Reviewing a Word’s Structure While Getting Better Acquainted with its Family

Almost all of the students have presented the Latin verb poster they put together.  We have had wonderful and rich discussions with each one.  And as we talked we noticed that not all Latin etymons became productive modern English bases.  Some of the bases we identified are found in a remarkable number of words while others are found in only a few.

For example, the twin bases <mote> and <move> are two that have become very productive in English.  My students can easily name words like remote, demote, promote, motion, emotion, motor, motel, movement, remove, moving, removal, movable and immovable.  That is certainly not a complete list, but it does demonstrate how common these two bases are.

Some of the Latin etymons became modern English bases that have not become very productive.  Take the Latin verb frango, frangere, frego, and fractus for example.  By removing the Latin suffixes on the infinitive and supine forms of this verb, we get the Latin etymons <frang> and <fract>.  The modern English bases that are derived from those etymons are spelled exactly the same!  You will no doubt recognize the following group of words with <fract> as the base: fraction, fracture, fractal, refractive, diffraction, and infraction.  But the only words my students found that share the <frang> base are frangible and refrangible.  See what I mean?  In English <frang> has not become a very productive base.

Since we have lined our hallway with Latin Verb posters, all we had to do was take a walk in order to identify those very productive modern bases!  We chose ten.  Some are twin bases and some are unitary.  We have decided to spend time looking at the words in these ten families and seeing what else we can notice.

We began with the bases <lege> and <lect>.  The denotation of these twin bases is “to gather, select, read”.  I asked the students to get out a piece of lined paper.  I read some words from this family and asked them to do two things. They were to write the word and they they were to write the word sum, keeping in mind that the base would either be <lege> or <lect>.  Some of the words they wrote down were lecture, select, lectern, collection, election, legion, legible and legibly.  The next step was for the students to come to the board and write the word and word sum up there so we could look at it and talk about it.

One of the first things I noticed was that someone wrote the word sum for <lectern> as <lect> + <urn>.  I wonder if that is a result of misguided practice in which students have been asked to search for a word within a word.  If this word was split into syllables, it might just be seen as ‘lec – turn’.  Anyway, I adjusted the suffix to read <ern>.  Then the students helped me list words with that suffix.  I got them started with lantern and cavern.  They added eastern, western, govern and modern.  Even though most knew that the suffix in <lecture> was <-ure>, we still brainstormed other words that use that suffix like treasure, pleasure, measure, nature and capture.

A third interesting thing to discuss was the way most students used an <-able> suffix in <legible> instead of an <-ible> suffix.  One certainly can’t choose which to use based on pronunciation!  I asked for  <-able>/<-ible> to be written on the Wonder Wall.  I have more information in a Smartboard presentation and will show it next week.

The most important thing of all, though, was how the students felt when they saw that they could spell these words when they concentrated on the morphemes.  They didn’t have to struggle with thinking about all the letters at once!  Instead they focused on each morpheme as it came and the spelling fell into place!

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Yesterday when the students walked in the door, I had <scribe / script> on the board with its denotation “to write”.  I didn’t even have to ask them to get out paper.  They sat down and quickly pulled out paper and pencil.  I read words like describe, subscription, prescriptive, scribble, scripture, subscribe, and scriptorium.  More students volunteered to write their word sums on the board than had volunteered yesterday!  They were enjoying seeing what they could figure out.

With this collection, we had the opportunity to talk about the way the <t> (final in the base <script>) represented a different sound in <prescriptive>, <subscription>, and <scripture>.  I’m sure that in their minds (until yesterday) the letter <t> represented only one sound – /t/.   When I saw that a boy in the front row had spelled <subscription> as ‘subscripshen’, I said out loud, “Wouldn’t it make sense for someone who has been told to sound out words when spelling to use an <sh> in <subscription>?  But look what is really happening.  The pronunciation of the letter <t> can be altered by the first letter of the suffix.”  We all said the three words so that we could feel the difference in pronunciation.  We talked about how some people pronounce <scripture> as if there is a <ch> following the <p> and some people pronounce it as if there is a <sh> following the <p>.  Another great opportunity to prove to the students that spelling is not about pronunciation.  It is about meaning!

An additional highlight with these particular twin bases (besides the students smiling at their increased level of successful today!) was the word sum for <scriptorium> that someone had written on the board.  It was written as <scriptorium> –> <script> + <or> + <i> + <um>.  I wasn’t so sure about there being a connecting vowel between two suffixes, and when I mentioned that, the students thought that made sense.  But instead of leaving it at that, we scheduled a Zoom session with our favorite French friend, Old Grouch!

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He helped us understand the Latin stem suffix <-i>, the Latin suffix <-um> and the present day English suffix <-ium>!  He showed us his own scriptorium and the students decided that a person who does the writing would be called a scriptor.  This recognition also lead to a discussion of agent suffixes (those that indicate the noun is a person).  That discussion led to a review of using the agent suffix <-or> instead of <-er> if the base can take an <-ion> suffix.  The examples Old Grouch used was profession/professor and action/actor.  Later, the students added animation/animator, instruction/instructor, and division/divisor!  My personal favorite is one that I noticed at an airport I visited in November.  The pair is recombulation/recombobulator!  If I was in the recombobulation area after going through security, and I was getting all of my things back in order, then I was a recombobulator!

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We are so grateful to be able to ask Old Grouch questions.  We always walk away smiling, and with a head full of interesting information to ponder!  Knowing that we began our Zoom session at 8:20 a.m. and knowing that it was 3:20p.m. where Old Grouch lives, one of the students asked if he had a nice siesta.  When he was remarking that he had, he also asked if we knew the word <siesta>.  We did not.  He explained that it is from Spanish for six.  Siesta is held six hours after daybreak!  Like I said, we always walk away smiling, and with something interesting to ponder!

Generating Word Electricity!

Preface:  Turning a magnet inside a generator makes the electrons flow, which in turn creates electricity.  Yes.  There is a parallel to be drawn here.

I had an amazing mother!  My favorite parts of me were influenced and/or nurtured by her.  I see that so clearly with every moment I spend remembering her.  One of my favorite memories involves our weekly trip to the library.  We each (five children and one mom) brought home a carefully selected stack of books.  The anticipation of getting home and reading those books was magical!

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Here is what I picture:  We all have our own spot in the living room, each with our stack in front of us.  We dig in and read.  It is electric in that room.  I can feel the words in everyone’s head leaking out into the room.  There is occasional laughter and it is noted by all.  There will be a request to pass that book around later.  After a lunch break, my brother pulls out one of his choice books and we all beg my mom to read it.  But what we really mean is for all of us to sing it.  It is one of those stories that is also a song.  It is called The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night.

That is how I learned new words.  We all read constantly and reveled in it!  We talked about what we read and recommended books to each other from our weekly choice stacks.  Unfortunately, that routine changed when I turned six and went to live with my dad.  BUT the love for words and books was embedded deep inside me where it resides still!

The current investigations my students are engaging in create that same atmosphere in our classroom.  I hear it when I listen to the videos.  At times everyone is chiming in at the same time with enthusiasm and enlightenment!  Students are redigesting familiar words and welcoming many new words.  They are seeing the true sense of what a word family is.  They are recognizing the role of a prefix in contributing to a word’s sense and meaning.  It is electric in the room.  I can feel the words in everyone’s head leaking out into the room!

Learning about the four principal parts of a Latin verb and how to remove Latin suffixes to reveal the etymon continues to lead to some of the richest discussions in my classroom!  In this first video, we look at the Latin verb Spondeo, Spondere, Spepondi, Sponsus.  One of the first questions that comes up is in regards to the potential <e> in the final position of the bases.  I love that the students challenge each other to explain why or why not we might consider adding one.  When considering the base <sponse>, Shelby points out that in the word <response> we see that final non-syllabic <e>.  That is evidence that it belongs on our base.  When considering the base <spond>, Kaeleb points out that it is not a 1-1-1 word.  What he means by that is that although it is a ONE syllable word, it doesn’t not have ONE final consonant with ONE vowel preceding that consonant.  Many of the students know that if a word has one syllable (or the stress is on the syllable to which suffixes will be joined), and has a single final consonant with a single vowel preceding that consonant, the final consonant will be forced to double when adding a vowel suffix.  It was a delightful bonus to hear Kaeleb also give more evidence supporting the final non-syllabic <e> in the base <sponse>!

The second student on this video looks at Frango, Frangere, Fregi, Fractus.  As she was reading through the words in this family of twin bases, I noticed that she had a “dictionary definition” for fraction.  I wanted to hear how the students define that word.  Then we talked about adding a word that we explored the previous day.  It was part of another student’s investigation of these same twin bases.  The word was <fractal>.

Fractals have always fascinated me, and I thought they might fascinate my students as well.  We began by watching a short Youtube video explaining what they are.  Then we drew a triangle fractal and a tree fractal.

A basic shape repeated over and over, each time the shape is smaller in size.  The students have been drawing both ever since!

In the next video, a student looks at the Latin verb Moveo, Movere, Movi, Motus.  As is becoming usual, the students ask the same questions I would.  One of the first questions was in regards to the word <smote>.  The students had never heard of it before.  I questioned the <s> representing a prefix.   We put it on our Wonder Wall for the time being.

The discussion about the words <promote> and <demote> also created a deeper understanding of both.  I try to ask often, “How do you use this word?  How else can we use this word?”  I want the students to be able to understand these words in several circumstances.

And then, of course, someone contributes another reason that the base <move> will have a final non-syllabic <e>!  Brilliant!

One of my favorite discussions has been regarding the word <commotion>.  It is becoming obvious to me that the students still do not automatically wonder what effect the prefix has on the base’s denotation.  Once I steered the discussion in that direction, there was quite a commotion as “light bulbs of recognition” went off all over the room!

In the next video, the first student looks at the Latin verb Tracto, Tractare, Tractavi, Tractatus.  This family of words led to some great discussions as well.  Parker was able to share his personal experiences working with bees to explain an extractor.  Ilsa was able to jump in when we used extract as a cooking ingredient in the kitchen.  We had an equally interesting look at the different circumstances in which we use <contract> and <contraction>.

The second student looked at the Latin verb Struo, Struere, Struxi, Structus.  I noticed right away that this student included <struthious> as a word that shared the <stru(e)> base.  When I saw the definition she included on her poster, I knew it didn’t belong.  She wrote, “resembling or related to the ostriches or other related birds”.  While I am surprised that she didn’t recognize that this word and this base don’t share meaning, I am used to seeing this kind of thing.  Even this far into the school year, my students need to be reminded that spelling represents meaning, and that in order for two words to be in the same family, they need to share spelling and meaning.   I need to remind myself that spelling and meaning have often been considered separate tasks in their past.  Making sense of spelling is new to them.  But as you can plainly hear in their voices, their enthusiasm and confidence is intensifying as they learn to question and search!

Turning a magnet inside a generator makes the electrons flow which in turn creates electricity.  Yes.  There is a parallel to be drawn here!

Relatives We Didn’t Know Words Had!

When I first replaced ‘spelling’ with orthography, I had much more enthusiasm than knowledge!  I put it right out there to my students when I said,  “We’re going to try something completely different.  I won’t know all the answers, but I’m excited by that.  It means that maybe you’ll figure out something before I do, and you’ll help me understand it.”  What an amazing year that was!  The students and I took a 180 degree turn when thinking about a word’s spelling.  We started searching for the logic that we were never taught to see.  We absolutely delighted ourselves with the realization that words have structure, and that structure has nothing to do with syllables.   Once we knew about a word’s structure, we began looking at words that shared a particular base.  There was such a sense of delight when words previously thought to have no connection to each other, obviously had one!

Since then, the excitement has not lessened!   Hungry to replace years of misinformation, I have taken spellinars at Real Spelling and lexinars at Linguist-Educator Exchange.  Last year, I took a spellinar through Real Spelling called “Latin for Orthographers”.  Talk about a constant flow of wow moments!  One of the things I learned about and then shared with my students was the four Principal Parts of a Latin Verb.  I learned which of the parts were of interest to orthographers.  Then I learned to remove the infinitive suffix and the supine suffix in order to reveal an etymon that became either a Modern English unitary base or a set of Modern English twin bases.  Suddenly we see connections between words like never before!

Listen to Tyler and Nathan in this first film.  Only two students have presented before them so there is a hint of “pretty sure of myself, but not completely”.  I love the audience participation.  The Modern English bases being “discovered” seem to set everyone’s mind on its own search for relatives.  Listen for the student in the audience who jumps in to share how “rogue” is used in the sports games he plays.

In the next video, Elizabeth and Hanna explain what they have learned about the twin bases they found.  I absolutely love the excitement generated in the whole class when someone asks Hanna how ‘lavender’ has anything to do with “washing” (which is the denotation for the twin bases <lave> and <lote>).

The last video is of Elliot, who analyzed the Latin Verb he was given and found a Modern English unitary base.  Elliot does a great job explaining the related words he has collected.  I also enjoyed the short story he created using those words.  One of the students in the audience brings up a great point about the potential <e> in the final position of a lot of these bases.   He wonders if there should be one on the Modern English base <aud>.

I had each student investigate their own Latin Verb and its Principal Parts.  That means that we’ll have two presentations (along with lovely discussions) every day for another week and a half!  There is just no reason to rush with the presentations.  Each day that the students use the terminology (and hear it being used) makes them more sure of what they are saying and doing.  Each day that the students question/defend/share their understandings reinforces the expectation of seeing logic and structure in our language!

I’ll leave you with this lovely classroom moment…   Just two days ago, I asked the students to clean up so we could switch to science.  Teagan remarked, “Aww.  Why do we have to stop?  We are doing orthography and that’s science, isn’t it?”  I smiled and said, “It is in this room!”

A Beautiful Day in our Neighborhood!

Our investigations of Latin verbs have been most interesting!  We have uncovered many twin bases which helped us understand the difference in spelling when looking at word pairs like:

produce / production
consume / consumption
describe / description
invade / invasion
respond / response

But then again, we have also uncovered many twin bases which helped us understand the meaning connections when looking at word pairs like:

lava / lotion
obstruction / misconstrue
frangible / infraction
individual / visage

If we go with the analogy in which words that share a base are like members of a family, then the following pictures offer proof that the fifth graders in our school live in a wonderfully diverse neighborhood!

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Here are three more films in which students share their Latin Verb investigations.  The first is a combination of what two groups found out about the Latin Verb Duco Ducere Duxi Ductus.

This group looked at Frango Frangere Fregi Fractus.

The following two groups investigated Scribo Scribere Scripsi Scriptus.

 

Latin Verbs Teach Us About Family

Last week we began talking about Latin verbs and their four principal parts.  The students caught on quickly and wanted to investigate a set of verbs on their own.   I wrote the four principal parts of different verbs on note cards and handed them out to students who then worked with partners.

The first group looked at Lavo, Lavare, Lavi, Lotus.   The two boys explained how they knew that they were looking at twin bases.  I enjoyed the discussions about lavendar, lavish, lavatory, and lava.  Prior to this investigation, none of us would have seen a meaning connection here, but then again, that is the joy of orthography!

 

The next group looked at Struo, Struere, Struxi, Structus.  This group found there were twin bases coming from this Latin verb.  They found quite a few words with the <struct> base, but just two with the <stru(e)> base.

 

This third group looked at Tracto, Tractare, Tractavi, Tractatus.  They determined that there was a single Latin base here.  They shared their list of words and definitions.

How wonderful to hear the students talk about seeing word connections that they never saw before.  Here is the evidence that words belong to families.  Some of those words are related in the same way that siblings are.  Some are related more like cousins would be.  For example, <laundry> and <launder> would be cousins to the <lave> / <lote> family.  They can all be traced back to Latin lavare, but <laundry> and <launder> do not share the base spelling of <lave> or <lote>.   Another example would be <destroy> and <industry>.  They are related to the <stru(e)> / <struct> family in the same way that cousins would be related to you.  They can all be traced back to Latin struere, but again the cousins do not share the base spelling of <stru(e)> or <struct>.

Jazzing Up the Hallway With Latin!

Amid lots of year-end projects and activities, we’ve continued to share our Latin verb investigations with each other.  To keep the conversations regarding these findings going, we have then posted them in the hallway!  Every day we walk by these posters at least six times … and so do a lot of other people!  When reviewing the Latin bases on the posters, students continually  suggest words that might be added to the webs of these word families.  What a great thing it is for all of us to realize just how big some of these word families are!  Common and familiar words become the object of examination in the same wondrously curious and joyful manner as unfamiliar yet intriguing words.

We have also developed a great habit of doing some “so far” sharing.  Instead of always waiting until the presentation preparations are completed, we have been asking people to share their half finished posters so they can talk about what they have discovered “so far”.  In this way, the rich discussion and questions of classmates has often given the presenters the opportunity to reflect on their work, and in some cases make changes before they finalize their posters.

DSCN4278 DSCN4279 DSCN4280 DSCN4281 DSCN4282 DSCN4283Investigating in this manner (beginning with Latin verbs), the students have enjoyed finding out for themselves if the infinitive and the supine reveal a unitary base or a twin base.  Prior to the spellinar I’m taking on Latin for Orthographers, we often wondered about whether or not a base had a twin.  Now it feels so exhilarating to have a deeper understanding of what we are looking at when we read entries in dictionaries  or on Etymonline.