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13.9: How Do You Spell [k]?

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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How Do You Spell [k]?

1. The sound [k] is spelled many different ways. Underline the letters that you think are spelling [k] in the following words. Then write the letters that spell [k] in the blanks. You should find that [k] is spelled eleven different ways!

Word [k] = Word [k] =
zodiac <c> acquired <cq>
remarkable <k> khan <kh>
equally <q> saccharine <cch>
hockey <ck> bookcase <kc>
schemer <ch> trekkie <kk>
accommodations <cc>

2. In spite of all these different spellings of [k], more than nine times out of ten [k] will be spelled either <c>, <k>, or <ck>. And we can usually predict which of these three spellings to choose. Underline the letters that spell [k] at the beginning of each of the following words:


3. Sort the sixteen words into these two groups:

Words in which [k] is spelled ...
<k> <c>
key counterfeit crime
kitchen calculate congress
kindly condemn community
kettle critical climate
campaign capital
clinic conscience

4. Underline the letter that comes right after the <c> or <k> in each of the sixteen words above. Then sort the words into this matrix:

Words in which [k] is spelled ...
<c> <k>
Words with an <i> or <e> right after the [k]





Words with no <i> or <e> right after the [k]













5. In each of these words is there a [k] sound at the beginning of the word, in the middle, or at the end? At the beginning

6. You should have seen that each time a word starts with [k] with an <i> or <e> right after it, the [k] is spelled <k>. Otherwise, [k] at the beginning of a word is spelled <c>. Have you ever seen a word begin with <ck>? No If you saw one, like maybe <ckurp>, wouldn't it look odd? Yes

7. At the beginning of a word, [k] is never spelled <ck>; it is usually spelled <c> or <k>. If the [k] has an <i> or an <e> right after it, it is usually spelled <k>; otherwise, it is usually spelled <c>.

Teaching Notes.

Item 7. The usually's in this conclusion are important in two ways:

1. As the students have already seen, [k] can be spelled several different ways, and this conclusion only speaks of those words that have an initial [k] that is spelled either <c> or <k>. It says nothing yet about words like queen or chrome, in which initial [k] is spelled some way other than <c> or <k>. This lesson and the following are concerned only with sorting out <c>, <k>, and <ck>, which are far and away the most common spellings of [k].

2. There are a number of words, though very few that are commonly used, that have initial [k] spelled <k> with something other than the <e>, <i>, or <y> following that the conclusion calls for. In most cases they are quite recent adoptions that still reflect the spelling patterns of their source languages: kangaroo (Australian), kayak (Eskimo), kona (Hawaiian). Some are from Greek and still have the Greek kappa translated as <k>: kaleidoscope, krypton. Kleptomania, also Greek, has the more regular spelling cleptomania. Krypton has the same Greek base as cryptic and crypt but retains the older spelling with <k>, probably because it is used only in technical language (and, of course, Superman), and technical language tends to be conservative in its treatment of words and their spelling. Kaleidoscope is somewhat similar: The Greek base kal(l)- means “beautiful” and is appears, with a different, and more regular, spelling, in such words as calligraphy and callisthenics.

For more on the spelling of [k], see AES, pp. 355-72.

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Date Created:
Feb 23, 2012
Last Modified:
Jul 07, 2015
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