Training Ourselves to Depend on Evidence

The first of the researchers have presented their findings!  The three groups presenting here all looked at the digraph <ch> and the trigraph <tch>.  I asked each group to begin by collecting two large lists of words.  One list contained words with <ch> in them.  The other list contained words with <tch> in them.  Then they were to make observations and put together a creative way to share their findings.

The first group decided to prepare an “Etymology Scoop of the Day”.  It is quite informative and very entertaining.  There is even a bit of song and dance!

The second group asked to create a Prezi.  They chose a colorful background, and it was also very informative.

The third group created a very colorful and informative poster.  They used color and the technique of drawing boxes around certain parts of words to draw attention to them.

All three groups of researchers are from three different classes.  They have not had the opportunity to collaborate, and yet they have noticed some of the same things in regards to the <ch> digraph and the <tch> trigraph!  Perhaps that means that there are some common truths here.  I look forward to hearing what the students final thoughts are after they watch these videos.


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!

DSCN5148 DSCN5149 DSCN5150 DSCN5155

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.


Slice of Life Blogging Challenge Winners!

During the month of March the students were issued a challenge. They were to write a post on their blog every day.  Well, the numbers are in and there were ten students who posted 21 times or more in March!  Part of the reward was to star in a Jib Jab!

HAPPY to be a blogging challenge winner!    Congratulations to Emma, Kyla, Kacey, Alyssa, and Trevor!

WE’RE WALKING ON SUNSHINE because we are blogging challenge winners!   Congratulations to Stormy, Brenna, Mayah, Layla, and Sam!

Developing a Scientific Mindset

Last week I wrote a post called, ” Lab Coats Are Optional”.  In that post I described the scientific approach we are using to explore familiar words. As I walked around the classroom today with my video camera, I was thrilled to hear the kinds of conversations students were having about words, letters, and phonemes.

In groups of two, students have been asked to collect words and then to make some observations.  Some groups are comparing words with a <ch> digraph to words with a <tch> trigraph.  Other groups are comparing words with a <ge>sequence to words with a <dge> trigraph.  Still other groups are comparing words with a <k> grapheme to words with a <ck> digraph.

In this first video, Daphne and Emma share what they have noticed about words with the <ch> digraph and words with a <tch> trigraph.

They found that when the <ch> digraph was final in a word, there was either an <r> or an <n> immediately in front of it, or else there was a vowel digraph immediately in front of the <ch>.  The use of the words “usually always” confused me and I kept asking the girls to determine whether what they were noticing happened usually or always.  They did find one word in which there was a single short vowel immediately in front of the <ch> digraph.  That word was <attach>.  All of the rest of the words they looked at (<coach>, <reach>, and <screech>) had a vowel digraph in that spot.

At that point I suggested we look at Etymonline to see if <attach> is an English word.  Often times the rules that apply to English words do not apply to words that are not English.  We found that it has French origins!

In the next video, Kacey has made some quick discoveries about words with <k> as compared to words with <ck>.  Then Martha and Mayah begin a look at words with <ge> and words with <dge>, but have interesting questions about the phonology of <g>.  I enjoyed seeing their curiosities become unleashed in this way!

At this point I am encouraging the students to make lists of words that support any hypotheses they are making.  I would also like groups working on the same digraph/trigraph combinations to get together and compare their findings.  Perhaps they can combine their word lists so that they can have an even bigger sampling of evidence to support their observations and hypotheses.

It is obvious to me that these students have not been invited to really look at words and spelling in this manner before.  Some of the students are struggling to put their thoughts onto paper in order to explain what they see .  Some lose interest quickly because there is no quick answer.  But once they realize I am not looking for “that one right answer”, they relax and begin to let themselves really wonder about the words in front of them.  And finding the right words to explain their thinking will only improve with practice.  “It usually always does”, she said with a wink.

Biosphere Poems


I’m grass.
I get stepped on all the time.
I am a producer,
and I’m very important.
I think of myself like humans.
That’s because
I get haircuts with lawn movers.
Lots of animals eat me,
but I don’t care because
I am everywhere.
In winter you might not
see me as much,
but I am still there.
In winter fewer animals eat me,
because some are hibernating,
and some can’t find me
under the snow.
I am also one of the reasons
you can breathe.
The main reason you can breathe
is because of my brother, tree.
I love a fresh rain shower, don’t you?

                                             Alyssa P.

Emerald Ash Borer

I’m hiding in my tree under
the rough bark.
I am smaller than a penny.
I can’t help but eat the tree.
It’s not my fault
that the xylem and the phloem
are in my way.
I make paths to get around.
I make little holes
to make quick exits.
I am an invasive species.
No one can deny
that I should be gone.
What damage am I doing?
There are plenty of trees around.
I was brought here from Asia.
No one saw me on the boat.
I am a beautiful
but harmful creature.

                                     Alex K.

Top Predator

I’m a top predator.
I’m not an editor.
I feast on animals
who also feast on animals
who feast on primary consumers.
That’s how I get my energy.

I’m BIG.  I’m sly.
Can you guess me?
I’m the fierce puma.
I prey on little bunnies like you.
You may think I’m bad,
but actually I’m nice.
I’m not bad at all.
It’s just the circle of life.

You’re born,
you get eaten,
then again by decomposers.
It’s just the circle of life.

Oh no!  It’s Mr. Farmer,
and this time he’s got a gun!
That’s the circle of life.

                                            McKade H.


I am a stalker.
I eat things little or small,
things that are fiercer than me.
My fur is like a cheetah’s fur.
It is gray with black spots.
Take a guess what I am.
I am a snow leopard.
Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you.
I will hurt a marmot.
I am soft and wild too.
I live in a den,
I can be ten.
I love my cubs.
When they’re born,
they’re like little rosebuds.
Oh, I love the hills
and sitting right by the cliff.

                                                 Evelyn B.

The Wolf

I am a carnivore.
I roam the wild, looking for
some tasty herbivores or other carnivores.
For some reason they don’t greet me
in the same way that I greet them.

It could just be that they
are scared of how I look,
how sharp my massive white teeth are,
how I howl like a thunder cloud
at night under a full moon,
or even how I run as fast as a lightning bolt.
When they don’t greet me,
things don’t really turn out so pretty sometimes.

I’m usually a lone wolf, but sometimes
I have my mighty army of up to 20 or 25 wolves.
When I have my army we can rule the world
and take down the biggest animals of all,
even our king, the bear.
He thinks he’s smart and powerful,
but with my pack he goes down.
Watch out!  You wouldn’t want
to get eaten by these bad boys!

                                            Kyla P.


I’m a plant.
I don’t have any of those “flowers”
everyone loves so much.
I’m not pretty, but I work.
Cows graze on me,
and children lay on me.
I’ll say it again,
I work.

It’s not hard being a plant,
but when there is a drought,
oh my, oh my,
do I turn brown and die.
But I always grow back.
When I get too long,
a man with a big machine
gives me a haircut.
Sometimes the man doesn’t come for a while,
and I get very long,
and maybe even grow some seeds.

In the winter
lots of white, cold, fluff falls on me.
I have to wait in the cold until spring.
In the summer
I get dry,
but when the children come out
to play in the pool,
they splash water on me.
Then I’m not dry anymore.
What do you think I am?

                                             Serena K.

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>.