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!


  1. Beautiful post, Rachel. She’s so sweet and smart!
    I understood before reading your translation. For a non-native English speaker, it’s easier to read like that! I teach Portuguese to my husband like she did and don’t bother about teaching first how to write. Funny! It works.
    Very interesting read about teaching methodologies. I wish I had had that while learning other languages, as it’s much more helpful than to learn all grammar with a bad pronunciation.
    Thanks for a great post.
    And Happy Valemtine’s!

    1. That’s interesting. I wonder whether this method is still used in South Africa today? I didn’t learn to read this way so it hasn’t been used in Australia for at least a couple of generations now. Hopefully this will change now that people are starting to realise that this method works better.

      1. I think they still teach the same way here. Kids are told this is the letter M (called Em) and the sound it makes is Mmm. As you say, it makes sense in the early stages at least. Tho I am very big on spelling correctly!!

    1. Thank you! I sometimes think it must be boring reading about someone else’s children and maybe only I find my own children fascinating. I’m glad that’s not the case 🙂

  2. I broke down on “flow,” noting you gave her credit for a nonexistent “a” after it. But I should have guessed based on the graphic.

    Nice card, and great progress in such a small amount of time. I wish I had had phonics long ago. IIRC it’s still not taught extensively in the US, thus a large market for this product and similar.

    And happy Imbolc, a little late.

    1. Oh year, I did add in an extra “a” there. I hadn’t even noticed 🙂

      I’ve never heard of Imbolc before and had to look it up. I don’t think it’s celebrated here, although it’s possible I missed it.

      1. Most of the eight major pagan holidays have carry-overs to the modern ones, although a couple seem to have died out entirely (the early August and autumn equinox ones) and a couple have survived somewhat intact (Halloween and Mayday). The WP article doesn’t mention any historical continuity from Imbolc to Valentine’s Day, but it seems like too much of a coincidence for there to not be one, especially given the obvious suitability of the content of Valentine’s Day to a start-of-spring holiday. So perhaps you’ve just been celebrating Imbolc under another name.

  3. That’s so cute!

    I did not know there are two way to learn to read and write English. I think what and how they teach in Britain must be the standard, at least for English teaching.

  4. What a beautiful Valentine’s Day message to you from your darling little girl Rachel, no wonder you are so proud of her ❤ My children learned by phonics, I swear by it, much better. Hope you had a lovely weekend with a lovely 'flowa aftr lush' 🙂

  5. Phonetics is generally good although there is usually a phase where they miss out vowels, because the vowel pronunciation is inherent in eg “mu” for m and “nu” for n etc. One of my favourite daughter spellings was “crarty” for karate. Elizabeth looks like she’s doing so well!

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