K: Kha, Kha, The Duck Quacketh (18th Century Phonics)

How many thousands of teachers and parents are familiar with the Miskin phonics system we use today? Most mornings I dig out my laminated set II cards and begin an English lesson with ‘OY, OY, TOY FOR A BOY’ focusing on all the OY sounding words. If you thought this was a relatively new system (like I did) then you would be mistaken.

I was browsing though an online version of the Orbis Sensualium Pictus (1705), apparently the first children’s picture book, when I found a curious phonics guide tucked in amongst the other essential early 18th century primary school skills like ‘brewing beer!’ and ‘slaughtering animals!’ The chapter begins with a solemn discussion between a teacher and his student which is delivered in both English and Latin.


As my dear readers are obviously proficient in Latin I will give their discourse in English:

Teacher: ‘come boy, learn to be wise!’ Boy: ‘what does this mean to be wise?’. Teacher: ‘to understand rightly, to do rightly, and to speak out rightly, all that are necessary’. Boy: ‘Who will teach me this?’ Teacher: ‘I, by God’s help’. Boy: ‘How?’ Teacher: ‘I will guide thee throw all. I will shew thee all. I will name thee all’. Boy: ‘See, here I am; lead me in the name of God’. Teacher: ‘Before all things, thou oughtest to learn the plain sounds, of which man’s speech confideth’:


I will definitely be trying out this 300 year old method tomorrow morning when we are doing our ‘K’ sounds: anas tetrinnit, Kha kha, the duck quaketh.

Author: Descartes Baker

Graduate in English with Creative Writing. Loves Victorian literature, poetry, watching the clouds go by, travelling, numismatics, and reading long forgotten and obscure novels.

5 thoughts on “K: Kha, Kha, The Duck Quacketh (18th Century Phonics)”

    1. Noooooo, it’s definitely not you! I agree, the sounds don’t seem to fit. I would have chosen a thousand different words before I would have picked his choices for phonics practice! 😉

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