Spelling rules

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Judy
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Spelling rules

Post by Judy » Sun Apr 20, 2008 10:23 am

I don't teach spelling 'rules' as such, because there are so many exceptions. But I do encourage and prompt my pupils to discover spelling 'patterns', such as 've' representing the /v/ at the end of words and 'ai' (for /ae/) and 'oi' unlikely to be found at the end of a word. Some of them take a long time to 'see' it and need a lot of prompting and clues, but they get there in the end!

But I think by far the most common error my pupils make is not knowing whether to double a consonant or not in the middle of a word. I can't see any 'pattern' or logic that would help them with this - eg 'habit'/'rabbit' - 'very'/'merry'.

Am I missing something? :???:

chew8
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Post by chew8 » Mon Apr 21, 2008 8:11 am

Judy -

The consonant-doubling rule is a strong one, but applies only when one is adding a suffix beginning with a vowel to a base word where the last two letters are

(a) a vowel representing a short stressed sound followed by a single consonant, or

(b) a stressed 'ar', 'er', 'ir', 'or' or 'ur'.

It doesn't always apply WITHIN base words, hence the 'habit'-'rabbit'/'very'-'merry' problem.

Examples of (a):

hop - hopped
begin - beginning (because the 'in' bit is stressed and the vowel is short).
forgot - forgotten
benefit - benefited (because the main stress is on 'ben', not on 'fit')

Examples of (b):

star - starry ('y' counts as a vowel here because it has a vowel sound)
refer - referring (stress on 'fer') but 'reference' (because the stress has moved to 'ref')
stir - stirred
abhor - abhorrent
occur - occurred

If there are two vowel letters before the final consonant or if that syllable is unstressed, the rule doesn't apply: seemed, hearing, gardener.

'Habitual' might look like an exception, but it isn't if you realise that 'ual' starts with a consonant SOUND (/y/) not a vowel sound.

Jenny C.

chew8
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Post by chew8 » Mon Apr 21, 2008 8:56 am

I think, by the way, that it's a pity if people avoid teaching spelling rules, or at least guidelines, on the grounds that there are too many exceptions.

Have a look at those on pages 187-190 of 'Letters and Sounds' - especially, perhaps, those on pp. 189-90.

Jenny C.

Judy
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Post by Judy » Tue Apr 22, 2008 10:31 am

Thank you, Jenny, especially for pointing me in the direction of the relevant pages in Letters and Sounds. To be honest I hadn't even looked at Phase Six because, for spelling purposes, none of my 'strugglers' has reached that point! We are still very much stuck in learning and applying the Alphabet Code. But I do agree that when it comes to things like applying suffixes, 'rules' are very helpful.

I was really asking about the 'doubling' in relation to the very early stages, when pupils are using mainly just the letters of the alphabet. There seems to be no rhyme or reason why the consonant in the middle doubles in the examples I gave except, maybe, that they are related in their language of origin - which isn't going to be of any help to beginners!

It doesn't pose a problem for reading, as long as they know that doubled letters only need to be sounded out once, but presuambly for spelling it's a question of word-specific learning, the only 'safe' guideline being that the consonants 'v', 'w', 'x' 'j' 'y' and 'h' don't normally double, of which I'd say that 'v' and 'x' are the only ones worth pointing out as the others are so rare in mid-word!

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Susan Godsland
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Post by Susan Godsland » Tue Apr 22, 2008 11:58 am

Here's a direct link to the L&S pages (187-190 phase 6) that Jenny recommends:

http://www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/clld/l ... e_six.html

kenm
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Post by kenm » Tue Apr 22, 2008 6:20 pm

chew8 wrote: benefit - benefited (because the main stress is on 'ben', not on 'fit')
Chambers has this first, but also "benefitted" and "benefitting". Many years ago, I had a long (but friendly) argument with an editor about "focused"/"focussed" (I prefer the second).
"... the innovator has as enemies all those who have done well under the old regime, and only lukewarm allies among those who may do well under the new." Niccolo Macchiavelli, "The Prince", Chapter 6

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palisadesk
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Post by palisadesk » Wed Apr 23, 2008 9:13 pm

kenm wrote:Chambers has this first, but also "benefitted" and "benefitting". Many years ago, I had a long (but friendly) argument with an editor about "focused"/"focussed" (I prefer the second).
Interesting. DI teaches the doubling pattern in a systematic way but without reference to syllable rules or stress. Benefit would double the t because it is two morphemes (bene+fit) while focus would not, because it is one morpheme. Students learn to double the final consonant in a SHORT word (short defined as four letters or fewer) that ends consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) when the next morpheme starts with a vowel, and then to double the final consonant in a word ending with a short (four letters or fewer) CVC morpheme.

So, transfer would double the r before -ed, but travel and label would not.

The rule and its application is phased in and taught in steps and the kids really do learn it. This is done with students aged 8-9 and up, however.

Susan S.

kenm
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Post by kenm » Thu Apr 24, 2008 8:35 am

palisadesk wrote:Interesting. DI teaches the doubling pattern in a systematic way but without reference to syllable rules or stress. Benefit would double the t because it is two morphemes (bene+fit) while focus would not, because it is one morpheme. Students learn to double the final consonant in a SHORT word (short defined as four letters or fewer) that ends consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) when the next morpheme starts with a vowel, and then to double the final consonant in a word ending with a short (four letters or fewer) CVC morpheme.

So, transfer would double the r before -ed, but travel and label would not.
Chambers is pretty good about noting the N.American spellings with single vowels before "ed", but does not have "labeled". "Traveled" is N.Amer. only. The VC"e" lengthening rule seems to be stronger outside N.Amer, and undoubled consonants before "ed" rarer.

I have long been amused by a box of zinc-coated nails in my conservatory, but have just verified in Chambers that "zinced" not only exists, but is pronounced /zingkd/, so for once common sense takes precedence over the softening power of "e".
"... the innovator has as enemies all those who have done well under the old regime, and only lukewarm allies among those who may do well under the new." Niccolo Macchiavelli, "The Prince", Chapter 6

kenm
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Post by kenm » Thu Apr 24, 2008 4:24 pm

I just found a dictionary on my new Linux distro that is based on Webster 1913, It has "labeled" as preferred form, "labelled" as alternative
"... the innovator has as enemies all those who have done well under the old regime, and only lukewarm allies among those who may do well under the new." Niccolo Macchiavelli, "The Prince", Chapter 6

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