Days of the Week, Months of the Year

Last week we learned how the days of the week were named.  Pretty interesting stuff!  The first two days were named after the sun and the moon.  The rest were named after  planets.  At the time, people associated certain planets with certain Gods.  So Tuesday, named for Mars, was named Tiw’s Day, after the Germanic God of war.  Wednesday, named for Mercury, was named Woden’s Day after the Germanic God who was known as the ‘bringer of victories’.  Thursday, named for Jupiter, was named Thunnor’s Day, after the Germanic God known for thunderbolts.  Friday, named for Venus, was named Friga Day, after the Germanic God of love and affection.

Looking at the months of the year was equally interesting.  For this I grouped the students and sent them off to research each month.  Here is a video of two groups in that process.

The next video shows the same two groups sharing their findings.  I found it very interesting that the group studying the month October determined that the word sum was <oct> + <o> + <ber>, but then later referred to the base as <octo>.   In the same way, they determined <oct> to be a base meaning eight, but then in another word decided it was a prefix.  I think we need to review how one proves whether a morpheme is a prefix or a base.  Perhaps the students are not expecting things to be ordered and consistent in orthography.  Their experiences with spelling prior to this were full of inconsistencies and exceptions.  With orthography they will learn that there is structure in our language that we can count on!

The next groups present information on the months January and February.

Word Sums That Pass The Test

Orthography.  Scientific Word Inquiry.  Real Spelling.  I love it.  I am hooked!  To think that one year ago I was only able to offer students my extremely limited understanding of English spelling.  Since then my students and I have become partners in learning the truth.  We are learning (and this is quite difficult, really) to start asking questions again.  Over the years we have become complacent when it comes to even wondering about words and their spellings.  We’ve all heard over and over that our language is hard, crazy, and just plain doesn’t make sense.  And we’ve bought into that.

But today is a new day, and all that is changing for us.  We’re ready.  We’re enthusiastic.  We’re thirsty.

The fact that Pete Bowers offered to talk to my class about proving word sums by providing both morphological and etymological evidence was perfect timing.   I had in my mind an idea of what they knew so far and what Pete could reinforce/introduce.  I know that the tendency of many of my students is still to split words into syllables rather than morphemes.  And that is because they are used to seeing words split into syllables – (often odd letter combinations with no meaning represented).  They have not been trained to look for meaning in words that have been pulled apart. So at first, word sums looked kind of like syllable division to them.  And like syllable division that is not at all about meaning, they were not expecting to look for meaning in a word sum.   But, the light of understanding is getting brighter.

Pete patiently accepted their word sum hypotheses for <automatic> and <pleasant> and used them to talk about evidence.  If you don’t have evidence that certain letters form a suffix, then you can’t consider them to BE a suffix.  If at a later date you find evidence, well, then you can change your hypothesis to coincide with your current research.  As an example, one student suggested that the word sum for <please> could be <plea> + <se>.  But when  <se> suffix could not be proven to be a suffix (we could not find other words with <se> as a suffix), then the conclusion is that the <se> must remain part of the base <please>.

Another important thing that Pete’s work with my students brought to my attention is their lack of understanding that every letter in a word has a job.  I’m sure that at some point they knew that certain letters worked in teams (digraphs), but I suspect it’s been a long time since anyone asked them to think about the letters in words (other than to memorize them)!  Pete asked them to spell the word <night>.  The students responded with <n> + <i>+ <g> + <h> + <t>.  In fact, as they were spelling the word, one girl said, ” I’ve always wondered why there’s a silent <h> in <night>.   So when Pete then practiced with them to group the letters by the sound they represent in the word,  the correct spelling was <n> + <igh> + <t>.   And he asked them to spell the <igh> quickly -like in a cha-cha-cha dance step.  Spelling out the word in this way helps them see that the trigraph <igh> represents one sound.  The <h> is not silent.  It is part of a unit – a trigraph.  It cannot be considered individually in that word.  This is work I need to continue on a daily basis.  Spelling out words and recognizing digraphs, trigraphs, dipthongs and the like will be hugely beneficial when the students are back to proving and recognizing when letters are and are not forming affixes!

Below is a link to the video of our Zoom session with Pete Bowers.  It is great stuff!  Thanks Pete!

Pete Bowers Session With Our Class

Global Read Aloud – Week One

Our class is participating in the 2013 Global Read Aloud!  That means that we are reading aloud a book that is being read to thousands of other 4-6th grade students as well.  The name of the book for our age group is Out of My Mind.  It is written by Sharon Draper.  Here is a trailer for the book.  It gives you a sense of what the book is about.

Last week we read chapters 1-6.  Melody, the main character, lays it on us right away.  She loves words.  She has always loved words … except that even though she is eleven, she has never spoken them.  And she never will.

In one of those chapters she talks about music, and how she sees colors and connects smells with different kinds of music.  Her favorite type of music is country.  When she listens to country music, she smells lemons.  She smells sweet lemons.  I asked my students about music in their lives.  Here are some of the responses they have posted on their blogs.

“To me pop and upbeat music has always made me happy.  Pop music is nice because you can dance to all of it.  I myself love to dance.  I took lessons for a little bit, but then after that my teacher stopped teaching for a while so I did it on my own.  My friend and I have made up a lot of dances which are all perfected in anyway possible.  Fast and upbeat music has always seemed like bright stage lights and loud comfident voices. I don’t mean like heavy metal or anything like that. I mean One Direction, Ke$ha, and artists like that .  How do you feel about music?  How does it make you feel?”      ~ Hannah

“Melody likes country music like I do.  It makes me feel really happy.  My older brother Mitch turns on country in our car all the time.   He turns the music up as loud as he can, and we sing as loud as we can.  When  people drive past us, they look at us like we’re crazy.   We kind of  are crazy in a good way.   My friend Sage and I do they same thing. We will be in her front yard playing, and we just randomly start singing.   Sage likes hip hop too so we sing a mixture of country and hip hop. ”     ~ Maddie

 “I love country music. There’s one song that reminds me of my grandpa serving  in the army.  I love hearing that song because then I don’t forget him.  I really miss him.  Hearing that song really brings my heart out.  The song really brings a lot of color in my life.  Only that song makes me move on.”      ~ Ezra

“Music really helps me  get through the rough times in my life. When I am down in the dumps, and I feel there is nothing that can make it better, there is actually a way.  I think of the country songs I love. I think of the song and how good it is.  A country song really tells a story about  life and how troubling it is during hard times. When something bad happens, I relate to the song that tells that same story. That is how I relate to music.”         ~ Ryan

“I like to hum songs in my head all the time. I think Melody singing in her head is a normal thing.  Music  sorta is my passion I like all types  of music –  rock,  pop , and country.  It helps me relax or calm down.  Music plays a big part in my life.”      ~ Landin

Further along in our reading we met Mrs. V.  Melody went to her house after school most days.  Mrs. V was different than any other adult in Melody’s life.  I asked the students why Mrs. V was an amazing woman.  I also asked if my students ever had a “Mrs. V. in their lives.  Her are some more responses copied from their blogs.

“We are reading a book called Out Of My Mind.  There is a woman named Mrs.V, and a girl named Melody.  Melody can’t talk, move her arms, can’t keep her balance, and can’t talk.  Mrs.V made  a commitment to help Melody.  When Melody was a baby, Mrs.V got Melody to roll over and grab her toy.

I am in gymnastics and my coaches are like my Mrs.V.  One time we were working on round offs and I thought I couldn’t do it, but my coach told me I could.  When I tried, I messed up, but my coaches told me to keep trying.”       ~ Abby

“My Mrs.V is my mom.  Every day I learn something new from my mom.  She taught me how to play recorder.  She is the best baker in the world.  When I was 2, years old she tried to teach me the alphabet, and I tried my best.  My mom bought me a Letter Board when I was three.  Man, I  would type in words and screech with laughter.  That’s why I picked her.”      ~Brogan

“Hi there.   Mrs.V is inspirational to me because she did not give up on Melody. When other people looked at Melody, Mrs.V just looked at her like anyone else –  not someone who is different or weird.   To me my Mrs.V is my dad because he pushes me to my very best with everything from soccer to school to everything.   My mom also.   Who is your Mrs.V?”     ~ Maya

“Mrs.V is another character in the book we are reading.  Mrs.V is the only person who doesn’t think Melody is dumb.  Melody would go over to Mrs.V’s when her parents couldn’t watch over her.  Melody would go over to her house every day after school.  Mrs.V gave Melody sweets and soda when her parents would just give her milk or juice.  Mrs.V taught Melody how to say some words by putting a plexiglass tray on her wheelchair with the words that she wanted to say.  She also taught Melody how to flip her body over, and what to do if she fell out of her wheel chair.  Melody loves Mrs.V.  My parents are kind of like my Mrs.V.”      ~Zoe

“I think Mrs.V is amazing.  Teaching Melody to roll over!  She did what the parents did not.”      ~ Austin

Please feel free to comment to this post.  My students and I would love your feedback!

We’ve Got Your Number!

As I was grading the first math test of the year, I couldn’t help but notice some interesting variations in spelling.  The word fifteen for instance was spelled fiveteen, fiffytin, fifetyn, and fivtyn.  The word seventy was spelled sevend,  and sevendy.  The word million was spelled millean, and millioin.  The word sixty was spelled sixdy and sextie.

Now, these students have been using these words for a long time.  I’m certain that at some point they  showed up on a spelling list and were studied.  So why don’t the students remember how to spell them?  Hmmm.

Let’s see if we can try to look at these words with a different goal in mind.  Yes, you heard me right – a goal other than spelling the words correctly.  I’d like the goal to be understanding the meaning of the word.  I’d like the goal to be understanding how the word is built.  I’d like the goal to be understanding some of the history of the word.  I’d like the goal to be imagining the base of the word without its prefixes or suffixes — or with other prefixes or suffixes so that what blooms in front of the researching student is a family of related words with a common base.   This is where the real excitement is!  I had a student last year who said, ” I love orthography because you learn to peel off prefixes and suffixes and find the base.  While you’re doing this, you learn to spell the word, and you didn’t even know you were!”  Those words are golden to me.  So my goal is not correct spelling … but I never forget that it is almost always a wonderful side effect of the word inquiry we do.

Having said all that, the obvious course of action was to ask students to investigate!   In this first video, Abby and Landin are wondering about the word <million>.  Their word sum hypothesis is  <milli> + <on> –> <million>.  My favorite thing about listening to them is their enthusiasm.  The thinking that is going on is like fireworks going off.

By the end of our morning, the three groups who were looking at this word had decided its word sum is <mille/> + <ion>.  They built the following word matrix.

The group that was investigating <seventy> found that <ty> was a suffix that represents ten when there are multiples of ten.  That clears up why, when counting by tens, the suffix used is <ty> and never <dy>.  Examples:  twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, etc.

This next video is of Ezra and Austin who are investigating the word <fifteen>.  Again, I am so impressed that these students are driven to prove what they think.   It’s about finding evidence.  Whoot!