing through Level 4 of AAS without any preconceived notions so he’s able to spell words almost always correctly based on the rules, even if it’s a new word for him. His lab write-ups for science show a clear increase in sophistication over this past school year that we’ve been using AAS. I’m extremely impressed with and pleased with the system.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sara,
I’m sorry your nephew is having trouble with his school phonics, but how great that you are far enough through All About Spelling with your son that you can give him more explicit instruction to help with his homework. And your 6-year-old sailing through AAS 4 is pretty impressive!

Natalie

says:

10+ years ago I was trained in another OG tutoring program and it was life-changing! I was trained to teach it but only got through the first few levels in my training (had kids, moved & haven’t pursued it further yet). In school, I was a high achiever — 90th percentile in all subjects. All except spelling where I was in the 70th. Well, that’s still good against others, but not against my own skills. That is a huge difference! It wasn’t until after college and getting married that I finally learned rules to spelling.

So while I haven’t used your program, I am SOLD on the OG approach. Not just for students with dyslexia and other learning difficulties, but for folks like me that simply had to memorize words because, “that’s just how it is spelled”. I LOVE getting your blog because I keep learning.

Like this rule.

In my training, I stopped just before getting to long vowels. But I learned enough to know there ARE rules and to analyze words. I did not learn the two vowels rule until I was working in a school and heard others teach it.

As I have taught my own kids, I knew it wasn’t true all the time, but I have used it. Only, I suspect I have broadened it (after analyzing words on my own). I would actually use it with the silent e rule, for example. (That rule I heard a preview of in my training — enough to know it isn’t always true, either.)

So when I teach, I might remind my kids that a word such as “like” has the not normal vowel sound because there are two vowels in the same syllable and the first one does the talking. I think that my variation would be a little better accuracy rate.

Short vowel rules and the knowledge that E,I,Y change the C &G sounds was an absolute game – changer for me! Suddenly I was able to say I KNOW why the /k/ sound has to be a k in kite and not a c. It is no longer “just because “. There are rules. English DOES make sense! It is SO freeing! I just wish I had learned all the amazing rules for the long vowels.

I am looking forward to reading the phonograph rule blog someone mentioned. It makes me excited to think I can learn more! Thanks for teaching us all!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Natalie,
I had a similar experience as you when I learned the rule about e, i, and y making c say it’s soft sound! The one that really blew my mind, however, was the reason why the word have has a silent e. We discuss the 7 Jobs of Silent E in this blog post.

Amy Fanning

says:

This is fascinating! We know this “rule” and have used it in the past. Good to know it’s wrong 60% of the time! O.O

Tracy

says:

Thanks for this article!
I love teaching with your materials!

Carole

says:

I am grateful for the work you do and send to us each week. It simplifies my job of teaching spelling to my daughter. I love getting to share with my friends about this great curriculum.

Amitra Schwols

says:

And then there’s Captain – as in Captain Underpants- that violates even the proposed rule above….sigh… English is a challenge.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Not exactly, Amitra. The AI phonogram in captain is in an unaccented syllable, and the sounds, especially the vowel sounds, in unaccented syllables become muffled in normal speech. That is why problem becomes problum. This isn’t really a rule breaker, so much as it is a pronunciation issue. All About Reading and All About Spelling teach how to approach words like these. Problem is covered in AAR and AAS 2, and captain is covered in AAR 4 and AAS 5.

Shaimaa

says:

Amazing

Katie

says:

I definitely learned that one! Glad I haven’t taught my kids that rule and looking forward to teaching them with AAS and AAR next year!

Renee

says:

Gee whiz! Looks like I’d better change my ways! I shudder to think how many times a day I repeat that rhyme!

Christy

says:

It is so catchy, I wish it was always true!

Sherry

says:

So glad this is being brouht to light. Iy is really hard to rewrite that training. Lol

Dee Anne

says:

I was taught this rule, too. But thankfully it didn’t stick because I don’t remember it until I hear someone say it. Great post!

Ginger

says:

My daughter started in another reading program that taught this rule and now she’s having to ‘unlearn’ it. Frustrating!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Ginger,
I’m sorry your daughter is struggling with this false rule. As you work with the vowel team phonograms, remind her to use the phonogram sounds she has learned. With phonograms that have more than one sound, remind her that the sounds were taught her in order of how common each sound is, so she should try the sounds in order. For example, /ow/ is the most common sound of OU and should be tried before the /ō/ sound or the other sound.

Lindsay

says:

Thank you for this article!

Hi Kim,

I think that you may have misunderstood the purpose of this post and video! My main point is that this rule isn’t true, and it shouldn’t be taught. We are in full agreement. :)

Angela

says:

Thanks for the great article. That was a hard rule not to pass on.

CJ

says:

My older children were taught this when they were in school. I’m not surprised that it’s not accurate, and I’m glad that my youngest is using the All About spelling program!

Trudy

says:

I’d never heard of this rule before now. But now I know to watch out for it.

Rachel

says:

I was totally taught this “rule” as a child! When I first started teaching my oldest to read I noticed immediately how often it was false.

Lauren Simms

says:

I’m not familiar with this and don’t remember how I learned when I was at this stage, but I know my special needs homeschoolers haven’t been taught this and yet struggle with learning some of our English idiosyncrasies

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Lauren,
This “rule” does cause confusion and trouble for many children, but it isn’t the only cause of confusion with English. Are you using All About Reading or All About Spelling? Our incremental, explicit, multisensory approach is very effective in helping students overcome English’s confusion. Please contact us with the what your students are struggling with. We are likely to be able to help.

Megan

says:

Thanks for making learning easy and fun!

Christa Hannasch

says:

Thank you for clarifying this rule. I was taught this song. I will not be teaching it to my children.

Erin

says:

I wasn’t taught that rule, but I’ve heard it. Rules are great, when they’re accurate, but they cause so much confusion when they’re not!

Mick

says:

Fun way to learn this concept! Thank you!

Charissa

says:

Wow, so good to know! Thanks for these great tips. I love your program!

Angela

says:

Spelling us a challenge for 3/5 of my children. I can’t wait to try this.

Cathy

says:

Wow! Good to know! Love AAS!

Mistie

says:

Love, love, love this program! So glad to be able to use it with my youngest. Wish I could have taught this way for the 10 years I taught 1st and 2nd grade in public school!!

Deann

says:

Thanks to All About Learning, my kids know this rule doesn’t always work! They have learned better rules from your curriculum!

Sabrina Callison

says:

I stumbled upon the lions video and wondered how they explained the words that didn’t fit the “rule”

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sabrina,
I watched a lot of “Between the Lions” back when my older two children were young (they watched PBS for an hour or so most afternoons when they were little). As far as I saw, they never addressed words that didn’t fit the “rules” they taught.

Lauren

says:

Very interesting…i cant believe how much I am learning right along with my daughter

Carla

says:

Thank you for the wonderful information. We are new to AAS and AAR but so far so good.

Ruby McMahon

says:

Thank you, this will be great information to use in class.

Laura Ross

says:

Nice way of presenting the information and look forward to exploring the materials of this company.

Kim

says:

Thanks for this info! I remember being taught this “rule” in school.

Kelli

says:

This is so tricky to teach! Jingles are easy to remember.

Julia

says:

Wow, I had no idea!

Becky Rodd

says:

Interesting! I was taught that!

Karin

says:

Thanks for the great information! We love AAS!

Paula

says:

Guilty. Thank you for correcting me.

Sherene

says:

Thank you for this post! It is second nature for me to think and teach this rule, so this will be a retraining for my own brain. Grateful for the reminder to not continue passing that false rule on to my children.

Julie

says:

I knew this rule was not true and there are better ways to teach phonics patterns to children. This video is helpful to show others who still want to use this rule.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Julie,
We would be very happy if this video helped to remove this rule from teaching!

Jarica

says:

I am so glad AAS teaches rules that are consistent and has rule that make sense.

Rebecca

says:

My daughter loves this one.

Laureen Anderson

says:

Interesting!

Kim R

says:

I can recall being taught this; glad my kiddos have AAS to learn the sounds properly.

Michele

says:

I’m pleasantly surprised at inaccurate this rule is. Funnily, I only ever heard the catchy rhythm recently so hadn’t put it into practice. Glad I didn’t! :) Thanks for the videos. Greatly appreciated.

Brittany

says:

Thank you for this! I’m so thankful we’ve found your program!

Charissa

says:

I knew this rule was wrong some of the time but had no idea it was wrong that often!

Karen

says:

There certainly are a lot of rules in English spelling, and people always say there are so many rule breakers. I think you’ve shown me enough times that they are not necessarily rule breakers but just to many different ways to spell the same thing. It’s hard for a youngster to know which to choose!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Karen,
Yes, when there are multiple ways to spell the same sound it is hard to know which to use. That is one of the reasons that All About Spelling is a mastery program. It helps when students completely master words using one way to spell a sound before being introduced to the next way.

Melissa H.

says:

I really appreciate this; growing up so many of us learned these “rules,” and those who were natural spellers just sort of absorbed them and ignored them as needed. It is really helpful to have a concrete way to explain these principles to struggling spellers as an adult!

Hollie

says:

Shocking! Thank you for checking! I had I idea it didn’t work most of the time!

Carrie Longwell

says:

Thank you!

Meagan w

says:

Great info!

Earthcharm

says:

I always knew there were exceptions to the rule but never thought it should not actually be a rule but only a guideline. Thank you!

Sally Chancellor

says:

Yes, that’s what I was taught too, and I had noticed it’s definitely not always true, but didn’t realize how much!

Melissa Cazares

says:

English is so tricky. All my kids have commented on it not making sense.

Appreciate the clarification. Thank you.

Learn something new everyday, thanks for clarifying.

This is an interesting article, although ‘ai’ is in hair surely it is taught as the air sound and similarly with bear you’d teach it as ear (air) sound and not as the two vowel sounds ‘ai’ and ‘ea’ and therefore you wouldn’t apply the two vowels go walking rule anyway.

Janell

says:

I remember this rhyme, and realized how wrong it was when I began trying to teach my son how to read! Thank you for info. Love AAR 1, look forward to starting aAR 2 and AAS 1 next year.

Lauri

says:

We love your curriculum! I don’t remember ever being taught phonics, but I was an early reader and reading just came easily to me. Now that I am a homeschool mom of three kids, one with severe dyslexia, I am so thankful for your curriculum that teaches all the phonics rules and makes reading possible for my kids!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Lauri,
Thank you for letting us know that our curriculum is helping you help your children succeed with reading!

Paula

says:

AAS rocks! Thank you

Lisa

says:

Interesting my daughter was taught this rhyme.

Ruth

says:

It’s nice to have a program based on real rules, rather than “exceptions” and guesswork

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

That is a great question, Allan. As far as I know, the only exception to the C says /s/ before e, i, or y rule is the word soccer, which was formed in England as a slang for football in the late 1800s. Since the word is technically slang and not proper English, I’m not sure if it should count as a real exception or not.

A large proportion of exceptions to rules are words that came to us from other languages but the spelling from their native language is retained. The word ski is a perfect example. English’s propensity for welcoming new words and their native spellings with open arms is wonderful in that it allows English to be a dynamic and adaptive language. However, it does leave us with centuries worth of exceptions to native English spelling rules.

Erika

says:

Never heard of it. Good thing…

Michele

says:

Isn’t learning to read grand? Lots of tricks for the kids to have to figure out, especially if it’s taught wrong.

Alison O'Brien

says:

So glad to see I wasn’t wrong about this! Whilst helping my daughter learn to read I noticed this rhyme would pop into my head, but never worked!

Jen

says:

I never did get how that was a rule.

Chelsea Green

says:

Ugh. We just learned that rule.

Ashley Vickers

says:

I have heard many great things about AAS! This post about the walking vowels is great! My son often questions why words do not sound as he believes they should when he applies this rule learned early on. Now he is having to relearn the combination sounds often present.

Anne

says:

Thank you! I have tried for years to convince teachers to not recite this “rule”, by pointing out how often it is untrue, yet they continue to teach the rhyme because it is stated in so many resources or they were taught it themselves when they were young.

Kristina Schulz

says:

I love your program.

Michelle

says:

I really love the clarity you provide in the AAR and AAS curriculums. I look forward to using this with my son.

Kristina Poehls

says:

Wow

Donald Knight

says:

Useful and gets rid of the need to explain all those ‘exceptions’.

Melissa

says:

I don’t remember learning this rule, but I don’t actually remember being taught any phonics rules. I’m so glad for the clarity that AAR and AAS provide though. I learned so much going through this with my son. I will never forget when to use oy vs oi – and neither will he!

Mellisa

says:

I do not remember this rule. I remember learning sounds of letters.

Shelley

says:

This will be fun to teach my son!

Lynn

says:

Thank you. I am considering using All About Spelling.

Lynn

says:

Thank you for the helpful information.

Tina Emezi

says:

Very interesting! I have heard of this rule.

Excellent info and persuasive presentation! I hope it goes viral so we won’t have so many reading programs and materials continuing this “rule!”

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

That would be awesome, Marnie!

Dawn

says:

I taught high school English and found it frustrating that despite memorizing catchy rules there are so many exceptions. Students can be easily confused. I am so glad to have found this program!

Jessica Hughes

says:

Things like this are the reason I love All About Reading/Spelling! Great information!

Jill Morris

says:

Good to know!!!

DB

says:

I recently went through OG training and this was addressed in the trading sessions. It is frustrating how out of touch our Literacy i structuring is regarding actual grammar rules! This website is a breath of encouragement!

Christy

says:

I love these tips! They are helping me with my spelling challenges and I have great hope for my kids! Thank you for this wonderful program.

Leslie J Hochsprung

says:

We know we aren’t meeting our students’ needs and would love to consider this product to help us fill in the gaps. We know our students can learn to spell!

Laura

says:

Great information. There area several “rule breaker” words. It really does help to teach students the sounds and it the “rules”.

Carrie Woodruff

says:

Thank you for such a logical spelling program. My 12 year old has been so frustrated by other programs. AAS has been a huge blessing.

Jo

says:

I am amazed at this. I honestly thought that the rule worked the majority of the time. Unfortunately I have thought two of my children this rule already. The more I hear from AAR/AAS the more I would like to try it.

Kristin Girod

says:

Wow! Thanks for sharing that. Makes me even more thankful for AAS!

Yvonne Farrington

says:

I love that you did that analysis. Every rule has its exception in our crazy language, but come on!

Paula

says:

It’s “rules” like this, and then all the exceptions, that make English seem so illogical and difficult. I have an English education degree, but it wasn’t until I started using AAS with my older son five years ago that I started to understand that our language is much more logical than we tend to think. Thank you for two fantastic programs! (I’m using AAR with my younger son.)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Paula,
I am surprised that at least some of the logic of English was not taught in your English education degree program.

Dianna Judd

says:

I have seen bits and pieces of vowel teams on Starfall.com. It’s amazing!

Lauren

says:

Another example of conventional wisdom gone wrong ;)

Cheri

says:

I’m so glad I have the AAS & AAR programs to use with my kids. They’ve excelled with the programs.

Mitzi

says:

glad I didn’t teach this to my kids yet. It’s harder to unlearn and then learn something rather than learn it correctly the first time.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

That is very true, Mitzi. However, if someone has taught this rule it is never too late to admit to your student or students that the rule is false far too often.

Candace

says:

When I first started teaching my children in 1994, I used this rule to teach reading and it didn’t take long to see how many “exceptions” to the rule they had to remember. My oldest became very confused. I’m so glad to have a program like yours, following the OG method, and making it so easy to open and go for the parent.
Thank-you

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Candace. We are very happy to help parents and teachers help their students succeed with reading and spelling!

Anna

says:

Thanks for the great video and teaching techniques

Sharon

says:

Yes, I was. Good to know it’s false so often! :/

Stephanie

says:

I’m glad I read this. I didn’t realize this was the case.

Tamara Gray

says:

I was singing the song while reading the title, so I clearly had this “rule” ingrained! Thanks for the excellent information.

Kelly

says:

Yes I was, but NOT my kids 😉

Colleen

says:

Thanks!

Charity

says:

So funny that you emailed this today. Just this past week I’ve been teaching my son this “rule” (without the rhyme). I’ll stop now!! Thanks.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m happy this blog post was timely for you, Charity. You may find our How to Teach Phonograms blog post helpful.

Angie

says:

Love AAS!

Ayuna

says:

Great way to remember the rules of spelling and reading for our kids!

Sarah McKendree

says:

All About Spelling has been such a blessing to our homeschool! It has really helped my “excellent speller” continue to excel, and it is helping my “struggling speller” to excel also! Thank you so much for this curriculum!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sarah,
Thank you for letting us know that All About Spelling is working so well with both of your students!

Carrie

says:

Oh wow, this is surprising! I had incorrectly assumed that the “rule” worked the majority of the time, but I can see now that it doesn’t. Thanks for educating us so that we don’t perpetuate the falsehood!

Amanda Ritter

says:

I learned the rhyme from a parent card in a Bob Book box set.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Amanda,
I’m sorry to hear that a publisher of phonics readers is encouraging this false rule.

Tanya

says:

No joke I just said this to someone recently. (That the2 vowel rhyme doesnt work) I’m in the process of teaching my children to read (4 kids 7 and under) and I said it’s crazy how many “rules” we learn and later find to be untrue.

Stevie

says:

I was taught that in my public school education. Thanks for all your diligence in teaching us the truth of spelling rules. We love AAS curriculum. I think I learn more than my lids.😊

abouttime

says:

Was not taught phonics as a child and now am teaching my grandchildren… I can use all the help I can get!

Becki

says:

I love that you guys keep up the research and learning to help us learn too! Thanks!

Nabil

says:

I was not thought this rule, but with homeschooling I am definitely teaching my kids this rule so they can have a better understanding

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Nabil,
Just to be clear, we do not recommend teaching the “when two vowels go walking” rule as it is an unreliable rule. Rather, we recommend teaching children phonograms and the sounds each phonogram makes. That is much more reliable for learning to read and spell.

Tiffany

says:

I definitely was taught this “rule”. I obviously had come to realize it did not always hold true but to see that it actually is not true more often than it is was surprising! No wonder kids are confused!

I not only was taught that rule, I ALSO taught it for too many years. It’s really hard to erase the sentence from my vocabulary. Using the rules in All About Spelling really helps with that.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Nancy,
I taught that rule to my two oldest children as well. It is such an easy rule to remember, but it can cause so many problems to use it. Teaching the sounds of each phonogram separately is much more reliable.

Natalie Bradley

says:

This is great! My daughter is a pre reader and I am so excited about using your program.

Miriam

says:

Thank you for doing the legwork for figure out which rules actually are reliable.

Tammy Hernandez

says:

I didn’t use AAP with my first two children, however, we’ve been using it for the last two for two years! I love it. It has been so helpful. I’ve learnt so much using this program.

Autumn Rowland

says:

Wow, That is shocking!

Susanne

says:

Since English is not my native language, I was never taught that rule. But my kids were, and I always wondered about the accuracy of this rule. Thanks for sharing this info!

Carrie

says:

I was taught that, and used it to teach kids as well. But there were so many exceptions to the “rule” that it started to make sense not to use that “rule” anymore. I like teaching the phonograms instead – one reason why I really like the All About Spellibg program.

I have heard this rule, but don’t remember if it was something I was taught. I had a hard time learning to read and spell, but when my parent’s started to homeschool me they used a phonics based reading and spelling programs. I really enjoy using your material with my own children.

Jen

says:

I think this is why so many of us were totally turned off from spelling (and phonics). We were drilled on a word and given so many examples that “worked” then suddenly it was sprung on us that there were MANY exceptions that we just had to know. Why did we ever learn the rules though? I have been happy to use AAS level 1 this past year and give my son strategies that work well.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jen,
Yes. It is “rules” that have more exceptions than words that follow the rule that makes people assume English is so illogical. We focus on the rules that are reliable more than 90% of the time.

Hailey

says:

Would love to have this program.

Zorah F.

says:

Very enlightening article. Teaching kids the phonograms establishes a stronger foundation for reading and spelling.

Rochelle

says:

I was taught this, but I’ve been so happy with All About Reading and can’t wait to start All About Spelling!

Heather M

says:

I definitely was taught this rule. Thanks.

Erin

says:

Would love to use All About Spelling for my kids.

Brittany Alessio

says:

Thank you for this resource

Michelle Lee

says:

Love this

Kevin Shafer

says:

How about telling me what it actually means? I don’t see the correlation between the words that you said are walking and the ones that aren’t.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kevin,
In some words, a pair of vowels will say the long sound of the first vowel. Examples include green, sea, hair, coat, clean, rain, and peach. In each of these, the vowel team says the long sound (or name) of the first vowel in the pair.

However, there are more words that include vowel teams that say sounds that are not the long sound of the first vowel. If the “When Two Vowels Go Walking, the First One Does the Talking” rule was accurate then the word about would be pronounced aboat. Earth would be pronounced eerth, bear would be beer, noise would be nose, and author would be aithor.

Our point in this article is that instead of teaching rules to children that are accurate less than half of the time, teaching should be focused on what is highly reliable. When a child is taught that the phonogram au says /aw/, then the word author is easy and there is no need to learn it as yet another exception to the “Two Vowels Go Walking…” rule.

I hope this clears things up for you. Please let us know if you have further questions.

Simon

says:

Hi My name is Simon
Kindly help me with the following challenging questions: three strategies to explore sounds AND strategies to discover spelling patterns.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Simon,
We have a blog post on Spelling Strategies that may help you. I am less sure what you are looking for with strategies to explore sounds, but it may be related to phonological awareness. We have an article that discusses How to Develop Phonological Awareness. Our blog post on How to Teach Phonograms may also apply.

NO WAY I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS!!!! Its like my life has been a lie oh my goodness!!!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Lyndzie,
Sorry to shock you like this; it is surprising. You may find our blog post on the 7 Jobs of Silent E interesting as well.

Ten years ago in UK, the myth was alive and well. However, since phonics teaching is now much more likely to be taught in schools has enjoyed a big resurgence, it is finally being laid to rest :)

Melissa C

says:

Thank you for this insightful post! My daughter loves to learn rules for how things work but becomes frustrated in cases like these where there are so many exceptions. That is why we are switching to “All About Spelling” in her curriculum this year!

Melissa,
I’m glad you found this post so insightful. I find it very comforting to know, that with All About Reading and All About Spelling, I don’t have to worry about rules that have so many exceptions. In fact, All About Spelling goes so far to tell you about the exceptions to rules in a gray “teaching tips” box right within the lesson. For an example, check out Step 18 in this Level 1 sample. http://downloads.allaboutlearningpress.com/samples/AllAboutSpelling_Level1_Sample.pdf

Anyway, thank you for posting. I hope you have a lovely week.

Tammy W.

says:

So interesting! As a kid, I always wondered what the point was of learning so many spelling “rules” when there were always exceptions! Drove me bonkers! ;) I have purchased All About Spelling Level 1 to start using in the fall, but we might just start early–my 6-year-old son and I are so excited about it!

I have started him reading with a much more bare-bones program called TATRAS that similarly uses the vertical phonics approach, and he took off reading early in the school year. I am completely sold on that phonics method but definitely realize the benefits of your more organized and thorough curriculum.

I know your materials aren’t “graded,” per sae, but are there recommended no-younger-than developmental ages for each level? According to your placement tests, he’d be ready for AAR Level 3 and already knows many of the phonemes for that level.

However, I’m concerned that it might be beyond him developmentally to deal with antonyms, homonyms, etc., and I don’t want to frustrate him and ruining a very good thing–the fact that he absolutely loves to read! He can read beginner chapter books such as “The Magic Treehouse,” and seems to comprehend everything. His favorite thing to do is to sit around reading–this bibliophile (& former English teacher) mama’s dream-come-true!

Thanks!

Merry at AALP

says:

Hi Tammy,

Actually, we have had some young students go through the reading program occasionally, so if he passed the level 3 placement test, he’ll probably do fine. As a double check, you can have him read a sample story from near the end of Level 2 to make sure he’s reading fluently: http://allaboutlearningpress.com/content/samples/AAR-L2-QueenBee-2ndEd-Sample.pdf

Don’t let the long terms scare you off–concepts like antonyms are fun and not too hard to understand (antonyms are opposites, for example). He doesn’t have to master the terms or remember them for all time, and the program will show him what they are. He’ll come across things like this again in language arts curriculum as he grows. Mainly these help him to play with language and have fun with the concepts.

And, if he knows some of the phonograms for a lesson, you can let him try out some of the longer, more challenging words for fun (these are optional for younger students but are a way for students to expand their knowledge–words like examination and contraption, armadillo and chimpanzee can be fun for kids who are ready for a bit more challenge at this level.) Enjoy!

Carol

says:

I am guilty of doing this too! Thanks for the article!

Taisa

says:

Thanks for this! I have taught my son this rule, but it’s true- there are so many exceptions- thanks for making this clearer for us!

Tammy

says:

Until I began using All Anout Soelling with my son I thought this was true! I am learning along with him! :)

Merry at AALP

says:

I love homeschooling and learning things alongside my kids!

Stefanie

says:

Yes I was. And I believe that rule is in one of the leap frog talking word factory videos. lol

Clara

says:

With a language as inconsistent as English, I’m glad we have something like All About Spelling to help our kids piece it together!

Alicia

says:

Great resource… Thank you

Cindy

says:

I don’t remember ever being taught this one, but it’s great to know your program explains all the rules. I’m not sure how many I actually know to teach my daughter properly!

Bethany

says:

I think I was taught this rule as a child. In fact, the only memories of reading and spelling learning I have are catchy “rules”

Jessica B.

says:

I learned this from a popular kids’ video. I wonder what else I picked up that I taught my children incorrectly before starting AAR!

Brandy Baker

says:

I learned this in school as a child, and I’m so glad there’s a terrific program like All About Spelling out there to help dispel these catchy spelling “myths”! We are loving AAS in our house!

Kristy

says:

I’m happy I read this before teaching my son this catchy phrase! Thank you!

Marie Rippel

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Kristy! Glad we could help!

Michelle

says:

This worked great for my kids until the exceptions started appearing. I have a couple that are really stressed about breaking the “rule.” I wish I’d never taught it.

Erica K

says:

I found myself having to answer my daughter about all the words that seemed to be rule breakers because of this popular rhyme when they actually follow the phonograms If is so easy to get distracted by what is taught in public schools. Thank you for reminding me that our AAS/AAR curriculum is all she needs to learn these rules successfully.

Marie Rippel

says: Customer Service

Erica, I’m glad that this post was able to clear up the confusion for you and your daughter!

Jennifer D

says:

Thanks for this post! I was taught this line in school and always found it faulty.

Michelle C

says:

Thanks for this post! I remember these funny ways to teach the rules and this was actually one that was on our list to review in the next few weeks.

Robin

says:

I didn’t learn to read with phonics rules (I learned sight reading with Dick, Jane and Sally), but have taught reading with phonics rules. I so appreciated learning why the words I read sound the way they do. If phonics rules are taught in a whole system of phonics rules (I like ABEKA myself), words that don’t follow the “2 vowels walking” rule are covered in the other rules taught. I am so thankful for systems that teach phonics! The 2 vowel walking rule does have value in my eyes.

Jen

says:

I understand your concern with the song not working for all vowel pairs but after teaching first grade for many years, I think it is helpful. The English language is complex and there are many sound spelling for a single sound and specific sounds that those letter combos must be learned through practice. Of the most common words used in this study a good bit were probably sight words, which do not follow the rules for sure. That’s why they are called sight words. They should be learned by sight because most cannot phonetically be sounded out and knowing them increases fluency and comprehension. A good phonics program should teach all diagraphs, sight words, and sound spellings. I have seen if over time you are teaching and PRACTICING these reading skills with students they will benefit and learn to read. I’ve been using these same strategies with all ages of kids and, unless there is a learning problem, the student will learn to read and improve their reading!

Merry at AALP

says:

Hi Jen,

Thanks for your comment! I agree that there are many ways to spell a single sound and that these must be learned with practice. (There are more than 250 ways to spell the 45 English sounds.) It sounds like you have done a great job teaching your students!

With regard to the words studied, actually 97% of English words follow regular patterns and are not true sight words (like “said,” where the “ai” doesn’t say it’s normal sound). Our program organizes words according to these phonogram patterns so that children can master them. There certainly is a visual component, but the letters are not completely arbitrary–there are definite patterns that, when learned, can make spelling easier for people. We find that good spellers tend to use 4 main strategies: phonetic, rules-based, visual, and morphemic: http://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/effective-spelling-strategies

Leilani

says:

This was very useful information. We were just working on this and other YouTube and Internet Apps teach this song. We will be talking about this during school time today.

Sarah M

says:

I had heard this rhyme but never incorporated it after I tested it on some common words.

Lizze

says:

I was just starting to talk to my son about this rule! Glad I will get that fixed before we get too far along!

V

says:

I am sure I taught my daughter this rule. Luckily she caught on anyway. My son is learning the AAL way.

Jessica

says:

Thanks for the tip. I found this article very helpful.

David

says:

It’s great to point this out. Are there other “rules” that should be avoided?

Merry at AALP

says:

Hi David,

That’s probably the worst one. The “i before e except after c” poem as originally worded has quite a few exceptions too, and many educators will point to that rule and say that English rules really aren’t reliable. We reword it so that it’s much more reliable. We fine-tune some other rules (such as when to change Y for adding suffixes) to make them a bit clearer as well. And, although not exactly a rule, many programs cite that our language has no reliable rules and is full of “sight words,” but there are really very few true “sight words” that don’t follow recognizable patterns. Even on the “Dolch Sight Words” list, 90% of the words are actually decodable! Check out this video: http://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/dolch-sight-words/

Alicia Langstraat

says:

I’m torn–at least this “rule” would help with ~40% of vowel combinations?! If that would group several vowel combinations, that would be a few less individual phonograms my kids would have to memorize separately, yes? Maybe adjust the saying somehow so it reflects that not all vowel teams go walking the same way?!

Merry at AALP

says:

Hi Alicia,

Good Question! The problem is that many of the phonograms don’t just follow this “rule.” For example, while the phonogram ea does say long E in words like bead, it also says short e in words like bread, and long a in words like steak. IE can say long I in pie, but also long E in piece. EI can say long E in receive, but long A in veil. So, the student still ends up needing to learn each of the individual phonograms.

One additional problem that we often hear about is that kids who were taught this as a rule and then realize it’s not reliable come to view all “rules” as unreliable and think of our language as random. It can seem pointless, to a child who struggles, to try to learn because it’s not dependable.

I hope this helps!

Janice

says:

This jingle was in an earlier language arts program we used. I knew that it wasn’t all the time, but I did figure most if the curriculum taught it. Thank you for correcting.

Allison Haugan

says:

Thank you for researching this. I would have never guessed that the saying didn’t work over half the time. I have said it to my kids a few times but didn’t really work hard and ingrain it in their heads.

Fleur

says:

Such great helpful information

Renee S.

says:

I do remember that from school when I was young. I hated English/grammer and never really paid attention, unless my mom was teaching me something at home…huh, never really connected that to my own journey to schooling my children until now. :) The other “rule” which never made any sense to me was “i after e except after c.” Especially since my last name had an “ie” and my friend had and “ei,” neither of us had a “c” in our last name, yet they both made the same long e sound.

Marie Rippel

says: Customer Service

Renee, thanks for bringing up the “i before e” rule. The wording of the traditional poem just doesn’t work, as you noticed as a child! In All About Spelling, we teach a different version of the poem that does work. I’ll put together a future blog post to show you!

melisa

says:

Yes, I was taught this way, and I love that you have exposed the fallacy. I feel confident teaching my kids with your research-based curriculum.

Tracy

says:

I’ve often heard (and have since used) that catchy rhyme with my kids after all of the children’s programs that promote it. I thought it was genius…but I realize as we’ve been working through AAS with my second grader that there are more and better rules to follow and phonograms to guide us! Ironically just tonight as I was tucking my son into bed he said, “Mom, the word ‘heaven’ must be a rule breaker because the ‘e’ says /eh/ instead of ‘e’ :D Thanks for getting us on the right track! (AAR 1 with my Kinder son, AAS 2 with my 2nd grader)

Marie Rippel

says: Customer Service

Sweet example, Tracy! Your son is right–according to the “when two vowels go walking” jingle, ‘heaven’ is a rule breaker. According to the phonograms he is learning, ‘ea’ is saying its second sound, short e and therefore isn’t a rule breaker. He may not have gotten to that phonogram yet, but you could teach him to him early since he has the interest in words!

Tom Zurinskas

says:

Instead of working with phonograms (phonics) you could approach spelling via the sounds themselves. Truespel phonetics has one spelling per each of the 40 sounds for US English. When you can say each one you can say any word in US English and you can spell it phonetically in truespel phonetics which is based on phonics (most prevalent phonograms) so it looks a lot like regular spelling. See http://justpaste.it/truescience .

Marie Rippel

says: Customer Service

Hi Tom,
Truespel can be learned quickly, but the resulting words are spelled in a untypical fashion. According to an example on your website, “That quick beige fox jumped” would be spelled “That kwik baezh faaks jumpd.” Off the top of my head, here are a few difficulties of a nontraditional system such as this:
– the wide range of English dialects would cause different spellings in different regions.
– closely related words such as ‘know’ and ‘knowledge’ would no longer look similar, abandoning the morphology of English, which is very helpful to higher level learning such as in the medical or legal field
– classic literature would be difficult (if not impossible) to read
– there is a social stigma connected to nonstandard spelling.
I believe that if you would have posted your comment in truespel, most readers would have scrolled past your comment.

Timothy Travis

says:

Dear Marie,

You wrote “– the wide range of English dialects would cause different spellings in different regions.
– closely related words such as ‘know’ and ‘knowledge’ would no longer look similar, abandoning the morphology of English, which is very helpful to higher level learning such as in the medical or legal field
– classic literature would be difficult (if not impossible) to read
– there is a social stigma connected to nonstandard spelling.
I believe that if you would have posted your comment in truespel, most readers would have scrolled past your comment.”

As you probably know, the Finns and the South Koreans are often lauded for having two of the best education systems in the world. In all the articles on this I have never seen any mention of the fact that they also have the two best spelling systems in the world! As for your first comment, the Finns have a standard spelling but maintain their many dialects.

And don’t you agree that the morphology of English which is helpful for higher level learning in the medical and legal fields is of less importance than the child abuse we inflict with out out-of-date spelling which is probably the prime cause of our unacceptable school drop out rates? Our spelling also is a huge burden for teachers, taking time from other subjects.

Classical literature could be respelled. We do not read Shakespeare in the original spelling. Shakespeare would spell a word in different ways on the same page!

Yes, there is social stigma connected to “incorrect” spelling. And we inflect it on young children who enter school full of confidence and eager to learn. Time to change our spelling so it is more logical and consistent. Other countries do.

Yardyspice

says:

I must have learned this rule when I was learning to read and it seemed to work until I started teaching my son to read and realized that 60% exceptions don’t work for my right brainer. Now I can teach him each sound in a multisensory way. I just love AAR.

Tammy

says:

Reading this blog has relieved me of a lifetime of spelling frustration.
I did well in school only because I tried to memorize everything. That only lasts so long and then there is always a new word to stumble across. I cant wait to use your spelling program with my child. Thank you for caring about us moms who want our children to know the truth.

Merry at AALP

says:

I’m so glad it was helpful, Tammy!

Katherine

says:

Thanks for sharing this! My kids voice this so-called rule they learned from Leap Frog and I always remind them that it isn’t true.

Brenda F.

says:

I use the vowels go walking rhyme often.

Emily Woodall

says:

Doh! I use this silly little rhyme with my dyslexic eight-year-old sometimes when she is struggling to sound out a word where this “rule” applies. I kind of feel like a heel now. She already struggles so much with reading. I hate to think that I have taught her something that she will have to unlearn. We are slowly working through AAR level 1 right now. We are almost to the end. She is having a tough time with “nk” and “ng” for some reason. I am thankful to have found AAR. We will continue to steadily work through at her pace. She is such a bright, creative little soul. It is tough to watch her struggle with reading and writing. Thanks for creating a curriculum and a supportive spot for those of us teaching dyslexic kids.

Merry at AALP

says:

I’m glad AAR is working for her! “NK” and “ng” are difficult for some kids. Hang in there, she’ll get it. If you want us to brainstorm ideas to help, send an email to me at support@allaboutlearningpress.com and tell me more about the struggle she’s having–I’d be glad to help!

Donna Perdue

says:

Thank you so much for the information. I taught first and second grade years ago and noticed the discrepancy in the phonics rule. Now, I can teach more effectively with my children.

Debbie

says:

Thank you!

Debra H.

says:

I was taught this rule as fact when I was a kid and have also taught it to my older two children. Fortunately for the younger two, we have begun using All About Spelling. I won’t make that mistake with them. :)

Katherine Kastner

says:

I want to hear more about what you have to say on this topic of “When two vowels go walking.”

Arlene Jinata

says:

I remember when I first saw and heard this catchy tune. I thought it was such a great way to teach the sounds of vowel combinations, especially since many kids learn concepts through songs. I didn’t follow through on using this song to teach and I’m glad that I didn’t!

Ruth Ann

says:

Yes, I have heard that on Sesame Street. Thank you for this informative blog post. I did not know those statistics about this rule. Learn something new every day!

Melissa

says:

I don’t ever remember learning little rules or songs like that, but as I’ve started to teach my son and have seen them I found myself buying in at first thinking it was a great way to teach and reinforce, then pulling back as I realized there seemed to be more exceptions to the rule.

Wow! I had no idea! My oldest child loved Starfall when she was learning to read, and still does now that she is a proficient reader. She’s been nagging me to let her show her 4 year old sister the website. Starfall was my first introduction to that rhyme, and I must say that I default to saying it when I can’t remember the phonogram myself. I guess I’ll keep that one out of my tool box from now on!
I love how I’m learning and re-learning all kinds of things while homeschooling my children! I have no idea which method was used when I was taught to read and spell 30 years ago, and this is all new to me.

http://www.learningmama.com

Tricia

says:

Thanks for all your wisdom! Loving the All About Reading program for my dyslexic son!

Love this blog post! Thanks for doing the work!

Katherine

says:

Thanks for the accurate rules! Love them.

Vanessa

says:

Thanks for the info!!!

Joni

says:

I don’t remember learning rules for spelling in school. Using your program with my children has taught me a thing or two!

Tanja

says:

I love coming to this site. Such good and valuable information to be found here. Thank you

Aw, thanks, Tanja! You made me smile. :)

Jeanne

says:

Great article!

Colleen

says:

I can remember being confused by this concept as a child, and wondered how to teach long vowels to my own kids. Thank you, Marie, for clearing up another childhood mystery. Your products are awesome!

I’m glad I could clear up that childhood mystery, Colleen! It was fun to hear from you. Thanks!

tara little bear

says:

No wonder my daughter has had such a hard time knowing how to spell! Thank you for this information. Every little bit helps!

Rebekah M

says:

I was never taught that ryhme. I was taught the phonograms and then practiced words.

I have used this ryhme with my children, but have stopped after reading with them and realizing how many words don’t follow the supposed rule.

Hi Rebekah,
You were fortunate to have learned the phonograms as a child. I haven’t met many adults who have had that advantage. Your children will benefit from your background!

diana

says:

WOW! I had never learned the two vowel saying as a child, but when my son was in Kindergarten he learned that riddle. I just repeated it to my daughter last week while she was trying to sound out a spelling word. I’m glad to know now the truth. Thanks for putting the time into your curriculum to offer such a great product!

Jodi

says:

Marie, I have personally improved my poor spelling skills just by teaching my kids using your books. It by far is the most detailed spelling program I’ve seen or used to date.

Thanks for your kind words, Jodi! I’m happy to hear that your spelling has improved as you teach your children! That is a great side effect! :)

Janice

says:

Yes, I was taught this rule as a child. I taught it to my son as well, with the understanding that there are some rule-breakers. I just didn’t realize that the “rule” is broken more often than not! We worked on the phonograms A LOT though, so he hasn’t had any trouble. I’ll definitely be careful how I present this to my other two younger children though. Thanks!

Candy Delao

says:

Thank you for all your research and time you have put into this. I do remember hearing this ‘rule’, and I’m glad to know the truth about it. I love your material!

Peg

says:

I see this case with many of the phonics rules. We need to be careful about what we’re teaching students to rely on. Thanks for sharing, and reminding me!

Mary

says:

Thank you for this post. I have realized this to be true which is why I enjoy teaching All About Spelling to my kids. I relied on my previous schooling to help my children and realized that I had to unlearn a lot of things. As I tried to teach my kids this rule it did not apply so I didn’t enforce it and when I came upon your curriculum I was more confident in teaching it. I have learned so much as well. Thank you.

Hi Mary! I’m glad to hear that you are gaining confidence in teaching spelling through the All About Spelling program. It’s not easy when you have to unlearn something, but you’re doing it! Way to go!

Chandra

says:

Thanks so much for the tip!!

Michele Dunham

says:

Yes , I was taught this rule and did teach it to my kids, telling them there are exceptions. For my dyslexic daughter, that gets very confusing. I will definitely correct this and tell her this rule is the exception so let’s just memorize the phonograms. Thank you for the work and research you put into your program. After owning several well know programs on the market, yours is the only one that is actually teaching my children to be intuitive spellers.

Hi Michele,
I’m glad you came across this post so you can correct that with your daughter. As you can imagine, dyslexic kids are even more discouraged by untrue “rules” than typical learners, so I’m glad you have this opportunity. It will be good for your daughter to see that you are constantly learning as well!

Thank you for bringing this up. I see this “rule” in many classrooms across the country. But a rule that isn’t accurate more than half the time is actually a hindrance to a child.

Only an adult reader knows when to apply the “rule” at the right time–because s/he is using other information stored in memory to observe patterns in our language.

Hi Marnie,
That’s a great explanation of why adults are comforted by this rule. They can easily think of many words that follow this rule because of information stored in memory. Thanks for commenting!

Noelle

says:

oh bummer! We know that little tune too! The kids enjoy the Starfall website and it is one of their videos and I thought it was great…

Mary

says:

Thank you so much for expanding your awesome program with these blogs. My son actually said “I can read” the other day. First time and he’s 9.

Excellent news, Mary!!! Thanks so much for sharing your son’s success with us! Please let me know if you ever run into snags as you are teaching him to read (support@allaboutlearningpress.com). We want to keep that momentum going!

DMel

says:

Good day,
How do you propose we teach students to identify the different sounds produced by the same vowel combination eg oo in food vs good? I often give them a list of each and hope recognition over time through various activities does the trick.

Make a poster or pocket chart with two columns. One is headed with a picture of a moon; the other with a book.
Print the word moon and book under the pictures with oo in red.
Then list example words beneath. Remove the words. Mix them up. Have the student
once again place the words in the appropriate column. This works!

Great idea, Phyllis! Thanks for sharing!

Hi DMel,
I recommend that you teach all of the sounds of the phonograms (letter combinations). For example, for phonogram oo, you would teach the three sounds:
– /oo/ as in food
– /oo/ as in book
– /o/ as in floor
(The diacriticals don’t work in the comments. The first /oo/ should have a macron (straight line) over it, and the second /oo/ should have a breve (smile) over it.)

You can hear the three sounds here: http://apps.allaboutlearningpress.com/Release_Web-v1.0/sounds/oo.mp3

Here’s more information on the phonograms: http://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/phonograms
The downloadable version can be found here: http://www.allaboutlearningpress.com/phonogram-sounds-app/

We also use Word Banks, as you have described, to help students build their visual memory of the words.

Teodora

says:

I think there are plenty of exceptions and at the end of the day systematic visual memorization / exposure as well as some guidelines like the ones presented in all about spelling will lead to good spelling. Think about the way you pronounce and spell the words read, bead, head, said, paid.

Good examples, Teodora! Thanks for commenting!

Jocelyn

says:

This is so true! Thanks for giving us the tools to teach in a way that is so applicable!

Elaine Johnson

says:

I was taught that rule and my kids play an app on the iPad that repeats that rule! Never again! Fortunately they haven’t tried putting that rule to practice do they don’t quite understand it.

Stacey J

says:

I came across this rule when my oldest was learning to read; I had never heard it before but it’s catchy and seemed to fit so I did teach it. I’m glad you’re clearing this up for me now !

olivia

says:

I was, and never heard this until today, but thanks to you pointing this out, my children will be better off without this myth.

Chris

says:

Great article since this is often the first rule learned.

Carrie

says:

I had assumed that that rule was true pretty much all of the time. I’m glad to see that I shouldn’t ever use it because I don’t want my children to rely on something that only applies occasionally. Thanks!

Carol Adeney

says:

We find the rule very useful with our ESL students since in many German words the opposite is the case –
the second vowel does the talking. The rule helps reset the mind to an English way of pronouncing words.
Of course, we talk about the exceptions and go over them down the line, but 43% is an excellent statistic to begin with!!

That’s very interesting that many German words follow the opposite case! Thanks for sharing!

Joelle

says:

Interestingly, it seems to me with my kids that after introducing the English phonograms (at quite a young age) they never ever questioned why they should be different in German or French (mine have to learn all three). They just accepted that each language has its own set of phonograms.I thought they would find it confusing but kept quiet and never compared the languages (i makes the long ee sound in German for example). I never taught the rhymes, just the sounds. Nor did I use the set word alphabet for each beginning letter (very common in German).

Julie

says:

Wow! We have watched that between the lions video numerous times and have talked about that rule. I think my kids will be excited to hear this as they’ve recently been reading a myth buster book by national geographic and this will fit right in! Busted! Thanks so much for your work in these areas of reading, spelling and general learning!

I’m glad it was perfect timing for your kids! The myth buster book sounds neat. Have fun!

Karen

says:

Thank you so much for a scientific, data-based approach to looking at the spelling rules. What good is a rule is there are 64 exceptions for every 100 applications!

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