“Orthography Makes Spelling Less Complicated”

This year I had a high school student who came to my classroom every day to help out.  The other day while she was here, two 5th graders shared their poster about the digraph <wr>.   They were listing words that began with <wr> and had something to do with twisting and turning.  (Wringing, wrench, wrinkle, wrist, …)  After the bell rang and the 5th graders left, she turned to me.  “Every time I’m in here and these students present like this, I am blown away.  This stuff is so cool and interesting!  Do they have any idea just how lucky they are to be learning this stuff?”  I had to admit that I’m not sure my students realize how unique their situation is.

So today I gave them the opportunity to reflect on our study of orthography.  Each student spent 5 or so minutes writing down some of the things they learned.  Then I asked them to share.  Some were comfortable letting me record their thoughts.  Others preferred to give me their thoughts on paper.  Here is what some of the students had to say:

~Orthography makes spelling less complicated.
~I used to just write the word.  I didn’t know nothing about the word or the base of the word.  Not even the prefixes or suffixes.  Some words are hard to understand, but this way helped me.
~I learned that the <carn> in carnival has the same meaning as the <carn> in carnivore.
~Syllables are not word sums.
~Orthography is not just learning the meaning of a word.
~Instead of learning how to spell words we learned their history and how they were made, allowing us to sort of understand what they mean.
~Word sums are not found in a dictionary.
~Yes!  There were no spelling tests!  We worked on something new almost every day!  I now know new and harder words.
~I don’t like spelling, but I like orthography.
~Words have connections to other words that we don’t always recognize.  Example:  lavendar and lava.
~It helps me because I can remember the morphemes, and they help me remember how to spell the word.
~Lots of words have histories and were spelled different back then.
~Words have not just one meaning but multiple meanings.
~Back when some words were spelled a little different, they also had meanings that were a little different than their meaning today.
~Orthography helps you find bases so you know if the words have something in common like in sign and signal.
~I liked this more than spelling because it had more thought in it rather than just memorizing the spelling of a word.
~There is actually a reason words are spelled the way they are.
~I always used songs to remember how to spell words.  Now I just need to break them down into morphemes and I can spell the words I don’t know.
~In the past we’d just get words and the teacher would be like, “Make sure to study!”  But none of us did.  Now we don’t have to study.  It just kind of sticks.  I can spell much better.

5 thoughts on ““Orthography Makes Spelling Less Complicated”

  1. I’m astounded – you are obviously brilliant and kind and everything else praiseworthy in a teacher person. I need to see you working your orthography lessons! Where do the words the children work on come from? Do you assign them? How many a day? Is it whole class or group or individual work?

    • Thank you! School will be starting up September 1st, so stay tuned. I will record some of our whole class discussions.

      When we begin talking about something that that I feel may be unfamiliar to my students, we talk first as a whole class. Once they are prepared to research words on their own, I have them work in small groups. Towards the end of the year, some students are ready to work individually.

      Many of the words we look at pop up in science, social studies, math and reading. We keep a “Wonder Wall” going as well. Whenever someone has a word they’d like to talk about, it goes there until we have the time to give it our attention.

      I would be happy to discuss any of what you see on my blog! I am beginning my third year of exploring orthography with my students in place of a traditional spelling program. As you can see, they are more interested in conducting research and making their own observations about words than they have ever been in filling in blanks and memorizing letter order.

  2. Your year end reflections are so inspiring Mary Beth. The excitement from the high school student is so powerful. I just finished hearing the young lady at 2:44 contrasting what studying spelling was previously and is now. So powerful!

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