It’s pretty simple, really. When C comes before the letters E, I, or Y, it will make the /s/ sound. When C comes before A, O, U, or a consonant, it makes the /k/ sound! There you have it.
OK – so there are some situations that are a little tricky, but again – they follow the RULE! For example – when C is at the end of the word (usually a two or more syllable word) it sounds like /k/. When you hear the /k/ sound at the end of a one syllable word with a short vowel – you need to use CK for spelling it. CE at the end of the word makes the /s/ sound and sometimes that silent E is there only to make the C soft, and sometimes it does double duty and makes the vowel long, too. (There are at least five situations for the Silent E Rule and we’ll share those in future, RULE of the WEEK, posts!)
This situation surprised me UNTIL I checked the RULE! No surprise, really - it is still consistent! The word “picnic” has a /k/ sound at the end. If you add a suffix that starts with E, I, or Y, you lose the /k/ sound. SO – you have to add K to retain the /k/ sound. Picnic then becomes picnicked and picnicking. The same applies for panic, traffic, etc. However – when the /k/ sound changes to /s/ when adding the suffix, you just leave the C and add the suffix. This happens in words like “toxic”. When you add the suffix, -ity, you get, toxicity. AND – because the sound of C becomes /s/ when it is followed by an E, I or Y, the RULE is followed and the sound changes from /k/ in toxic, to /s/ in toxicity. Voila!
Oh yes – exceptions! Well, there are a few. Most can be explained by word origin. Celtics is Irish and can be pronounced with a /k/ or a /c/ sound. Ciao and cello – Italian. Facade – French. Here’s a few more – soccer, and the word, edict, has a silent C.
If you’d like a poster, or rule cards (to fit on a binder ring), and a few activities for Word Work to help students learn the rule – you can find it in our TpT store. A full Rule Explanation is also provided. Need a list of words that fit the rule, too? Yep – it’s included, too! AND – there are 3 lists for each sound so you can differentiate to meet the needs of your students.
We hope you find the information helpful and interesting! We are pretty nerdy when it comes to spelling rules so for us – this is just FASCINATING. As dyslexia therapists, we know that the rules not only help kids learn to spell – they are essential for our students in decoding to READ, too!
Be watching for our next RULE of the WEEK post – The two sounds of G.