Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Words have meaning and spelling is logical

Shawna Pope MS/CCC/SLP
Structured Word Inquiry Instructor

It has been so much fun introducing our young scholars to how the English language works. Right away, they were filled with questions they had been holding inside since their instruction in literacy began. 

Why is there an < a > at the end of < cocoa > ? Why are there two < f > and two < e > graphemes in coffee? Why is there an  < e > at the end of the word when the vowel in the middle is not "long" as in    < been > and < love >? 

Rather than answer these questions directly, in our weekly structured word inquiry sessions we begin a quest to form a hypothesis and find evidence to prove or disprove our thinking. We do after all, learn what things are by understanding what they are not. I do guide the sessions a bit to lead them to questions and discoveries as they are just beginning to learn the process of using scientific inquiry to explain the meaning and spelling of words in English. It has been so much fun watching their eyes light up and listening to their relief and excitement upon discovering that indeed our words are anything but irregular. 

Thus far I have broken up our sessions into two groups, one made of young learners and the other for our older scholars. For both groups, the sessions have thus far focused on learning the terminology we need to allow us to talk about words. We have learned that letters do not make sounds but that graphemes do represent phonemes. This is a new concept for them so be sure to ask them to explain this to you,  we learn the most when we teach another person. We find out what we know and what we need to review. We have also learned that words are made of morphemes, units that give meaning to our language. Most of us know morphemes by the names bases, prefixes, and suffixes.  Already after just two sessions, the younger students have learned that each grapheme can represent more than one phoneme ( some that are not traditionally taught ) and that there are conventions we follow when "suffixing". They caught on quickly to the spelling convention of, " doubling." 

In our older group they have already discovered that spelling is not always what it appears to be on the surface. With a little analysis we can uncover differences in spellings that explain their meanings, their relatives, and their differences in pronunciation. They have also learned that word families are not based on words that merely sound alike but they are based on words that share a base and are thus related by meaning. For example, < love > is related to < lovely >, < lovable >, < loving >, and  one that made them pause for contemplation, < loveably >. How does one do something "loveably?" We explored the possibilities.  The spelling of < love > revealed to us that the single final, non-syllabic   < e > has more than one job.  Because English words cannot end in < v > or < u >, the < e > comes in to "lexicalize" and thus make it an English word.  It's role in < love > has nothing to do with pronunciation at all. It is also quite " regular". 

I look forward to the new adventures that await as we dive into our word study. One of the best parts for me is that I never know what direction the class will take. We follow our questions and thoughts and marvel at the discoveries we make along the way. 


pleach said...

This Is so intriguing. Is there a way to replicate it at home- any materials designed for homeschoolers?
Thanks, Sheetal Walke

Unknown said...

Hello Sheetal,

I am happy to share the resources to learn and apply this knowledge. The answer is not a simple one so I will compose another blog post that includes my resources and materials that are available. I am working to create my own materails as well. The past year has been a journey of scholarship that I have enjoyed very much. As speech-language pathologist I wanted to specialize in literacy. This led me down several paths until I landed on this one that answered all of my questions, something that traditional curriculums could never do. I will write the blog this weekend, I look forward to doing so!