As my son 'revised key words for year 4', it became clear that his list of spellings this week contained all the proof you need to refute the teaching of reading and spelling through phonics.
I present… five ways to pronounce '-ough' in English:
|English is not a phonetic language|
In the last couple of years in the UK, the methodology of phonics has, delightfully, been converted into a government-devised and compulsory 'phonics screening check' at the end of year 1.
Kids who know how to read can fail this check, if they baulk at pronouncing made-up words using the rules of phonics.
They are then given remedial attention — to get better at phonics.
Which is then abandoned as children move through primary education… because it stops working once you are writing anything beyond 'cat'. For example, 'Kate'. Or 'Keith'. Or 'knight'.
I know, I know, the 'phonics method' is really about helping children put together sounds and letters as they begin to decode, but it's so limited, and seems, for all the hype and testing that surrounds it, to be valid only for a matter of months in a child's life, before being shrugged off and forgotten.
If you want to teach phonics, go to Holland. At least Dutch actually is a (relatively) phonetic language.
All the '-ough' words above come from Anglo-Saxon, Old German, Old Dutch or Old Danish roots, and all have come to be pronounced differently in modern English. I always remember a French pen friend despairing about learning English, when reading Black Beauty, and finding it impossible to know how to say 'ploughed fields'. 'Pluffed fields', and the subsequent giggling, will always live in my memory as a joyous linguistic moment. To say nothing of homophones (bough and… bow) and homonyms (bow(tie) and… bow (down)).
Stop plaguing our children with this narrow phonics ideology, which isn't historically or linguistically accurate, and tell them something about how language really works, and the amazing places it comes from. Which, along the way, might teach them something a bit more accurate about what 'Britishness' is — a composite of invading cultures, rather than Morris dancing, Wimbledon and St George and the Dragon (George was Palestinian anyway). While you help them learn to read, then spell, with all the methods that have been developed to do so. One of which is... pleasure.
Wait, just clambering off my soapbox.
PS. there's a 6th way to say '-ough': 'thorough' (-uh). And I have been. My pedantometer is all the way over at HIGH.