Friday, February 13, 2015


Want to have a Conversation about Valentines


Today a staff member asked me how I would explain the origin of Valentine

From Online Etymology we find:


mid-15c., "sweetheart chosen on St. Valentine's Day," from Late Latin Valentinus, the name of two early Italian saints (from Latin valentia "strength, capacity;" see valence). Choosing a sweetheart on this day originated 14c. as a custom in English and French court circles. Meaning "letter or card sent to a sweetheart" first recorded 1824. The romantic association of the day is said to be from it being around the time when birds choose their mates.

Probably the date was the informal first day of spring in whatever French region invented the custom (many surviving medieval calendars reckon the start of spring on the 7th or 22nd of February). The custom of sending special cards or letters on this date flourished in England c.1840-1870, declined around the turn of the 20th century, and revived 1920s.


All of the students I work with understand that the red word <VALENCE> would lead us into a discussion and discovery of words with  connected meaning.  We could put together the following list of related words:

equivalent
ambivalent
valence

We would be forced to look into the word: prevalence

Being from Chicago, I am holding onto the Valentine wish that the first day of spring must be nearby. 

FUN!!

Happy Valentine's Day

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Stop Word Study over Break?

NEVER!!


I have been explaining over break to my three college age sons the benefits of orthographic word study (poor guys!!).  I have been telling them how beneficial looking at word MEANING, STRUCTURE, RELATIVES AND PRONUNCIATION can be even at the collegiate level.

While they listened VERY politely I was not sure that they really understood my purpose until yesterday.  Yesterday, my oldest son was reading a political article in the Wall Street Journal and came across the word VOCIFEROUSLY.

Out of nowhere he asked. " so tell me Mom, how would you teach the word VOCIFEROUSLY to a group of 5th graders". With a sly smile, I pulled up a chair an got out both barrels to let him have it.

As I would in any classroom setting I asked my son, "Are there any prefixes or suffixes that you recognize on this word"? He immediately answered: LY, OUS, ER

But then he got stuck - and honestly so did I and this is WHY I love the process of word study.  He said, " Honestly, I am not sure if it is ER or FER but then what would I do with the I"?

Then the magic began, as I have done many times with my students, I took him to OnlineEtymology.com and this is what we found:

1610s, from Latin vociferari "to shout, yell, cry out," from vox (genitive vocis) "voice" (see voice (n.)) + stem of ferre "to carry" (see infer). Related: Vociferouslyvociferousness.

With wide-eyed amazement he said " I knew it had something to do with voice but did not understand the concept of "ferre" - to carry.  What we learned is that in fact "ER" is not the suffix.  The word is made from the base <vocis>  voice + the stem <ferre> carry!!!

As I would with my students, I challenged him to come up with a list of words from the base <vocis> and here are a few that he listed:
vocal
vocalize
advocate
irrevocable
vocation

He asked about a number of other words and whether or not they were related.  I did not respond - why would I?  It was my goal to get him interested - and clearly - I DID!!!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014



If you want to have fun with Word Study, just ask students to find the history of words they are interested in.

Today we used Online Etymology at Komensky in grades 4 and 5 to focus on Thanksgiving words.

We did research on the following words and found the following interesting facts.  The information led to a wonderful discussion about Thanksgiving.

Pilgrim -c.1200, pilegrim, from Old French pelerinperegrin "pilgrim, crusader; foreigner, stranger";from Late Latin pelegrinus, dissimilated from Latin peregrinus "foreigner".  

We wondered if Pilgrims referred to themselves as Pilgrims or instead Colonists or English.

Indian-"inhabit of India or South Asia," c.1300 (noun and adjective); applied to the native inhabitants of the Americas from at least 1553, on the mistaken notion that America was the eastern end of Asia. 

For this word, we wondered why the word has never been changed once it was realized that a mistake had been made.  One student suggested that the correction was Native American.

Harvest-Old English hærfest "autumn, period between August and November," from Proto-Germanic *harbitas ;Greek karpos "fruit," karpizomai "make harvest of;" Latin carpere "to cut, divide, pluck.

The students discussed what plants and animals the Pilgrims and Indians would have cut, divided and plucked.

Voyage -c.1300, from Old French voiage "travel, journey, movement, course, errand, mission, crusade" (12c., Modern French voyage), from Late Latin viaticum"a journey" (in classical Latin "provisions for a journey"), noun use of neuter of viaticus "of or for a journey," from via "road, journey, travel" (see via).  

One student made a wonderful connection to "viaje" in Spanish meaning voyage.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

4th Grade UPDATE.

Do you know what these images are?  We do.!

They are images of ribosomes.  We found out using Online Etymology that <ribosome> is ribo + somes which means ribo(nucleic acid) + -some "body."  We were glad to learn that it was discovered by U.S. Microbiologist in 1958.

After we determined what it meant, we went to find it on iCell.  We looked for a while in both plant and animal cells and were not able to locate it.  We were stumped!!

Out of nowhere a student yells - "oh it has to be in the nucleus because it is nucleic acid and Mrs. Layden always reminds us that English is logical."

The Orthographic angels were floating around 4th grade Friday afternoon.

Oh the power of etymology and morphology!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Plant and Animal Cells

In 4th grade we have been word detectives looking into the origin of words to increase our understanding of Science words.  We have been researching using Online Etymology Dictionary and iCell.  iCell gives students, teachers, and anyone interested in biology a 3D view inside cells, inlcuding: animal, plant, and bacteria.


We have researched the following words and determined them to have the following meaning to us in 4th grade:

cell - a small room, from Latin - "cover"

nucleus - a small nut, from Latin -"kernel"


membrane- thin layer of skin - Latin -membrana


mitochondria- mito + chondria; <mito> is from Greek for thread + <chondria> is from Greek for little granule


organelle- a small organ, from Latin organella


chloroplast- chloro + plast; <chloro-> is a word forming element  originally Greek, then Latin and is used in Chemistry to represent the presence of Chlorine and <-plast> is also a word forming element implying "formed", "molded"

NOTE:  Spanish speaking students made a direct connection to the word "chloro" that their mothers use to clean.  Chloro is spanish is the brand name Clorox - bleach -- CHLORINE.


cytoplasm - cyto + plasm; <cyto>- cyt before a vowel from Greek then into Latin means a hollow basket and <-plasm> is another word forming element meaning growth, development or created.

photosynthesis -  A loan word from German, photo + synthesis; <photo> meaning light and <synthesis> is further broken down to syn +  tithenai from middle English  meaning to put together.

Together we researched, looked at and drew our own representations of a cell.  In class students will continue to focus on making a cell model and working with their new understanding of the technical words of science.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Yesterday in 4L we were talking about word meaning and their relatives and how words that are related have similar meaning.  We investigated the word <goes> and determined the base is <go>. We began to investigate all other related words and determined that <gone> and <going> are also related.  While we were investigating <goes> one student asked about <ago>.  The investigation was wonderful!!  We determined  that <ago> was from the early 14c., shortened form of Old English aganagone "departed, passed away," past participle of an obsolete verb ago "to go forth," formed from a-"away" (perhaps here used as an intensive prefix) + gan "go" (see go (v.)). Agone remains a dialectal variant.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Today in 5th grade, we worked on the days of the week. We investigated the meaning, structure, relatives, and pronunciation of our days of the week in English with the help of our bilingual Spanish classmates.

The investigation came from the question why do we spell Wednesday with a <d> if English is logical. Do you know why? The above chart may help.