Orthographic Drought?

Nope…far from it. Over the years, however, readers have grown accustomed to much more frequent orthographic posts. Why so long since the last one?

In short…I’ve been too busy. I simply haven’t recorded or documented any of our word analysis sessions. But have they happened? Absolutely. Every day. Orthography pervades all that we do. It’s who we are. There ¬†needn’t be an “Orthography Hour” every Tuesday or Wednesday, or predetermined lessons based on my narrow agenda. I don’t want the kids to get the message that being curious about words can only happen when I say so.

And I think it’s worked.

I’m delighted at how many of the students’ iTime projects include some etymological reference or another. And word structure challenges happen throughout the day. Just an hour ago, while Abby was presenting about electrical energy, Maya wondered, “Where does the word <lightning> come from?” And then others chimed in, “I think the base is <light>?” and then others, “But is <-ning> a suffix?” Happens all the time. So good.

Another example – Emma misspelled the word <competition> as *<compatition> the other day. Brilliant mistake. However, just by considering one synchronic relative, <compete>, she was able to see the sense and reason behind the <e> instead of the <a>.

Similarly, someone attempting to spell <muscle> wrote *mucsel>. They knew there was a <c> and an <s>, but the order obviously didn’t make sense. Synchronic etymology to the rescue once again! If someone has big muscles, how might we describe them? Other than genetically gifted and/or probably a bit vain? We might call them <muscular>. Problem solved, sense and reason restored.

And one more for good measure. A student wrote *<misted> for <missed>. This is not the sign of an unintelligent, weak speller, but rather an indication that this child does exactly as she’s been told over the years – sound it out. I asked for the base element…she replied “miss”…I asked her to spell it…she said <mist>…I asked for the present tense…she replied <mis>…I briefly mentioned a convention of English that doesn’t allow lexical words to end in a single <s> and then gave her the spelling <miss>…she agreed and smiled…and what’s the suffix?…she confidently offered <-ed>, offering examples of its presence in other words.

These are but three examples of the types of spur-of-the-moment, as-needed conversations that happen throughout the day.

And I’ll leave you with Thea. She approached me recently and said, “I really want another word to analyze, one like <system>…a really complex one.” Music to my ears. I offered <unrecognizable>, a word that Lydia had used in a piece earlier that day. And I’ll leave it that, audience. Feel free to ponder that word along with Thea. I’m sure she’ll share her discoveries and hypotheses soon!

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