...but why is it spelled like that? phonics #4

Teaching a child to spell starts off simple (cat, dog, etc.), but quickly gets challenging

...but why is it spelled like that? phonics #4
Photo by Santi Vedrí / Unsplash
"Real Gs move in silence, like lasagna" 6 Foot 7 Foot by Lil Wayne

We've made it past sounding out: Teaching a child to spell starts off simple (cat, dog, etc.), but quickly gets challenging (like the word "orange" ...wtf?!). English is a language that not only has a lot of rules, but has borrowed countless words from other languages. Take words like: tofu, restaurant, lasagna, and khaki...these will leave even the finest tutor just spelling it out.

But why is is spelled like that? A lot of these words will leave learners shocked, wondering why it is spelled that way. As usual there's not a great answer...and we all know kids aren't satisfied with a vague answer 🤦🏻‍♀️. You've got two options:

😎 The easy way: Tell them "it's from another language." Every language has its own special spelling patterns. When English speakers borrowed this word, we kept the way it was spelled. This is particularly helpful to explain why names are spelled certain ways.

The easy way, pt. 2: I also have an explanation for words like "know" or "are" that do match a spelling pattern, but one that is a little odd. In these cases, I explain that English is a very old language. People used to spell and pronounce things differently. Even though most of our words make sense to spell now, there are still some that we have just kept the same from the olden days.

🥸 The hard way: The easy way is good and all, but what if it's on a spelling test?? Check if you can find any words spelled similarly. Like you could compare the word restaurant to sauna. That way they will have more associations with its spelling.

Have a laugh with your kiddo about the strange spelling and then get to work memorizing it. Write it, search for it, and fill in the missing letters in it (r_sta_rant). Once you think they've got it, show the word spelled three ways to see if they can pick out the correct spelling.

Before you go, I need your help: After next week I'll be moving on from phonics. I'd love to get some feedback on what you're interested in hearing about. I could do another series like this or keep topics changing week by week. Respond to this email with what you do or do not want to read. Thanks! 🍎

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I'll be back next week with the final edition of my series on phonics!

Yours in education,