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“It makes so much sense!”

That was Craig’s quote today while investigating the word <provoke>. He met repeated examples of how the prefix <pro> can give the sense of “forth” in words – professional, promote, propose, produce – and continued to realize, as he so succinctly stated it, that our English language represents sense and meaning. More on that in a bit…

We started the day with a multiplication assessment on Digit Whiz, a math app the students are loving at the moment. It’s mostly for practicing fact recall, but the ability to compete and race against classmates is the big draw. It is a free download for your home devices, and students can sign in to their class account on any device, including computers.

After returning from music and recess, we introduced the central idea for our first unit of inquiry. For “How we express ourselves,” 5th grade students are inquiring into the central idea: “Motion pictures entertain, inform, provoke, and inspire.”¬†We wondered if fiction movies that entertain can also inspire or provoke, or if documentaries were the only ones that can inform. And of course, when presented with such rich words as entertain, inform, provoke, and inspire, we had to do some word analysis.

Someone chose <provoke>, and Craig said, “Doesn’t that mean ‘to make someone angry’?” That led to a discussion of ‘connotation’ and ‘denotation.’ The former being what a word has evolved to mean in present day English, and the latter being its original meaning. Off to investigate!

The Latin root vocare means “to call” and the <pro> prefix gives the sense “forth”…so the denotation of <provoke> is “to call forth.” Though it says nothing about ‘calling forth in an attempt to anger another person’, the use of the word today often connotes aggressive, “angry” intentions.

I also used this time to reintroduce Neil Ramsden’s Mini Matrix Maker, hoping that when the students investigated the other words in our central idea, they could explore making their own matrices. Think of the meanings of <evoke> and <invoke> and you’ll understand why they are included in this morphological matrix.

But what about provocative, evocative, invocation, etc? Why does the <k> change to a <c>? Or, maybe the better question is, why did we need a <k> in the first place if the Latin root, vocare, has a <c>? Lawrence, one of our most enthusiastic and inquisitive word scientists, asked that question. So I wrote *<provoce> on the board. At least half the class saw the problem right away, all while saying, in unison, provo/s/e (pronouncing the <c> as /s/). Within seconds they had discovered a convention of English, that when <c> is followed by <e>, <i>, or <y>, it is pronounced /s/. They easily offered up examples – center, circle, cycle, celebrate, city, cyclops. Now, dear audience, you know why <cat> is spelled with a <c> and <kitten> with a <k>!

Several students took their iPads home tonight to continue their word investigations and build matrices. I wish I had captured Craig’s delight when I introduced him to Neil Ramsden’s Word Searcher. He had already built an impressive matrix for the base element <form>, so this little tip provided even more material for his project. Stay tuned for what I am sure will be an extensive matrix.

Next on the agenda: storyboarding our door scene. We have five groups each making a short video, all with the same strict instructions – person walks near a door, hears a strange, spooky sound, gets scared, must escape through the door, struggles with keys, and eventually makes it through, relieved to have “escaped.” The first version was filmed and produced on Tuesday. After reflections, instructions on camera techniques, the effectiveness of a variety of shots, etc., the students were instructed on how to storyboard their scene. You will see some of this activity in the video.

Recess saw several of our boys playing soccer, while other students were giving their Model United Nations speeches. I wish Maya, Sam, Sydney, Jamie, Seth, and Sophie the best of luck in their attempt to be chosen for this year’s M.U.N. group.

Finally, math. The students enjoyed working in groups to share all they know about numbers. Overheard in conversations today: equations vs. expressions, prime numbers, even/odd, arrays, Roman numerals, heptagon, irregular decagon, and much more. Students also enjoyed figuring out how to say their chosen number(s) in different languages.

Then off to German…

Busy day!

New Unit of Inquiry

Transdisciplinary Theme: How the World Works
Central Idea: Effective structures require forces to be balanced.
Hidden Agenda: Endless video-recording opportunities for Mr. Allen!

How does gravity really work? What other forces are there? Why are triangles used so often in structures? How can forces be balanced? These are just some of the student questions that have been asked this week during our introductory activities. The following videos (long!) are meant to give you a glimpse of our process and current levels of understanding.

Check out…

…the comment from Old Grouch on the last post. We are fortunate to receive some enlightening comments, so I will occasionally make a separate post just to remind our home audience of this fact. Enjoy!

Good Word Study Today!

While analyzing words this morning, determining the base and possible affixes, we had a good discussion about the suffix < -ic >. Tragedy – tragic, horror – horrific, idiot – idiotic, moron – moronic (some good laughs over those last two), to name a few. But then Daniel, a true word detective, caught us off guard with cinematic. We all agreed it came from “cinema,” but how can we explain that < t > in “cinematic”? Is < -tic > also a suffix? Thanks for the inspiration, Daniel. Can anyone think of other examples where < -tic > might be a suffix?
Parents, as always, please feel free to contribute!