ABC's and All Their Tricks

The ABC’s and All Their Tricks


THE phonics book for teachers. Comprehensive information is given here for every spelling of every sound. For each spelling you find rules which govern it, exceptions to the rules, sample words to use for teaching the sound or spelling, etymological information, and more. Each sound is keyed to the Phonics Made Plain cards and chart. The Appendix also contains an excellent article concerning reading problems of the older student or adult.

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5th grade spelling test(r/funny)

Totally unfair.

This child is much closer to being an excellent speller than you give him credit for.

He’s trying to use phonics — good for him.

What you need to explain to him is that the rules he is trying to use for spelling are Webster’s rules for German derived English words, while the spelling words they have given him are almost all derived from Latin. Thus, he must use Webster’s rules for Latin derived English words, and they are not the same rules.

Also, you must work with him on correct pronunciation. He is writing these words exactly the way he thinks they sound. If you correct his pronunciation, he will be half way to the goal.

civiluzation… Civil is the correct root. He thinks the suffix is “uzation”. Simply explain to him that the correct pronunciation is “ization”, as in injury and intent, and not under or until. Can’t remember which is the right sound? A cute trick you can play with latin-based words is to think of another word with the same root but a different suffix. In this case, “civilize” works well. It will have the same spelling structure. Notice that the second ‘i’ in civilize is much clearer than the same ‘i’ in civilization — it’s much more obvious that civiluze is wrong than that civiluzation is wrong.

Explain that “tion” is originally from Latin (-tionis), passed to us via French (-cion/-tion), with a pronunciation and “proper” spelling decided on by Noah Webster. Reward him for remembering the correct spelling of the “shun” sound in Webster’s Latin. Explain that if the root word is polysyllabic (civ-ilization, etc.) there is a good chance it is of Latin (or other) origin, and if it is monosyllabic (running, eating), there is a good chance it is of German origin. Introduce him to a good list of Latin-derived pre/suffixes. There aren’t that many.

monarkey Again, a beautiful attempt at spelling this world correctly using German spelling rules. Too bad this word is from Greek via French, otherwise he’d have gotten it right. All he needs to remember is that in Webster-Greek, “archy” sounds like “arkey” in Webster-German.

dominints Another example of mispronunciation. It’s not “ints”, like integers, it’s “ance,” like dance, with a little less emphasis on the “aah”. Again, a Latin word via French, and again, you can get some spelling help by looking for an alternative form: how about dominate? Notice it’s not dominite.

corispond Another Latin word. Detecting a pattern yet? Here he’s perfectly followed the German derived spelling rule for making the first ‘o’ long by not doubling the final ‘r’ consonant in a monosyllabic root word having one vowel with a vowel as the first letter in the suffix. Again, he has a minor pronunciation problem with i vs. e.

illiterate Did he spell it right? I’m curious. Does he think this word is pronounced illite-“rate”?

Want more info? Try, here or, for a more in-depth version, “The ABC’s and All Their Tricks. (I have no affiliation with either of these.)”

Edit: An actual teacher — I just homeschool my kid — made a great point about this test being an assessment. Since that’s the case, I don’t think it should have been returned to the student. Getting all these questions wrong when you thought you knew what you were doing doesn’t do anything good for anyone’s self-esteem, nor does it give a good impression to those not in the know.

–Sincerely me, an adult who as a “gifted child” tested as a 3rd grade speller while in the 8th grade and taught himself to spell a little better as an adult by doing some good old RTFM on our language.

TLDR: Kid is much closer to spelling well than anyone gives him credit for. I blame the education system for trying to force him to flash memorize tens of thousands of words instead of teaching him some basic phonics or explaining why it is that not all words follow the “when two vowels go walking the first does the talking” rules.

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Book Author

M. Bishop

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Mott Media (MI)

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The ABC’s and All Their Tricks

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5th grade spelling test

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