The primary vowels are like this as well. We would have been much better off if they were named by their short sounds (/a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, and /u/, as in pat, pet, pit, pot, and putt), because those are more common in the words read by beginning readers than their long vowel sounds (the letters’ names)—but no such luck. Letter names are also challenging for young readers because they aren’t consistent in whether the commonly associated sound is at the beginning or end of the name. For example, in Mm/“em,” the letter’s target sound is at the end of the letter name, but in Jj/“jay,” the target sound is at the beginning. That means for letter names to help children, they must memorize whether the target sound is at the beginning or end of the name.
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Vowel digraphs are those spelling patterns wherein two letters are used to represent a vowel sound. The ai in sail is a vowel digraph. Because the first letter in a vowel digraph sometimes says its long vowel sound, as in sail, some phonics programmes once taught that "when two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking." This convention has been almost universally discarded, owing to the many non-examples. The au spelling of the /ɔː/ sound and the oo spelling of the /uː/ and /ʊ/ sounds do not follow this pattern.
English has absorbed many words from other languages throughout its history, usually without changing the spelling of those words. As a result, the written form of English includes the spelling patterns of many languages (Old English, Old Norse, Norman French, Classical Latin and Greek, as well as numerous modern languages) superimposed upon one another. These overlapping spelling patterns mean that in many cases the same sound can be spelled differently and the same spelling can represent different sounds. However, the spelling patterns usually follow certain conventions. In addition, the Great Vowel Shift, a historical linguistic process in which the quality of many vowels in English changed while the spelling remained as it was, greatly diminished the transparency of English spelling in relation to pronunciation.
The use of phonics in American education dates at least to the work of Favell Lee Mortimer, whose works using phonics includes the early flashcard set Reading Disentangled (1834) and text Reading Without Tears (1857). Despite the work of 19th-century proponents such as Rebecca Smith Pollard, some American educators, prominently Horace Mann, argued that phonics should not be taught at all. This led to the commonly used "look-say" approach ensconced in the Dick and Jane readers popular in the mid-20th century. Beginning in the 1950s, however, inspired by a landmark study by Dr. Harry E. Houtz, and spurred by Rudolf Flesch's criticism of the absence of phonics instruction (particularly in his popular book, Why Johnny Can't Read) phonics resurfaced as a method of teaching reading.
In November 2010, a government white paper contained plans to train all primary school teachers in phonics. In 2018, The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted), as part of its curriculum research has produced a YouTube video on Early Reading. It states "It is absolutely essential that every child master the phonic code as quickly as possible ... So, successful schools firstly teach phonics first, fast and furious." 
A common question with any instructional program is whether "one size fits all." Teachers may be able to use a particular program in the classroom but may find that it suits some students better than others. At all grade levels, but particularly in kindergarten and the early grades, children are known to vary greatly in the skills they bring to school. Some children will already know letter-sound correspondences, and some will even be able to decode words, while others will have little or no letter knowledge.