I was talking with a teacher the other day about orthography. She expressed an interest in trying some things but wasn’t sure where to begin. My students and I have only been investigating words for three months. We’ve learned so much that I had to pause before I answered her question. And then I answered it like this … “Let me ask my students.”
So yesterday I asked them to brainstorm a list of things that they had learned and felt were important to know when investigating words.
It is obvious to me that my students enjoy orthography. As we have investigated words and talked about morphemes, etymology, and phonemes, the students have gained confidence in themselves as word scientists, but also in a language they once had no hope of understanding.
The students have become so comfortable talking about free and bound bases. Recognizing that bound bases are there, buried in words is so interesting! They’ve always been there, but before this, we weren’t trained to look for them. My favorite line is at the end of the third video, when Maia admits that it is fun discovering a word’s history and word sum for yourself. The teacher doesn’t have to know all the answers. In fact they enjoy knowing that I don’t know ahead of time what they will find!
In this last video I specifically asked the students to describe how orthography has helped them. As usual I love their candid responses. For most, they feel that they are better spellers. And in some respects they are. Spelling errors have not disappeared from their work, but the approach we take when discussing the errors is completely different. It is this awareness and learning to trust that spelling needs to follow rules, show relationships, and make sense that will help spelling skills strengthen.
I love the fact that my students are learning spelling based on meaning and making sense, and not merely as a memorization task. A few mentioned that they feel like they understand words and spellings without having had to work so hard at it. The memorizing of spelling lists was daunting for some – a week of gimmicks, silly songs, and practice tests. As you can hear in their voices, with orthography the joy and intrigue multiplies every day.