Hard and Soft c

Introducing Hard and Soft C

This rule determines when students should use the hard or soft c and g when reading and spelling. Readers will be able to decide what sound to use by looking at the letter that follows the c. While this rule is predictable for hard and soft c, it is less predictable for hard and soft g.

The rule:

  • The letter c says /s/ when followed by e, i, or y
  • For all other letters, the c says /k/

Prerequisite Skills

Students understand long and short vowels

Students knows most or all of the letter names and sounds

Students know and understand the use of magic e


  • List of words for PA activity
  • Word list and projection sheet for hard and soft c words
  • Picture cards for emergent readers
  • Card sort games (2 copied on two different colors)

Word Lists

Soft c

cent                city                 ice                  century          cinder            price              cinder             pencil

excites           center            race                fancy              dance             acid                cell                  citrus

fence             pencil

Hard c

corn, cobble, carry,

Phonemic Awareness Activity

Ask students to make the /k/ sound and a scratching motion when they hear a word with a hard c and the snake motion and the /s/ sound for word with a soft c.

insert video of actions

corn               cent                city                 cobble           century            carry              cinder


Guided Practice:

Teach the song and sing the song:

This song is sung to the tune of BINGO:

There are three letters that soften c    e,ie,I,y

The same three often soften g   e,i,e,i,y

Choral Reading:

Put a list of words with hard and soft c on the smartboard or using a document camera.

  • Have students come up and underline the ce, ci, cy words
  • Sound out and read the list together as a class.  Repeat or reread words that are challenging
  • Include new vocabulary so that students will need to stop and figure out the pronunciation using the  soldier rule (i.e. cyst).  Discuss the meaning of new words.

This activity could also be done with a paper and highlighters.

Independent Practice

Cared Sort:

Pair students for card sort activity. When pairing students, have students with similar skills in a partnership.

Group 1 – for emergent readers using pictures –

  1. Identify whether the word uses hard and soft “c” words
  2. Circle all the words with “ce”, “ci” and “cy”
  3. Identify where the soft “c” is in each word (beginning, middle and end)

Group 2– card sort – sort the words into piles of hard and soft c

Group 3 – card sort – sort the words into piles of which letter follow the c (e,i,y)

All students can do one sort, or half the students can do one sort while the other half does the other.  Switch sorts half way through the lesson.


If you are teaching intermediate level students, students with lagging skills could do the primary sort.


If extra time, ask questions with a partner about the words in the sort:

  • Which one can you eat?
  • Can you find two that rhyme?
  • Can you find something you can write with?

Florida Center for Reading Research

Giraffes, Goats, Cats and Centipedes

Practice Texts

Reading A-Z

Decodable 23 Trip to the City


West Viriginia Phonics


Story Number: 1
The Small Cakes
Cal and Carl like cake. Cal drinks milk with his cake. Carl smells
the scent of cakes as they cook. Cal and Carl sing a song about
cakes. They cap the cakes with whipped cream. The whipped
cream will make the cakes taste great.
Cal and Carl take the cakes in their lunch box to school. They
share the cakes at lunch time at the cool place under the tree.

Story Number: 2
Space Cakes
June, Pam and Cal once had to do school work about space.
Since they love to cook they chose to bake cakes to be each star.
The sun was the big cake and more small cakes were the stars
around it. They were scared to take the cakes to school on the bus.
They rode in Mom’s car to school. The car crashed into the fence
and the cakes flew out the car door onto the road. Each kid tried
to grab a piece, but it was too late!

Story Number: 3
The Race
Carl called Cliff and asked him to race to the creek. Since it
would be cool at the creek, Cliff wore a coat. Carl wore his red cap.
Carl and Cliff made it to the creek. Cliff made it to the creek
first. Carl called out to Cliff, “Good Job!” The prize for the first place
was a nice slice of spiced pie with ice cream. Cliff shared the slice
of pie and ice cream with Carl.


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