How English should be written

Elizabeth’s teacher must have suggested to the class that they make a card for their mothers for “Valemtine’s” (as Elizabeth pronounces it) Day because she worked very hard yesterday afternoon and this morning creating a card for me. Here’s the result:



It says:

“Deyr Mum we luv yoo we are gowing to get a flowa aftr lush.”

Translation: Dear Mum, we love you. We are going to get a flower after lunch.

Elizabeth has been at school for just over 3 months of her little life and she had no help with this card. I’m really impressed! I love how she spelt the words as they sound.

In Britain, children learn to read by phonics. This means that rather than saying the names of the letters when they learn them, they have to say the sound they make instead. I can see how useful this is and the result here is that Elizabeth is confident taking a stab at spelling out words based on how they sound. Daniel did not learn to read using this method because it isn’t done in New Zealand or Australia and he still really struggles to sound out a word. It’s difficult to judge whether phonics would have made a big difference for him because his autism might also play a part. But I did stumble across an article in The Conversation recently about how teaching to read by phonics is much more effective.

In his internationally acclaimed analysis of the effectiveness of teaching methods, Professor John Hattie assigns “effect sizes” ranging from 1.44 (highly effective) to -0.34 (harmful). Effect sizes above 0.4 indicate methods worth serious attention.

There are two main schools of thought about how to teach children to read and write, one focused on meaning (whole language) and one focused on word structure (phonics). Hattie’s meta-analysis gives whole language an effect size of 0.06, and phonics an effect size of 0.54.

Happy Valemtine’s Day!