Saturday, June 20, 2009

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Schools to rethink 'i before e'

Some obey and some disobey (pic:

The spelling mantra "i before e except after c" is no longer worth teaching, according to the government.

Advice sent to teachers says there are too few words which follow the rule and recommends using more modern methods to teach spelling to schoolchildren.

The document, entitled Support for Spelling, is being distributed to more than 13,000 primary schools.

But some people believe the phrase should be retained because it is easy to remember and is broadly accurate.

Bethan Marshall, a senior English lecturer at King's College London, said: "It's a very easy rule to remember and one of the very few spelling rules that I can remember and that's why I would stick to it.

I before E except after C when the sound is EE
and sometimes followed by:
or when the sound is A as in neighbour and weigh

"If you change it and say we won't have this rule, we won't have any rules at all, then spelling, which is already terribly confusing, becomes more so."

Judy Parkinson, author of the best-selling book I Before E (Except After C), told the Daily Telegraph it was a phrase that struck a chord.

"There are words that it doesn't fit, but I think teachers could always get a discussion going about the 'i before e' rule and the peculiarities of the English language, and have fun with it. That's the best way to learn."

The guidance is being issued as part of the National Primary Strategy for under-11s.

Spelling bee
Spelling bees are very popular

It says: "The i before e rule is not worth teaching. It applies only to words in which the ie or ei stands for a clear ee sound. Unless this is known, words such as sufficient and veil look like exceptions.

"There are so few words where the ei spelling for the ee sounds follows the letter c that it is easier to learn the specific words." These include receive, ceiling, perceive and deceit.

The document recommends other ways to teach pupils spelling, like studying television listings for compound words, changing the tense of a poem to practise irregular verbs and learning about homophones through jokes such as "How many socks in a pair? None — because you eat a pear."

Some education experts have supported the government and questioned the effectiveness of the rule.

Jack Bovill, chairman of the Spelling Society, said words such as vein and neighbour made it a meaningless phrase.

"There are so many exceptions that it's not really a rule," he said.

He added that it would be helpful if spelling was allowed to evolve.

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