Relatives We Didn’t Know Words Had!

When I first replaced ‘spelling’ with orthography, I had much more enthusiasm than knowledge!  I put it right out there to my students when I said,  “We’re going to try something completely different.  I won’t know all the answers, but I’m excited by that.  It means that maybe you’ll figure out something before I do, and you’ll help me understand it.”  What an amazing year that was!  The students and I took a 180 degree turn when thinking about a word’s spelling.  We started searching for the logic that we were never taught to see.  We absolutely delighted ourselves with the realization that words have structure, and that structure has nothing to do with syllables.   Once we knew about a word’s structure, we began looking at words that shared a particular base.  There was such a sense of delight when words previously thought to have no connection to each other, obviously had one!

Since then, the excitement has not lessened!   Hungry to replace years of misinformation, I have taken spellinars at Real Spelling.  Last year, I took a spellinar through Real Spelling called “Latin for Orthographers”.  Talk about a constant flow of wow moments!  One of the things I learned about and then shared with my students was the four Principal Parts of a Latin Verb.  I learned which of the parts were of interest to orthographers.  Then I learned to remove the infinitive suffix and the supine suffix in order to reveal an etymon that became either a Modern English unitary base or a set of Modern English twin bases.  Suddenly we see connections between words like never before!

Listen to Tyler and Nathan in this first film.  Only two students have presented before them so there is a hint of “pretty sure of myself, but not completely”.  I love the audience participation.  The Modern English bases being “discovered” seem to set everyone’s mind on its own search for relatives.  Listen for the student in the audience who jumps in to share how “rogue” is used in the sports games he plays.

In the next video, Elizabeth and Hanna explain what they have learned about the twin bases they found.  I absolutely love the excitement generated in the whole class when someone asks Hanna how ‘lavender’ has anything to do with “washing” (which is the denotation for the twin bases <lave> and <lote>).

The last video is of Elliot, who analyzed the Latin Verb he was given and found a Modern English unitary base.  Elliot does a great job explaining the related words he has collected.  I also enjoyed the short story he created using those words.  One of the students in the audience brings up a great point about the potential <e> in the final position of a lot of these bases.   He wonders if there should be one on the Modern English base <aud>.

I had each student investigate their own Latin Verb and its Principal Parts.  That means that we’ll have two presentations (along with lovely discussions) every day for another week and a half!  There is just no reason to rush with the presentations.  Each day that the students use the terminology (and hear it being used) makes them more sure of what they are saying and doing.  Each day that the students question/defend/share their understandings reinforces the expectation of seeing logic and structure in our language!

I’ll leave you with this lovely classroom moment…   Just two days ago, I asked the students to clean up so we could switch to science.  Teagan remarked, “Aww.  Why do we have to stop?  We are doing orthography and that’s science, isn’t it?”  I smiled and said, “It is in this room!”