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How to Help your Dyslexic Child & Have Fun! The English Soft 'c' and Soft 'g' Sounds; Rules and Learning Approaches

Updated on September 15, 2018
annart profile image

Ann is a retired teacher of literacy and EFL (English as a Foreign Language) to multi-national & dyslexic students, having a DipSpLD

The Terms 'Soft c' & 'Soft g'

‘Soft c’ refers to the letter ‘c’ sounding like ‘s’. Words like city, cement, icy each have a ‘soft c’.

With ‘soft g’, the sound is like the letter ‘j’. Examples of this are gem, giant, gyro.

This is a difficult one for dyslexics but, once the rules have been explained and the most common words looked at, the concept is easier to deal with.

THRASS charts representing the choice of letter patterns for the 44 sounds of English
THRASS charts representing the choice of letter patterns for the 44 sounds of English | Source

The Rule

As you may have noticed from the above examples,

soft c and soft g occur, before the vowels e, i and y.

Yes, ‘y’ can be a vowel, sounding like the long or short vowel sounds of the letter ‘e’ or ‘i’.

Soft c & g can also occur before ‘er’, because of the presence of ‘e’ (certain, germ).

How to Teach this Rule

Start with ‘soft c’.

I am assuming your child is able to cope with the ‘hard’ sound of ‘c’, like ‘k’ (cat, kitten), so, having reminded him/her of that, explain that you’re going to look at a different sound choice of the letter ‘c’.

It helps to use the word ‘choice’, as then you are giving the power of that choice to the child/pupil, to look carefully at the possibilities and decide which is applicable (with help of course).

First look at the ‘-ce’ soft ‘c’ pattern at the end of a word.

Look at the word ‘ice’. A word on its own, it can also be found at the end of other words. Discuss words which rhyme with ‘ice’, single syllables at first, then 2 syllables and so on.

It’s important to say them and talk about them first, to help the child remember, recall, understand and read. Then write them down in a column.

In this way, you will end up with a column of words such as:

ice, dice, lice, mice, nice, rice, vice, trice, twice (see illustration below).

Notice that words with an initial blend, trice/twice, are put together at the end - always deal with the simplest first.

2 & 3 Syllable Words

Look at 2 syllables at a later date, after revision of the single syllable words. The 2 syllable column could include:

advice, entice,

(also words with the ‘i’ as a short vowel ‘i’ or a long vowel ‘e’ - again, do these in a block of their own)

notice, poultice, justice (short ‘i’ sound)

police, caprice (long ‘e’ sound)

3 syllables - armistice, injustice (short ‘i’ sound)

Final '-ace'

Do the same for ‘ace’. Find the rhymes, write them down. Now you have two columns of ‘-ce’ words.

ace, face, lace, mace, pace, race, brace, grace, place, trace

See below for the columns illustrating '-ce' words.

Rhymes & Ways to Extend Learning

Rhyme is important; it reinforces the pattern and you can set it to rhythm and music if you want, or make up a ‘rap’. You can make up a poem; it’s fun and the child realises s/he is a poet (you’re a poet and you didn’t know it!).

An example of a poem (the crazier the better, even nonsense rhymes):

I tried to eat rice

when I walked on the ice -

I fell over twice

and the mice ate the rice!

Ask your child if s/he knows any other words ending in ‘-ce’. This will certainly depend on age as well as his/her received vocabulary (words they recognise verbally and know the meaning of). Take it from there, finding rhyming words from any appropriate words that are chosen. The choice (there’s one! - though this pattern would be ‘-oice’) is always with the child but you can suggest words if s/he is having difficulty thinking of any; the idea is to allow choice but not create pressure to think of words.

Suggestions will be made where the child may think the word rhymes but the ending is ‘se’. This could be a difficulty discriminating sounds but needs to be dealt with at another time, so you can say ‘that word has a different end pattern and we’ll learn it another time’.

A four year old's story
A four year old's story | Source

Use of Pattern in Sentences & Writing

At each stage, after discussing the words and making sure your child can read them, ask him/her to think of sentences where each word can be used. If the s/he is not confident in writing, write the sentences yourself, having discussed the meaning and made sure it is correct. The child can then see how many sentences s/he has made and be proud of the achievement.

If s/he is confident enough to write the sentences, that’s good. The same criteria apply; discussing meaning, making sure the child understands. The correct spelling in each written sentence must be checked. Other spellings in the sentence can be overlooked (or pointed out but not criticised - e.g. ‘good guess, we’ll do that pattern another time’) but it is of course important to learn the correct spelling of the current pattern.

Soft 'g'

The same sequence of study can be applied.

Suggested words:

age, cage, page, rage, sage, wage, stage, oblige

A complication arises with soft ‘g’ in that ‘ge’ follows a long vowel sound but ‘dge’ follows a short vowel sound. This should be dealt with later, separately, by looking at the short vowel spellings alone, then comparing the two. It is imperative that the difference between short and long vowel sounds has already been dealt with; it will invariably need recapping and reinforcing, as is always necessary with dyslexics students.

Short vowel + ‘dge’: badge, edge, fudge, lodge, ridge, bridge, fridge, pledge

Soft 'c' & Short/Long Vowels

Reminder of vowel sounds
Reminder of vowel sounds | Source

Reminders of Tips for Teaching

Whatever you are teaching or helping with, remember to use short tasks, break time up into 10 minute sections and always review patterns taught (the next lesson, the next week, the next month) until firmly transferred into long-term memory.

Make sessions fun, use multi-sensory approaches and apparatus, use rhythm, rhyme, music, chants and always make sure the child has input, choice and is aware of progress. Reward is important and celebration of effort.

In those ways you will create improved self-esteem, confidence, involvement, enthusiasm and pride. Above all, you will create success!


Useful resources: - Computer based program for reading, spelling and writing - lots of brilliant games and versatile resources; separate games cd for use at home - Teaching Handwriting Reading and Spelling Skills - SWAP and FIX games to practise reading & spelling patterns

Any games of memory, matching, rhyming, tracking (like a maze or follow the string to the [cat], Kim's game (memory of objects on a tray)).

Jigsaws, following instructions to make something (a model or cake or card etc.).

© 2012 Ann Carr


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    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      7 years ago from SW England

      Mhatter99 - thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this. it was a long time since i taught my kids to read. they were 2 and 3

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      7 years ago from SW England

      Sorry! Don't know where that came from then! Cheers, Ann

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      No, I never did Anna! My ex-wife did, however, and I have a healthy respect for anyone who does that work.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      7 years ago from SW England

      Well, thank you billy! You're very kind. I always appreciate your support. I gather you've taught special needs students too - what aspect did you find the most difficult?

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      An excellent tutorial on working with kids with special needs. Wonderful information in this hub my friend; you did a great job on this one.


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