Mama Kat asks “If you could change the alphabet, what would you do? Add? Subtract? Combine? Simplify?”
I don’t have a beef with the alphabet or the number line. My issue is the English language as a whole. Many of the students I teach in second grade do not speak English as a first language. My instruction to them in both phonics and spelling over the last few years has made me realize just how screwed up English actually is.
This past month one of my reading groups has been working on long vowel sounds, more specifically vowel teams or pairs like ‘ea’ or ‘ai’. One of the general rules I teach is “when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking.” This is just a reminder for the kids that in most vowel teams, the first vowel is heard in its long form and the second one is silent. For example…
beak – the e is heard, the a is silent
paint – the a is heard, the i is silent
As we go along, the walking/talking rule works until we get to…
field – the i is silent and the e is heard
In fact, there are so many ways of making long vowel sounds in our English words, it’s crazy…
Long 'U' shoe, grew, through. do, doom, flue, two, who, brute, duty
Long 'O' go, show, though, sew, beau, float, bone,
Long 'A' may, weigh, late, pain, rein, great
Long 'E' free, bean, magazine, gene, be, receive, believe
Long 'I' fine, rhyme, fight, align, bayou
The ones that really get me don’t even use the letter of the sound that they make – bayou, sew, weigh. Really?
In one of my other groups we have been practicing the ‘ough’ family. Well, it’s not really a family, because there are so many different sounds those 4 letters can make. Case in point…
enough, rough, tough (uff)
though, although, dough, thorough (o)
Not to mention our multiple meaning words…
There’s no time like the present to present the present.
I’m going to study about rocks while listening to rock so I can rock the test.
We’ll have a ball playing ball at the ball.
Plural nouns have four basic rules…
1. add ‘s’ to most nouns dog –> dogs
2. add ‘es’ to words that end in s, x, sh, ch, z dress –> dresses
3. drop the ‘y’ and add ‘ies’ to words that end in ‘y’ puppy –> puppies
(except of course if the word is a one syllable word that has a vowel in addition to the y boy –> boys)
4. drop they ‘f’ and add ‘ves’ to words that end in 'f’ calf –> calves
Now those four rules can be reviewed and reviewed so our kids can master them, but then we throw in the irregular plurals that don’t follow any rule. We don’t say persons but people. We don’t say mouses, but mice. We don’t say mans but men.
“Miss Delight, sometimes English is so hard,” lamented one of my second language learners.