Teaching Hard and Soft G & C Sound Words with Gentle Cindy

Teaching Hard and Soft G & C Sound Words with Gentle Cindy

Primary teachers, get ready to meet your new phonics friend, Gentle Cindy! She's one of the easiest and most memorable ways to teach young kids when to pronounce hard and soft C & G sound words and it actually works! Below, you'll find teaching tips, word lists, and hands-on activities to help your students learn this important phonics concept. 

There are a few sounds that often trip young readers up, and two of the biggest culprits are the letters C and G. 

How many times have you heard your students say "kirkle" for circle or "angle" for angel? They tend to default to the hard sound and require prompting to use the soft sounds instead. 

This can be frustrating for early readers who are already working hard to decode every sound in the words on the page. If they go through all that effort only to get the sound wrong, the word won't make sense, and they won't always want to keep trying.

Once your kids "meet" Gentle Cindy, they'll be much more reliable at pronouncing C and G sounds, which means reading will be less frustrating, too. Win-win!



What is the Gentle Cindy rule?

As primary teachers, we often use mnemonic devices and clever imagery to help students learn phonics, like "Bossy E" or pairing letters with images that start with the same initial sound. 

These devices are cute, but they're also a great way to encode information into your students' long-term memories. The visuals and humanised characters are much easier to remember than long and detailed phonics rules!

General Rule for Pronouncing C & G Sounds

Basically, Gentle Cindy is a fun way to remember the soft C and G rules. 

The letters G and C make soft /j/ and /s/ sounds when followed by the letters e, i, or y.

 This is always true for the letter C and usually true for the letter G, with a few notable exceptions (like words with Germanic language roots, e.g. girl, get, give, gift).

Her name is a helpful reminder of this rule, too! "Gentle Cindy" shows two of the spelling patterns for soft G and C sounds. This makes it easy to remember the rule, even when you don’t have an anchor chart in front of you!

Hard and Soft C Sound Words (The Soft C Rule)

  • Soft C words (/s/) - cent, cell, circle (contains both hard c and soft c), pencil, celery, city, cereal, police, recess, price, race
  • Hard C sound words (/k/) - cactus, cancel, corn, camp, candle, cost, castle, crayon, cap, coat

Hard and Soft G Sound Words (The Soft G Rule)

  • Soft G words (/j/) - gentle, ginger, gym, giant, germ, angel, danger, general, gym, engine, imagine, bridge
  • Hard G sound words (/g/) - gorilla, good, gulp, garlic, goal, wagon, goat, goldfish, gull

Many of these are common high-frequency words (often referred to as common sight words) that your students will come across frequently, so it’s really important to teach this rule early on.

A few things to remember:

  • As you can see in the examples above, you can’t always tell if a word will have a soft or hard sound based on the initial letter. This is a great opportunity to have students try to write their own “rule” based on their observations before you introduce Gentle Cindy. What do they notice about the spelling of words with soft or hard sounds?
  • At the end of a word with a silent e, the letters G and C are more likely to be soft (C: race, price, lace; G: page, sponge, fringe). This simple rule can be a big help, especially as students move into longer, more complex words.
  • If a word has a double C (accept, accuse, accent, vaccine), check the vowel after the second C. If it is an e or i, the word will make two different sounds: both the hard /k/ and soft /s/. If the next letter is an o or a, both Cs will make one hard c sound.

Gentle Cindy Resources for Kids

I've created the perfect resources for you to introduce this helpful character to your classroom, with EXCLUSIVE Gentle Cindy images which aren't available anywhere else!

All of our Gentle Cindy resources are available in The Hive, our digital teacher platform with a jam-packed resource library full of printable worksheets, lesson plans, phonics apps, slideshows, games, and more. 

Get access to the Hive's comprehensive library of Gentle Cindy resources, our famous Word Builder, and plenty more so you can spend less time planning and more time teaching! 

Start your free trial today! You can also scroll down to see some of our innovative digital learning tools in action at the end of this page!

List of Words for Hard & Soft G and Hard & Soft C

You'll need a list of words to help you teach these rules to your students.

This free download includes:

  • List of Soft G words
  • List of Hard G words
  • List of Soft C words
  • List of Hard C words

Powerpoint Slides

It's not enough to just introduce these concepts once and call it a day. Students need explicit instruction, clear examples, and plenty of time to engage with the concept before they know it by heart. Fortunately, this Powerpoint version will take care of all of that!

My slideshow will introduce hard and soft C and G sounds, reinforce the skill with decodable words, make it a little harder by embedding the words in decodable sentences, and provide dictation activities to use for formative assessment. It's really an all-in-one resource that will cover this skill from start to finish!

Printable Gentle Cindy Posters

To really bring Gentle Cindy to life, display helpful visuals for your students to refer to later on. They can easily glance at a poster when they're stuck to find the right pronunciation. 

Plus, if you look closely, you'll notice something special about this Gentle Cindy design. Her facial features are made up of e, i, and y and her earrings have g/j and c/s. With just one look, your students will be able to remember the rule. This is especially helpful for English language learners and visual learners!

These free printable posters are great visual aids to add to your sound wall!

Fill-in-the-Blank Templates

I want to make sure my students remember the Gentle Cindy rule, whether there's a poster on the wall or not. One way to do this is to have them practise the phrasing of the rule over and over again.

This free printable template has blanks to help for all the specific letters involved, which will help students remember which letters the rule applies to (c, g) and which letters to look for in the word (i, e, y). The physical process of writing the letters out will strengthen those neural networks, too!

Gentle Cindy Picture Sort

Word sorts are one of the easiest ways to reinforce any new concept. It requires students to make decisions about which words follow the rule and which don't, and you can’t do that without understanding the basic concept. Each decision they make will require them to remember the pronunciation rules to make decisions about what fits and what doesn’t. 

This takes practice. In the beginning, most kids won't be able to sort the word cards without saying the words out loud (or in their heads). This is good phonemic awareness practice anyway! Over time, it becomes fluid and much easier. 

I like to incorporate these C & G picture sorts after the slideshow. Practise them in a small group, then assign them for independent work.

Looking for more?

You'll LOVE The Hive's growing library of digital learning tools which will take your phonics lessons to the next level! Here are a couple of ways that you could use our digital phonics tools to teach soft g and soft c spelling rules to your class!

Word Builder

Not only can you map words with our innovative Word Builder tool, but you can also enable decodable picture or word prompts too!

Digital Flash Cards

Review words with soft & hard g and c, and use our annotation tool to identify the vowel sounds before deciding if the c/g will be soft or hard.

If you’re ready to introduce Gentle Cindy to your class with these innovative learning tools, head over to The Hive to start your free trial today!

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