Summer School – Good for the Mind and Soul!

Well, four weeks of summer school is coming to an end today.  It has been a great opportunity to share time and thoughts with a wider audience than usual.  Students in my classes ranged from entering 5th grade to high school.  Together we explored four different topics.  My two previous posts explain some of the cool things we learned during the Orthography class.  Besides Orthography, I read aloud, we all learned to write in script, and the students learned the technique used in Ukrainian Egg decorating.

In the “Stop, Drop, and Listen” class, I read Because of Mr. Terupt and Twerp.  Both gave us moments in which we couldn’t keep silent about what was happening.  Both made us laugh out loud, feel anger and frustration, and lower our eyes in profound shock and sadness.  It’s definitely a sign of a great book when the listeners don’t really want to hear me say, “That’s it.  The end.”  But then, with a good book, it isn’t ever completely over.  The characters are always there with you.  Things they said and did will pop up in your mind to connect your life to theirs again and again.

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In the “Real Script” class, we enjoyed using a new pen hold, a fountain pen, and writing on unlined paper!  We learned interesting words like minuscule, majuscule, ligature, swash and flourish.  The solid block of time each day to practice really made a difference in learning to make our pens dance!  It is suddenly fun to write again!




In the “Ukrainian Egg Decorating” class, I was once again delightfully surprised at the beauty that was created.  I have offered this class for at least 12 years now.  Many of the participants have taken it two or more times.  It’s one of those things that is both focused and relaxing.  It requires one to slow down, think ahead, be flexible with any preconceived designs, and be ready for the final reveal as the beeswax is removed in the final stages.  Yes, we lost a few eggs along the way, but that is also another one of those life lessons — things happen!

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All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to involve myself with students in this way.  Summer school is a good thing!

Who You Gonna Call? Mythbusters!

After a delightful discussion today regarding our treasured Skype visit with Michel on Friday, our small group of orthographers decided that we are indeed mythbusters!  Early last week we busted the myth that <tion> is a suffix, and now we have busted the myth that <ial> is a suffix!  It feels great to bust through our old misunderstandings and see words clearly for what they are.

Last Friday, Michel explained about connecting vowels.  We didn’t have as much trouble identifying the connecting vowels in tutorial, aerial, and memorial, as we did with the words racial, facial, and residential.  The difference is what happens when the connecting vowel <i> follows the <c> or the <t> in those words.  The letters <c> and <t> represent different phonemes in those cases than they do in the base words race, face, and resident.  What we learned is that a connecting vowel doesn’t always syllablic.

In our search to figure out if <ial> was a suffix or not, we looked at word searcher for words we knew that ended with an <ial>.  Then we tried to find evidence by finding the base of each word.  Along the way we were mislead by an entry in Etymonline (residential + -ial) and a similar one in an online dictionary.  But after looking at the Toolkit and talking with Michel, we understand about connecting vowels.  At the workshop Pete Bowers led, he reminded us over and over that we can’t just rely on one resource because, after all, human beings made each and every resource, and as human beings are all subject to error!  Here is the list of words we researched and our evidence that they, in fact, have an <al> suffix.

We were wondering whether <ial> was a suffix.  After two days of research, these are some of our hypotheses.

We hypothesize that in the following words <i> is a connecting vowel and <al> is the suffix:
–> <aer> + <i> + <al>
tutorial –>
<tutor> + <i> + <al>
–> <memor> + <i> + <al
residential –>
<reside> + <ent> + <i> + <al>
–>  <differ> + <ent> + <i> + <al>
–>  <race> + <i> + <al>
–> <face> + <i> + <al>
–>  <office> + <i> + <al
–> <finance> + <i> + <al>

We hypothesize that in the following words, the <y> is changed to an <i> and an <al> suffix is added:
–> <bury/i> + <al>
–> <try/i> + <al>
–> <artery/i> + <al>

We hypothesize that in the following words, there is an <al> suffix:
–> <imperi> + <al>
–> <soci> + <al>
–> <seri> + <al>

This led to a revised version of our matrix:


Today we spent our time looking at several matrices and noticing how pronunciation in a base sometimes shifts when a suffix is added to that base.  We looked at tempest and tempestuous, real and reality, and heal and health.  Looking at matrices also gave us opportunity to talk about “checking the joins” and what that means.

Great Questions Are Especially Fun To Answer!

Well, I’m back from an intense, yet exhilarating 3 day workshop on Structured Word Inquiry. In the serene setting of Wolfe Island, Canada, Pete Bowers enthusiastically convinced the participants by use of evidence that the language we have been taught to think of as quirky, nonsensical, irregular and incomprehensible, is in fact a well ordered writing system that adheres to rules.  Now, these are not rules with exceptions (one thing many of us have been erroneously taught), but rules that do not allow exceptions.   It turns out that the English language has structure that we can count on and spellings that we can explain by means of scientific inquiry.  How refreshing!


I left the workshop with a better understanding of how to turn word inquiries into focused lessons, as well as how to more effectively use the resources available to me.  In other words, my curiosity is super charged!  I’m looking forward to the question I can’t answer straight away.  I’m looking forward to being part of the search  and to listen to students draw conclusions based on evidence gathered.  I’m looking forward to my classroom being a place where we celebrate words, their meanings, and our new understandings of their spellings.

With all of that super charged enthusiasm surrounding me, imagine my delight when checking my email upon my return and finding a message from a student.  It seems Hailee was writing a story.  While writing, she began wondering about the word <especially>.  She wondered why the <l> was doubled.  She knew that in monosyllablic words that have a single vowel in front of a final consonant, the final consonant is doubled.  But she also knew that that was not the case in <especially>.

So … in response to Hailee’s excellent question …

The first thing I did  was to think of a word sum hypothesis.  I recognize the word <special>, so I can guess that <e> is a clip of <ex> and is a prefix.  Besides, that would make sense that if something is referred to as <especially>, it is being pulled “out” as being extra special or being set aside as being extra special.

And because I recognized <special>, I suspect that <ly> might be a suffix.  So far my hypothesis is  <e> + <special> + <ly>.  But then I wondered about <special>.  Is that the base, or can I peel off another affix.

At this point I went to etymonline and looked up <especially>.  This is what I found:

There’s my proof that <ly> is a suffix.  (And that is also a big clue to the answer to Hailee’s question – but I’ll explain better at the end.)
From there I clicked on <especial>.

That gave me an idea that perhaps <special> might not be the base.  So then I clicked on <species>.

If you notice, <species> comes from the Latin word <species> and is related to <specere> meaning to look at, to see, behold. (Which also fits with what we think of when we think of something as special!  Now, if you remember that Old Grouch taught us that <ere> is a latin suffix, that means the base of <species> and <special> and <especially> is <spec>!

Back to my hypothesis about it’s word sum.  I’m going to change it to <e> + <spec> + <ial> + <ly>.

Just to make sure that <ial> is indeed a suffix, I went to Word Searcher and put in <ial$>.  Three words I found that have <ial> as a suffix are burial (<bury> + <ial>), facial (<face> + <ial>), and partial ( <part> + <ial>).  Since this post, my students and I have done further research and discovered that <ial> is NOT a suffix.  The suffix is <al>.  The <i> in some words is a connecting vowel.  In other words it was once a <y> and has been changed to an <i> before adding an <es> suffix.  In other words the <i> is part of the base.

Phrew!  Now to answer Hailee’s question about the double <l>.  As you can see, there is an <l> in the final position of the suffix <al> and an <l> in the initial position of the suffix <ly>, so the <l> has not been doubled.  NOW in a word like stopping, the base is <stop> and the suffix is <ing>, and when we add that suffix, we do indeed double the consonant<p> because of the reason Hailee brilliantly stated in her question.  When I sent a reply to Hailee, I also asked her to write word sums and then to create a matrix for the base <spec>.  Below is her matrix.


The next wonderful thing that came from all this was that I presented this matrix to my summer school orthography students and asked them to write word sums.  Then we had a great discussion about “checking the joins”.  That means that when adding suffixes, we may need to apply some suffixing rules and make some spelling adjustments.  The students became familiar with the structure of a matrix and how the suffixes are arranged in a particular order to accommodate the spelling of many words.

Thanks Hailee!  And keep the questions coming!