As teachers, we often find ourselves frustrated and challenged by the limitations of current reading instruction programs.
While some students excel and become confident readers, there are always those who struggle to grasp the complexities of phonics rules, exceptions, and patterns.
But what if there was a more effective approach to teaching reading that could unlock the potential of even our most struggling readers?
…One without all the rules.
Today, we're looking into the mystical world of the FLOSS Spelling Rule…and uncovering some of its secrets!
Do our young readers really need to know the FLOSS spelling rule?
I'm here to debunk the growing belief of the more phonics rules the better!
If you're wondering how to lighten the cognitive load for your students – read on! [Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 46 seconds.]
Or…press play and witness the magic unfold in this 7-minute video!
The FLOSS Rule and Its Sorcery 😉
First things first, what is this “FLOSS Rule” of which we speak?
The “FLOSS Rule” is the guideline stating that
in one-syllable words, the letters “f,” “l,” “s,” and “z” are usually doubled at the end if they follow a short vowel.
As in these words: will, grass, hill, and buzz.
If you want your students to know how to apply this rule easily, they also need to deeply understand what a
- open syllables,
- closed syllables, and
- short vowels are…
As well as quite frequent exceptions such as:
- plus and
- dear old Gus.
With the Reading Simplified method, we have discovered the value in simplicity over complexity.
So we generally don’t find students need to learn complex phonics terms, rules, or their exceptions like the FLOSS rule in order to become good readers.
It’s true, most students can learn to read words such as these quite easily in the context of Reading Simplified instruction.
Yes, even in Kindergarten.
Notice below how in the top 300 most frequent words (which make up about 65% of written English) the so-called floss “rule,” is by far the exception.
Should we teach a “rule” that is contradicted by these most essential, early words that children need in order to begin successfully reading transitional texts such as Little Bear, Frog and Toad, Messy Bessey, or Henry and Mudge?
Simple, but Disarming
How can this be, you're wondering?
If you’ve been discovering the importance of the Science of Reading lately and you know kids need to be explicitly taught phonics, you’re right.
So you’re probably wondering how can this be that a reading program based on the evidence would tell you to minimize phonics rules?
It turns out that in the last 30 years or so, scientists have discovered that we learn to read words less through rule application and more through observation of patterns.
Once we are explicitly taught how the code works and some grapheme-phoneme or letter-sound correspondences, then a lot of our learning of word parts and words is implicitly gathered.
When we read the manual for how to crack the code, so to speak, then our amazing minds statistically computes possible expectations for given spellings in words to help us attack and recognize words with increasing accuracy and speed.
We know this through the research on connectionist models of reading (see image above), the self-teaching theory, and the simple observation that not one accomplished graduating high schooler was explicitly taught all 20,000 to 40,000 words she recognizes in less than a blink of an eye.
See how in the chart below the graduating 12th grader needs WAY more words than they knew in the first few years of elementary (researchers estimate about 20 to 40K!)
Yes, teachers should explicitly help students on their journey towards good decoding, but most of the phonics spellings and words that the student will learn over her lifetime will be implicitly acquired!
Traditional instruction is explicit, as in teaching explicit rules for pronouncing or spelling words. Aside from the lack of agreement about the rules, these mappings are far too complex to be wholly taught this way. Although learners benefit from explicit instruction, most of this knowledge is acquired via implicit learning. Excessive emphasis on explicit instruction may make acquiring this material more difficult.
This is good news for us muggles!
Learning oodles of phonics and syllable rules is time consuming and places an undue cognitive load for developing readers.
Not only do we now know that learning to read ignites through explicit instruction, but it mostly runs on implicit learning.
A recent study demonstrated the futility of at least one common phonics rule:
In studying the efficacy of the V|CV pattern as in these words
Ignite the Enchanted Code
Children need the code, and they need it fast.
Giving students strong sound-based decoding skills and phonics information early on in their development is one way that Reading Simplified teachers build readers rapidly.
Some methods introduce the FLOSS rule in the 1st grade. But why wait?
We believe in empowering our kindergarteners with this knowledge much earlier.
Indeed as early as the first weeks of kindergarten, even absolute beginning readers get exposed to 2 letter graphemes or 2 letter combinations such as /th/, /ss/, and /ll/.
Folding this concept – that 1 sound can be 2 letters – early on is a great way to accelerate student reading.
In our earliest reading material inside the Reading Simplified Academy, we still demonstrate this principle of our code. Notice in the image below how the reading texts bold the 2 letter-sound combinations, such as the “th” in “path” or the “ss” in “hiss” or the “ll” in “will.”
When we introduce this principle early on, it's actually quite easy for young students to grasp!
One of our most important activities – Switch It – is a simple way to introduce these easy spelling patterns.
When kids get a jumpstart into real reading like this, and even see the slight complexity of 1 sound = 2 letters early on, then they are on their way to an early introduction to transitional texts.
Our next activity Read It and the strategy Blend As You Read is perfect for this next step!
The Magic of Efficient Instruction
Now, the magical finale – let's harness the power of efficiency.
As a result of our more rapid access to phonics knowledge, Reading Simplified students enjoy getting into the enchanting world of books earlier.
They have more time to practice the invaluable skills of integrating all that phonics knowledge with meaning…making real text reading.
Along the way, the Reading Simplified teacher listens along to each student read…giving targeted – but brief feedback.
Less chit-chat, more magic!
And there you have it, fellow reading enthusiasts! We've successfully debunked the FLOSS spelling rule and its sorcery.
Until next time, keep those books open and those wands ready!
Snap up more info about Blend As You Read with our Read It activity.
Or, if you are ready to immediately be trained in how to optimize Blend As You Read and the other few, vital activities that make up the Reading Simplified system, then please join the Reading Simplified Academy. Learn more about the Reading Simplified Academy.