It’s not just “i before e”, with a whole lot of exceptions. The full rule is:
- <ei> is a phonogram for long /ā/ (eight), along with <ey> (they), that is, it makes a different sound to <ie>
- English is not a pure language and has many words from other languages. Many of the ei, ie words are Old French or Old English or Norse. There was a revision of the spelling of these words in the 17th Century.
- phonics – sounds in a word and the letters that may represent a sound
- rules – that govern the use of letters in words
- etymology -the history of a word or sound
- morphology – the units of meaning in a word
If they learn using the above four areas then English becomes fascinating and incorporates a lot of history. Personally, I think these mugs should be binned as they can imply that English is random and crazy and it isn’t.
Go the extra mile and think about the spelling of a word. It will pay off.