Endings rules don't need to be hard.

Endings rules don't need to be hard.

I made it easy for you.


As some of you know, I wrote a book on how to teach the endings rules. I knew there were a million workbooks on this topic, although few of the workbooks give an in-depth look at the rules with a strong focus on direct, explicit instruction. The endings rules are amongst the trickiest of concepts to teach. It is a rare student that is solid with any of these rules after a first lesson, nor should we drop it after the first introduction. I would like to delve into some history of the ending rules, how I’ve decided to teach it, and share with you my struggles with the Two Syllable Doubling Rule.


The Doubling Rule, sometimes referred to as twinning, is a procedural rule. It comes into play in more than just adding suffixes. We only double a limited number of consonants: b, d, c (rare), f, g, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, z. We often see these letters doubled inside of words as well, such as in rabbit and kitten. Letters are often doubled to indicate that the vowel preceding them is short (the consonants in words like camel and cabin don’t double, because of the Stress Front Shift Rule). We also double the above-mentioned consonants following a short vowel in -Cle words, such as in bubble and ripple. Conversely, when adding the suffixes -ic and -ity, we don’t double the final consonant in the stem, like in panic or vanity. 


Let’s look at how we talk to our students about adding suffixes to base words.


This book started with a problem we were having as a center: we realized that we had three versions of the 1-1-1 Rule being taught! This was definitely an issue. How did you learn this rule? I learned that for one short vowel, followed by one consonant, with a suffix starting with one vowel, double the final consonant.  After much discussion, we decided we would no longer call it the 1-1-1 Rule but the Doubling Rule. In addition, we realized that saying after a short vowel is actually misleading. If we used that verbiage how would we explain r-controlled vowels? Isn’t that always a problem area? When a student writes scared when we are looking for scarred, how do you bring that to correction with eliciting questions if there is not a short vowel? So I wrote the book to say “the word has one vowel.” Problem solved!


The E Rule is a little more straightforward, although, if you read my post on silent e you will find we need to go deeper than just VCe. Deletion of the final e only happens when we add a suffix that begins with a vowel. The E Rule is followed in all the instances of silent e: paste/pasting, breathe/breathing, argue/arguing, dodge/dodging, dance/dancing. I am a fan of showing my students the holdouts to these rules. Endings Rules Made Easy has holdout lists and worksheets for keeping the e with soft c and soft g. I found that the more I familiarized myself with them, the better reading instructor I became.  


The Y Rule can often feel daunting to teach. What it really boils down to is this: we change the y to i unless the suffix starts with i or the stem ends in a vowel pair. That sounds like a mouthful. It is far more manageable when broken into chunks. I did this for you in the book. Change to i when the suffix doesn’t start with i: crazier, silliness. Keep the when a suffix starts with i: frying. Keep the y when the stem ends in a vowel pair: deployed, monkeying, displayed. Change y to i and add -es when forming plurals: families, babies, bunnies. Both as /i/ and y as /e/ follow the Y Rule.


When working with these rules, I always apply the student's previous knowledge. I have them read and write word pairs, such as scrapping/ scraping, scarring/scaring, and fury/furry. After the Y Rule has been taught, I dictate strings of words, such as star/starry/starriest, or gum/gummy/gummier. Reading these words in lists brings another layer of complexity to the lesson, and moves the student closer to automaticity. Endings Rules Made Easy and my forthcoming book More Words both have several of these higher-level lists.


Ok, so if you have read my other blog posts, you know that I have a raging case of dyslexia. I can see through my students’ eyes and know their struggles. Even after I became a knowledgeable OG practitioner, there were certain things I shied away from. The biggest was teaching the Two Syllable Doubling Rule. Part of becoming comfortable with high-level teaching was learning as much as I could. I voraciously read as much as I could get my hands on about the structure of the English Language. I needed to find a way to understand this rule. Everything I read said if the syllable accent...blah blah blah. It was like listening to Charlie Brown’s teacher. I cannot hear syllable accents. While taking an upper-level OG teacher training, the instructor proclaimed that you can teach children to hear accents. How exactly do you do that? I wondered, as I sunk low into my chair. I am an adult and the best I can tell you is that if I hear a schwa I know it’s not accented, I thought. After investigating if my dyslexic students heard accents, it appeared that most did not. So how would I teach the Two Syllable Doubling Rule?


Knowing that language is patterns, I started to form two lists, one where the final consonant doubled and another where they didn’t. I made a discovery! Words that start with prefixes double, words without don’t. I raced to work and excitedly slammed the lists down on Karen’s desk. She read and reread the lists, and yep, I was right. How did we not know this? Together, we again scoured all the tried and true manuals. We made some phone calls, and everyone said that they had never heard it said that way, either. As with any English pattern there are a few exceptions.


I hope this sheds some light on this topic for you, too. And, of course, the Two Syllable Doubling Rule is taught this way in Endings Rules Made Easy, because, well, it made it easy for me, too!


Happy endings rules!

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NIna De Lucia - April 4, 2020

I am utterly thrilled to have come across this blog. You hit the nail on the head! I have struggled with teaching these concepts and like you was afraid to dig in deep because I was insecure about the application of the rules and inconsistencies. Please add me to any other blog/ website/ material information that may be informative using OG. Thanks!

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