In the OnTrack Reading Phonics Program, a marker is defined as a letter or digraph that marks the preceding vowel letter as a First Vowel Sound.
What Are the Markers?
There are four markers. They are the digraphs ck, tch, dge and the letter x. The patterns they occur in are: ack, eck, ick, ock, and uck for ck; atch, etch, itch, otch, and utch for tch; adge, edge, idge, odge, and udge for dge; and ax, ex, ix, ox, and ux for x.
The only common exceptions are the words butch and watch and their variations, like watching and butcher. Also, in some parts of the country you will need to take care to pronounce catch to rhyme with match rather than with sketch, but this is an easy adaptation to make.
In multisyllable words, the dge changes slightly, because usually the letter "e" gets split off to serve as the vowel sound, or part of the vowel sound, in the following syllable. Thus, bridge, but bridg-es, and dodge, but dodg-er. In other cases, the letter "e" is changed to an "i" or "y" in the suffix. Thus, we have edge, but edg-ing or edg-y. The result is that dg is usually the marker in multisyllable words.
Practicing the Marker Exception
Here is a worksheet that you can download for your child to practice recognizing markers and adding them to the first chunk of a multisyllable word. In the first part of the worksheet, make the point that the First Vowel Sounds are always found in front of markers. Then, when doing the chunking in the last half of the worksheet, just tell your child to always end the chunks with a marker when he sees one in the word.
Download First Vowel Sound Patterns - Part Three to work on words with markers:
Once your child is comfortable with the First Vowel Sounds themselves (the short vowel sounds) and can chunk words with doubled consonants and markers correctly, he should be ready to begin the multisyllable curriculum. This assumes, however, that your child is reasonably comfortable reading one-syllable words and also that he knows the Advanced Code reasonably well.
The first of these two requirements is the most important. Don't get into the multisyllable work while your child is still struggling with one-syllable words. You would be better off, in that case, to use the OnTrack Reading Advanced Code Phonics Workbook which includes all the Advanced Code material and the complete multisyllable curriculum. Going through the Advanced Code lessons will build your child's ability to decode one-syllable words while he firms up his knowledge of the Advanced Code itself.
The next page, Multisyllable Decoding: The Main Rule, describes the use of the rule and some of the behaviors you are likely to encounter at first.