Multisensory Spelling Strategies for GE or DGE


GE or DGE spelling strategies

GE or DGE? Your Student Knows More Than They Think

Whether to use ge or dge at the end of a word is actually the 4th of the short vowel spelling generalizations.

When you are teaching this spelling generalization, it states:

  • when you hear the /j/ sound at the end of a syllable AND it is immediately preceded by a short vowel, it is spelled -dge.
  • If there is a consonant or vowel team before the /j/, it is spelled -ge.
  • J will never come at the end of a word and dge will never come at the beginning.

    Some words that follow this generalization include:

Bridge             fudge               ledge               badge              lodge

Bulge               hinge               large                gorge               revenge

Cage                huge                siege                gouge              surge


There are a few cases where dge comes at the end of the first syllable in a multisyllable word. This is usually when the second syllable is an unaccented schwa sound as in budget, cudgel or codger.


In order to teach this generalization, it is helpful for your students to know closed, vowel team and r controlled syllable types, be familiar with the terms long and short vowel and discriminating between the two by sound, and be able to segment a word of 4 or 5 sounds. I find it is generally most helpful to teach the soft c and g sounds and the -dge trigraph in reading first.

Once your students are comfortable and familiar with the phonogram, they are ready for the spelling generalization. It is important to refrain from giving words ending in ge and dge in dictation until this generalization has been taught. The foundation can be laid for this new learning early in the process when you are teaching the soft sound for /j/ by teaching students that j is not found at the end of English words. The reason for the e in ge is to make the consonant sound soft.


Here are some guiding questions to help your students make a decision when writing a new word:

Is the vowel short or long?

If the vowel sound is short, does the /j/ sound come after a consonant such as l, n or r? If no, add DGE. If yes, add GE.
If the vowel sound is long or a vowel team, add GE.



Some teaching ideas for you to include are:


  • Sorting – You can sort words by spelling or sort pictures by medial sounds to build skills listening for short vowels.


  • Start from the known – Since students should already be familiar with the k/ck and ch/tch spelling generalizations, activate that prior knowledge and help students to see the parallels between the spelling rules. Ideally, ge/dge will be mastered much more easily due to its relative familiarity and similarity to the known rules. Be explicit in connecting the dots for the students. In my experience, students are relieved to discover that they understand the rule right away and just need additional practice.


  • Review activities – Spending just a couple of minutes each lesson working with this generalization will help to solidify the learning. Have the student fill in the blank with ge or dge to finish spelling words. Ask them to segment a word into its sounds using counters or blocks and decide whether to use ge or dge at the end.


  • Dictation — Make sure to choose words that uphold the generalization. Have your student practice finding the base word and applying the spelling generalization before adding the suffix. Take care to avoid words that require the student to drop the e before adding the suffix.


  • Games — Play games where the student not only needs to read, but actually make spelling choices between ge or dge. Make a word list that includes words with the target sounds. Have the student spell a word. If they are able to spell the word correctly, they can roll a die and move along a game board. This basic principle can be adapted in a number of ways. Play ge or dge Jenga, or Don’t Break the Ice or any of the other repurposed games in your collection. Even Go Fish or Concentration can be presented with a spelling twist. Use lots of hands on multisensory practice. Instead of just writing the right letters in pencil, trace them in a bright color or shape them with playdoh.


  • Spiral and Review – I recommend reviewing the k/ck generalization and ch/tch generalization shortly before teaching this new and to review this spelling generalization frequently. I find that each spelling rule lays the foundation for those that follow.


Incorporating ge/dge practice into SOS review words is an excellent way to keep this learning fresh. If there are few concepts needing intensive review, cycling through spelling generalizations is always an appropriate review.


As new learning is added to your student’s repertoire, especially adding affixes and spelling rules for adding suffixes, it is often helpful to review the ge/dge generalization to help situate it within the larger context of English spelling.


  • Verbalize – It is very valuable to have students explain the spelling generalization in their own words. It is often easier for them to explain when to use DGE, rather than explaining all the many circumstances when they would use GE. Another way to encourage students to have a deep understanding and ability to explain the generalization is to ask them why they made the spelling choice that they did. For example, in the word hedge, you could ask the student why they used dge or why they chose to use ge in the word huge or fringe. This will often expose any misunderstandings or areas that need clarification.



When you are teaching and practicing this spelling generalization will not only provide students a tool for spelling many words, but it will reinforce one of the key jobs of silent e – to make the g or c sound soft.  Beginning to build this understanding will help with many other spelling situations as well.

Note: You might also want to try using Word List Builder to create a GE/DGE reading and spelling practice lesson.

Word List Builder will generate your word lists, word cards and games for you!


GE or DGE spelling strategies

If you’ve enjoyed this blog post and are looking for more posts on spelling generalizations, this is part of a whole series!

Read more posts on teaching reading and spelling generalizations

If you are seeking more advanced practice, you’ll want to check out this Spelling Generalizations bundle.

Be sure to catch the other spelling generalization blog posts HERE for LOTS more tips. I’ve got you covered. 😉

spelling rules resource



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