The Third Affix … The Connecting Vowel

Onward to our next science topic … the Earth’s Systems.

What a  fabulous opportunity to introduce connecting vowels!  In groups of two, students were given one of the following words to investigate:
-geosphere         -atmosphere        -biosphere          -lithosphere
-hydrosphere     -cosmosphere     -stratosphere

The first step was to look in a standard dictionary to find a definition.  Once each group had an understanding of the word, it was time to look at the structure of the word.  Students came up with one or more hypotheses about their word.  For example, one group thought that the structure of geosphere might be either <geo> + <sphere>, <geo> + <sph> + <ere>, or <geos> + <phe> + <re>.  It was time to research the word to see if we could find the root of the word.  That would likely help us identify the base element.

As a group we looked at the Online Etymology Dictionary.  We read several entries together to get ourselves familiar with the manner in which the information is presented.  We found that the following bound bases had Greek roots:
-<ge> meaning earth
-<atm> from atmos, meaning vapor or steam
-<bi> from bios, meaning life
-<lith> from lithos, meaning stone
-<hydr> from hydros, meaning water
-<cosm> from cosmos, meaning universe
-<strat>  from stratos, meaning spreading out

The students recognized that <sphere> is a familiar word and doesn’t need an affix to be a word.  It is therefore a free base.

In each of these words there is an <o> that is neither part of the base nor is it a suffix.  It is a connecting vowel.  Since all of these words have their roots in Greek, it is not surprising that they all have <o> as a connecting vowel.  Most words of Greek origin that have a connecting vowel use <o>.  (A connecting vowel is an affix.  Since it comes after the base, it cannot be a prefix, and since it cannot be final in a word, it cannot be a suffix.  It is therefore a third type of affix.  For more information I recommend watching this film on Connecting Vowels at Real Spelling.)

Now they were ready to use Word Searcher.  Each group went to work finding relatives of each bound base’s family.   This search often included quick trips to Etymonline or other dictionaries to make sure that the words collected did indeed share meaning with the base.

Once their list of relatives was compiled in their notebooks, the students began writing out word sums and creating a matrix.

Having a list of words to investigate that were so structurally similar was interesting.  Once we talked about the free base <sphere> that was common to all the words on the list, we had the opportunity to practice using online tools like etymonline and word searcher to find out about the other base in each word.  At first it was hard to see these words as compound words because the first base was a bound base and not as recognizable as a free base would be.

We had opportunity to practice spelling out words using word sums.  The students are so used to spelling words letter by letter, that they keep forgetting to group the letters into morphemes as they spell.  This will take some practice.  I know!  It was a habit that I personally had to break not so long ago.  But I also know it will be worth it in the long run.

Students created their own matrices.  This was challenging because the students don’t recognize many suffixes besides <s>, <es>, <ed>, and <ing> yet.  They are definitely becoming comfortable with the idea that a word can have several suffixes.  With so many students presenting, we were able to notice an <ant> and <ic> suffix being used in several of the matrices.  I was also able to begin demonstrating how to collect evidence to prove whether a letter combination was a suffix or not.

There are still several groups ready to present their word investigation.  This will give the students more opportunity to talk about spelling and words in a way that is foreign to them.

I know that these students have never been as mentally engaged with words as they will be this year.  I smile when I think of how much they will learn!

“She Turned Her Can’ts Into Cans And Her Dreams Into Plans” -Kobi Yamada

New standards to follow.  Again.  But this time?  I’m happy.  I’m really and truly happy!  I’m speaking about the Next Generation Science Standards.

As the fifth grade science teacher (We are specializing this year.  I teach science, writing, grammar, and orthography.) I have become familiar with the new standards and am completely rewriting our grade level curriculum.  What is it about the standards that make me so happy?  Let me put it this way.  If there were no standards to follow and I was allowed to teach science however I wanted, I would do what these standards are asking.  Example number one.

There is a standard for teaching students about engineering design.  They must be given a problem to solve.  It must be a real problem that needs solving.  They must do some research and discuss their design and choice of materials with peers.  They must be given time to implement their design.  After reflection, they must be given an opportunity to try it again and improve their original design.

First week of school.  Each student has his/her own locker.  Every two students have a third locker that they share.  In the personal locker, jackets, boots, snowpants, backpacks, and lunches will be stored.  In the shared locker, books, folders, and classroom supplies will be stored.  The problem to solve?  Design locker shelving that will create the kind of storage that will help the two students sharing the locker stay organized.

Step One:  Collect information.  Students measured the height, the width, and the depth of the locker.

DSCN4653 DSCN4650 DSCN4649 DSCN4640 DSCN4629 DSCN4628 DSCN4627

Step Two:  Do some research.  What kind of locker organizers/shelving is on the market?  Can you incorporate some of these ideas into your design?

DSCN4632 DSCN4633 DSCN4634 DSCN4642 DSCN4643 DSCN4644 DSCN4645 DSCN4646 DSCN4654 DSCN4655

Step Three:  Draw your design and label with the dimensions.

DSCN4644 DSCN4647 DSCN4653

Step Four -Build.  THE CHALLENGE:  Use as much recycled material as possible.

DSCN4660 DSCN4661 DSCN4663 DSCN4664 DSCN4665 DSCN4667 DSCN4668 DSCN4670 DSCN4672 DSCN4675 DSCN4677

Step Five:  Test the final product.

DSCN4662 DSCN4668 DSCN4678 DSCN4681 DSCN4682 DSCN4698

Step Six:  Reflect.  Think about your own process.  Did you change your plan along the way?

DSCN4738 DSCN4739

Question:  If you were to do this project over, what would you do differently?

“I would make the shelves thicker to hold more weight.”  Nicole
“Use better and stronger materials.”  Matthew
“If I had found some styrofoam, we would have used it.”  Zach
“I’d add more shelves because we don’t have room for all our supplies.”  Trevor
“I would use better supports to hold up the shelves.”  Aevri
“I would use thicker yarn.”  Aidan
“Our shelves needed stronger supports and stronger materials.”  Evelyn

Three weeks later, some of the shelving is nonexistent. Some has fallen apart and is no longer functional.  But several remain intact and quite successful.

DSCN4740 DSCN4741 DSCN4743 DSCN4744 DSCN4745 DSCN4746 DSCN4747

So!  It is time for those students whose first design didn’t quite yield successful results to rethink their plan.  It’s time to have another go at it.   Will any of the successful designs be copied?  Will completely new designs and materials pop up?  What a great activity!