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Prize Pike

“Ope! Fish on! Fish on! It’s a big one! Get the net, quick!” Adrenaline pumping, I scramble for the big aluminum fishing net, bumping into at least three other people hoping to be the hero of today’s fishing trip. “Quick! She’s gonna break!” As the fish thrashes just above the surface, I catch a glance at its glistening camouflage. It’s a pike, and it’s a big one, its sharp teeth threatening to slice the line before it even makes it in the boat. As my heart pounds in my ears, I grab the net with both hands and scoop up the biggest catch of the day. My father beams as he carefully unhooks his catch. This is it: the big one!

Photo by Brady Rogers on Unsplash

Growing up in Wisconsin, the story of ‘the big one’ was a familiar one. There was one nearly every summer, and every time it was told, the wrangling got just a little more dramatic, and the fish got a little bit bigger. You see, with the fish tale, there is just as much craft in telling the story as there is in actually catching the fish.

If you’re wondering what fish tales have to do with spelling, I’ll leave you with a hint: our next spelling rule smells a little ‘fishy.’

Before You Begin

This will be our first silent E spelling rule in a series of rules centered around silent E concepts. Before teaching this spelling rule to your students, make sure they can...

Thoughts on Silent E

Silent E, often called magic E, is one of those elusive spelling concepts that seems to mystify many of our students. It is not uncommon to see a student plop a silent E on the end of a word to make it “look right” without really knowing its purpose. This is why I tell my students that there is ALWAYS a reason for silent E. In this blog post, you will learn the first reason for silent E, so without further ado, let me introduce you to our “fish tale,” Prize Pike.

Here's the Prize Pike Rule:

Silent E makes a vowel long.

You see, just like the Wisconsin fisherfolk like to hold up their hands to demonstrate just how long their prize catch was, the silent E will also make the vowel long. I often pair this rule with a two-handed gesture to help students remember that they might use silent E to make the vowel long.

Let's Tell the Whole Story

There’s a bit more to our fish tale that’s important to point out to students. To frame this part of the story, I want you to imagine that you’re wrangling in that prize pike, and there’s a moment where it jumps out of the water before you finally yank it into the boat. Silent E jumps too! Silent E will jump over one consonant to make the vowel in front of it long, but it cannot jump over more than one consonant. Let’s look at an example:

Notice that the silent E is jumping over the letter ‘k’ to make the ‘a’ long. Now, what if I played with this word a bit and placed two letters after the vowel? Let me show you what I mean...

Now, the silent E can no longer make the ‘a’ long because it can’t jump over two consonants; silent E can only jump over one. Thus, ‘a’ changed back to its short sound. Now, the word, ‘lack,’ also brings up an old rule, but an important rule, Sick Elk. Remember this guy?

If you recall, our Sick Elk rule tells us that after a short vowel, you’ll spell /k/ with a ‘ck,’ such as in the word, ‘lack.’ However, if you happen to hear a /k/ sound after a long vowel, use a ‘k,’ just like we used in the word ‘lake.’

I often give students time to practice spelling words with silent E using a good variety of real and nonsense words with different vowels. You can find some great word lists and practice pages in our Silver Moon Spelling Rules Kit 2. It’s also helpful to prompt students to draw that arrow from the silent E to the vowel that it changes (check out an example of this above).

Tip: You can make this fun by drawing a little fish jumping over that one consonant!

Silent E in Multisyllable Words

Once your student has mastered the smaller, one syllable words, it’s time for them to toss out their lines and yank in the big ones! When working with longer, multisyllable words, it’s important to emphasize the following:

Notice that I did not mark the silent E. Silent E does not count because it is not a ‘voiced’ vowel sound. In other words, if we can’t hear it, it doesn’t count. I often prompt students to put a line through silent E. They may also choose to put an ‘x’ above it to remind them that silent E does not count when we are dividing words into syllables.

Next, I can use my syllable division rules to divide the word into its two syllables, still ignoring silent E for now.

For more on strategies for reading and spelling multisyllable words, check out our free Silver Moon Spelling video library!

Important Tips to Consider

Time to Pull in the Lines

The sun is setting, and it’s time to pull in the fishing lines and pack up the gear. It has been another successful fishing trip full of fish tales to retell for years to come! I hope you’ve gained some helpful tips for introducing your students to our Prize Pike rule. For additional practice, I’ve provided you with a great set of FREE resources that you can add to the ole tackle box! Simply click, download, and print.

Prize Pike Reproducibles Here!

As always, if you found this blog helpful, please share it with your fellow teachers, parents, and interventionists. Interested in learning more? Check out more of our blogs HERE, and don’t forget to check out our complete guide to spelling at

Happy Teaching!

Written by:

Kate Wagner, BSE
Reading Interventionist, Remote Learning Coach

Sticky Units of Sound: NK

Hello! We are back with another discussion about sticky units of sound. This is the second blog in our sticky units series, and I thINK you will enjoy what I have to offer you. If you’ve already read my previous posting, I’d like to thANK you for taking the time to navigate that chUNK of learning. If you have yet to check out my first blog in this series, please pause and click on this link. My previous blog will tell you everything you need to know about sticky units of sound.

Now, if you’ve been playing along, you might have noticed some emphasized letters in the last paragraph. It’s no mystery that I’ll be covering our next set of sticky units, so I used words that demonstrated some of our new units in action. Cheesy as it may be, identifying sticky units of sound in their “natural habitat,” that is, within a reading passage, is not only fun to do with educators, but it’s also a great strategy to use with students. In fact, it’s the best way to get students excited about searching out targeted
spelling patterns within everyday contexts, and isn’t that what generalization of knowledge is all about? If you like this sort of activity, I have good news for you! I will be including a similar activity in my FREE set of downloadable reproducibles, found at the end of this blog.

Because sticky units of sound do, indeed, make unexpected sounds, the best approach to helping our students learn them is by providing them with explicit instruction. In
today’s blog, I’ll give you all of the information you need to explicitly teach this family of units, as well as some resources to help your students practice them.

Before You Begin

Before teaching these concepts to your student, make sure they can...

Overview of Units

Today, I introduce you to the -NK family of units. You may recall that sticky units of sound are a combination of letters that:

For the full introduction on sticky units of sound, visit my previous blog post.

Meet the NK Family

Last time, you learned about our first family of units: the NG family. Below, you will meet the NK family. You may be wondering what I mean by “family.” Well, just as folks often point out how much I look like my sisters, each member of the NK family of units also has similar traits. Let’s see if you notice what they have in common. Here they are:





You probably noticed that these new units also have a common theme: they all end with ‘N-K.’ I typically task my students to also discover this connection in a similar way. After that, we begin to form words with our new units by adding a letter in front of each unit. Although it’s helpful to use the same letter to form each word, it’s not always possible. With this family of units, we will try our best to form familiar words even though we can’t use the same letter each time. Let’s give it a try!





Next, I will say each unit out loud in isolation and then ask my student to repeat each isolated unit sound after me. Together, we will look at a list of words containing these units and place a box around the unit in each word like this:

At this point, it’s important to review with our students that each unit is considered just one sound, typically found at the end of a word or syllable but never at the beginning. It’s helpful to practice this concept by asking our students to tap out each word on their fingers while saying the sounds out loud.

This strategy can be used while reading and while spelling. For step-by-step instructions of these multisensory strategies, see my previous blog post, and check out our website to purchase our instructor manual, complete with more information on sticky units of sound, as well as word lists for additional practice.

Time to Doodle

Once they are comfortable with reading and spelling these new units, it’s important that your student create a resource to refer to each time they get a new set of units. You see, although we teach units of sound explicitly, the list of units tends to add up, and they can be easily forgotten.

This is where the Silver Moon “keyword” comes into play. Now, to put you in the shoes of a student who is accumulating a long list of new units, I want you to think about the last time you had a list of items to get from the grocery store. What are you likely going to do? You’re going to write down that list! Naturally, we all go into these situations with good intentions, making that organized list of needed items, and then, inevitably, you forget that list at home. Of course, you don’t discover this error until you walk through the doors of the grocery store and reach into your pockets only to find old gum wrappers and a piece of lint. Insert facepalm here.

Photo byTorbjorn Helgesen on Unsplash

As you scan the aisles of the store, you attempt to remember what was on that list. Then, you begin to create contexts for remembering what we needed. “Hmm...I remember that I had no milk for my cereal this morning, so I definitely need milk.” “Oh! And I know I need eggs for those cookies I need to make for the potluck.” Before you know it, you have placed almost all the necessary items in your basket thanks to the mental contexts you’d created that served as memory triggers for your list of groceries.

Just as we would find it challenging to remember a whole grocery list without any context to trigger our memories, our students may also struggle to remember every unit
they learn without memory triggers for each targeted sound.

Therefore, I ask my students to create a keyword to correspond with each new unit. Then, they create a visual to correspond with each keyword on their Doodle-a-Rule
cards, a fantastic set of resources that can be found in our second set of Silver Moon Spelling Rules. Students can use Doodle-a-Rule cards as flashcards to practice their
unit sounds so they don’t find themselves lost among the aisles.

Silver Moon Spelling Rules Set 2: Doodle-a-Rule Cards

Important Tips to Consider

And on to the Free Stuff!

And that’s it—easy as pie! We’ve officially covered our second set of sticky units of sound. As a ‘thank you’ for following along, I am providing you with some free, yes
FREE, reproducibles to practice these concepts with your students. Simply click the link below and download!

Sticky Units of Sound Ending with -NK Reproducibles

As always, if you found this blog helpful, please share it with your fellow teachers, parents, and interventionists. Interested in learning more? Check out more of our blogs HERE, and don’t forget to check out our complete guide to spelling at

Happy Teaching!

Written by:

Kate Wagner, BSE

Reading Interventionist, Remote Learning Coach

read learning services

Sticky Units of Sound: NG

When I was growing up, we used to have competitions for nearly everything: highest jump, fastest sprint, and even, the longest to hold their breath underwater. So, it’s no surprise that on the occasion we had that delicious, sticky bubble gum, we also would compete to see who could blow the biggest bubble. Well, let me tell you, nothing ruins the fun of a good bubble-blowing competition more than getting your giant, award-winning bubble stuck to your hair. At one point, I was banned from chewing bubble gum, as I had managed to get my hair impossibly stuck one-too-many times.

Photo by Marlene Bauer on Unsplash

I tell you this story, not only to serve as a fair warning for those looking to engage in a bubble-blowing battle, but I also want to take this opportunity to segway into today’s topic: “sticky units of sound.” You see, just like hair to bubble gum, sounds can also stick together, making them a bit challenging to read and spell. That’s where today’s topic comes in. My intention today is to give you the tools and the knowledge to teach these sounds to your students so that they don’t find themselves in a sticky situation. This will be the first in a series of four blogs related to sticky units of sound, so let’s dive in!

Before You Begin

Before teaching these concepts to your student, make sure they can…

Overview: What is a Unit of Sound?

Just as bubble gum sticks to hair, units are often composed of three letters that “stick” together to make a strange sound. Why strange? Well, at first sight, a unit looks like a typical closed syllable, meaning the vowel appears to be closed off by a consonant. However, in a closed syllable, the vowel will always make its short sound. In a unit, the vowel may not follow that pattern or any specific pattern for that matter! Therefore, units cannot be sounded out, and they can be pretty tricky if not explicitly taught. The letters in a unit are “sticky” because they can’t be broken apart into individual letter sounds.

Units are very common within the English language. In fact, they are so common, that when a word contains a unit, we describe that word as having a Unit Syllable. Often, we mark those syllables by placing a box around the unit letters. I will show you how this looks later in the blog.

Speaking of syllables, when you’re teaching your students about vowel sounds, it’s also crucial to teach them how to classify syllables in order to build strong phonemic awareness skills. Therefore, we’ve created a fun, FREE resource to help teach syllable types. This resource includes visuals and descriptors of all 7 types of syllables including unit syllables. Included in this resource is the clever illustration of unit syllables above! Check it out on our website at this link.

Sticking to the Subject

There are so many units in our language that it’s easiest to put them into groups or as I like to call them, unit ‘families.’ When we group large lists of items together, it makes them easier to remember. The first four units we cover today is the -NG family. As you’ve probably guessed, each unit in this family ends with -NG.





When I teach units, I begin by showing my student the list of units shown above. Then, I like to ask my student if they recognize any of the units. In this set, students often recognize -ING, as this unit is quite common in high-frequency words. After looking at the units in isolation, I place a letter in front of each unit to create a real, recognizable word and read each word out loud, asking my student to repeat after me. Ideally, I keep the letter the same in front of each unit. It looks something like this:





Next, say each unit out loud in isolation, and ask your student to repeat each isolated unit sound after you. At this point, you may want to introduce a larger set of words that contain these units. Have your student place a box around the unit in each word like this:

Each unit is considered just one sound, so be sure to emphasize this to your student as you read and spell these words. Additionally, guide your student to recognize that units appear at the end of each word (or syllable) and never at the beginning.

The final step is to ask your student to create a “keyword” for each unit. A “keyword” serves as a memory trigger for the targeted sound. Ideally, your student will create a visual to correspond with their keywords. What’s really cool is that our second set of Silver Moon Spelling Rules includes Doodle-a-Rule Cards for students to write and doodle a picture of their unit sound keywords. These handy cards can also work as flashcards to review unit sounds. Click the link above to find out more information on how to purchase Silver Moon Spelling Rules, Set 2.

Multisensory Strategies: Spelling Words with Units

We know that our students learn best when they can involve as many senses as possible. Although reading and spelling naturally involve the senses of sight and hearing, there is a way to also involve the tactile, or touch, sense. When students are spelling, we encourage them to split their words into individual sounds to ensure that every letter and sound is accounted for. Here’s how I have students do that:

  1. Say the word out loud.
  2. Say the word slowly. Note: make sure that your student keeps the unit as one sound (“ong” vs “o-n-g”).
  3. Tap each sound on your fingers while you say the sounds out loud. Tap one sound per finger, beginning from the left and moving to the right. The unit should only be tapped on one finger, as it counts as just one sound. Note: students should tap the sounds using their non-writing hand, leaving their writing hand available for the next step. Lefties will tap beginning with the thumb of their right hand, and righties will tap beginning with the small finger of their left hand.
  4. Write out the letters that correspond with each sound. Note: as students get used to using this multisensory spelling strategy, they may choose to do this step simultaneously with step 3. 
  5. Check your work by touching under each letter you wrote as you say its sound. Blending them all together as one word. For a video demonstrating this strategy, please check out this link

“Stuck” on Reading Units?

Just when you think your student has mastered units, you may find that they still have difficulty transitioning from reading them in isolation to reading them within words. If this happens, I have a strategy to get them unstuck. Ask your student to locate and place a box around the unit first. Next, ask them to read just the unit out loud while checking their keyword to make sure they’ve said the unit correctly. Finally, once they have the correct unit sound in mind, they can read the entire word, tapping under each letter as they go. Using this trick may greatly increase accuracy as your students are learning units for the first time.

For a video demonstrating the touch-and-say reading strategy, please follow this link!

More Important Tips to Consider

One Last Thing

Now that I’ve given you quite a bit to chew on, I’ll leave you with a final surprise. Below, you’ll find a collection of FREE resources to assist in you in teaching these units. Simply pop on over to the link below!

Sticky Units of Sound Ending with -NG Reproducibles

As always, if you found this blog helpful, please share it with your fellow teachers, parents, and interventionists. Interested in learning more? You can find our other spelling topics HERE, and don’t forget to check out our complete guide to spelling at

Happy Teaching!

Written by:

Kate Wagner, BSE

Reading Interventionist, Remote Learning Coach

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