Monday, May 27, 2019

SWI Recap: How We Got from There to Here

Friday, May 17

For our final SWI session of the school year, I invited the children to bring in any word that they wanted to examine. When we sat down together that Friday morning, every child had a word. And, even though we don't analyze proper nouns in SWI, one child had brought a name to share because he noticed that it contained one of the Old English letters I had taught them, ash (æ).

Here was the remaining list:








And they divided into pairs and happily dove into their investigative work! We came together after 40 minutes for everyone to share what avenues their team had explored, their discoveries, and any questions they still had.

You'll never believe this, but < pneumonia > and < pneumatic > DO NOT SHARE A BASE. THEY ARE NOT RELATED. It was an incredible discovery! When I wandered over to their table, this group asked me to help them create draft word sums for < pneumonia >. I was so sure it would relate to < pneumatic > (drills, brakes, and so on which are powered by air) that I confidently told them so and we posited a < pneum > shared base.

Nope. You'd think I know better by now.

Turns out that < pneumatic > comes from Latin pneumaticus and, if you know your Latin suffixes, you know to drop the -us leaving < pneumatic > as the base. Spelling preserved and passed down from antiquity. The Greek word prior to that historically was pneumatikos which meant wind or breath.

In complete contrast to this, < pneumonia > comes from Latin pulmo (you can see this word's relationship to < pulmonary >) and this was from Greek pleumon which meant lung. Over time, Latin speaking people noticed the meaning connection between wind/breath and lung, and so the Latin spelling slowy changed to reflect this. The Latin word then became pneumon. The one word actually influenced the other! The spelling gradually morphed to reflect this connection in meaning, yet when you look back to the Greek roots you find that these two words are actually not related. Fascinating!

So, how did we get here?

How are eight Lower Elementary children confidently and joyfully doing authentic linguistic study with only a small amount of guidance from me?

At the start of our SWI work in October, I was so nervous that I spent the first two weeks on the Story of Written Language (the Fourth Great Lesson in Montessori). Yes, this laid an excellent foundation (scribes, printing press, etc.) but it also was well within my comfort zone.

When it came time to actually dive into a lesson, I was so intimidated I had us watch a YouTube video. Yep. If you know me, you'll know how unusual that is for me. But we started with what Gina Cooke had put on YouTube as a very small introduction of the concept of investigating words scientifically and expecting the English language to be well ordered and make sense. The very idea that there's a logical reason for each choice made in our spelling system is eye-opening enough itself!

Then, just like the Little Engine that Could, we slooooowly made our way up the hill.

And we did it together, the students alongside me, because we were all learning at the same time. Yes, I took several online courses with Pete Bowers and then some in person workshops with Gina Cooke and Doug Harper, but that all happened gradually over the course of the year. My first step was introducing SWI as a month-long Waldorf main lesson block (3rd grade Spelling & Grammar), and then offering it weekly on Fridays as a Special. In Waldorf this could also be part of the Extra Lesson work for students who are struggling -- and it is wonderful for dyslexia -- but, really, all students should receive their spelling instruction this way. As Pete says, sarcastically, "To whom should we mis-teach the English writing system?"

If you are facing being the first SWI teacher in your school or homeschool, and want to join me on our retrospective, here's how it all went down:

October 1 - 5

  • Spelling & Grammar Week One
  • Photos from October Week 1

  • October 8 - 12

  • Spelling & Grammar Week Two
  • Photos from October Week 2

  • October 15 - 19

  • Spelling & Grammar Week Three

  • October 22 - 30

  • Finishing Up Our Spelling & Grammar Block

  • November 2, 9, 30

  • Script & SWI Lessons in November

  • December 7

  • Finishing Up Measurement

  • December 14

  • A Dozen Interesting Words in SWI

  • January 11 and 25, February 1 and 8

  • "Ms. Renee, I Just Found a Homophone!"

  • March 22

    • introduction to making matrices: review the bound base < struct >; create as many word sums as possible for words with this base; organize the base, prefixes, and suffixes onto sticky notes and arrange them into matrices on chart paper (oriented horizontally so the ruled lines create tidy vertical columns), look at Pete's matrix for < struct >

    March 29

    • open two file folders and overlap and tape them together to make little personal tri-fold backboards; give one to each child and mini sticky notes and let them create a section for prefixes, a section for bases, and a section for suffixes (with the requirement that they must have proof of each morpheme before adding it to their board)
    • introduce our new classroom etymological dictionaries (Dictionary of Word Origins: The Histories of More Than 8,000 English-Language Words by John Ayto)
    • give children practice in using the dictionaries by playing "One of These Things is Not Like the Other" with the following words:
















      Do you know which one does not fit?

      Although we didn't use the term twin base, < vide > and < vise > are an example of this concept. For more on this, here's an SWI lesson Pete put on YouTube of Michel working with a class of children on twin bases (< duce > and < duct >):

    April 5

    • review the single final nonsyllabic e and, specifically, the plural cancelling e (house, mouse, etc.); digraphs and trigraphs; orthographic markers (the < b > in < doubt >) and etymological markers (the < b > in < comb >)
    • have kids work in teams to brainstorm words that end with < mb > and look them up in the new dictionaries... Do these words always have the same language of origin? Are there any words with a silent b that do not have the preceeding m? Is the combination always located at the end of the word?
    • come back to discuss what we discovered, share that the < b > can be voiced in other iterations of the same word (such as in < crumb > and < crumble >)
    • listen to some recordings of Old English (Beowulf) and Middle English (Chaucer's Canterbury Tales)

    April 12

    • look up the word < honeycomb > and look at a piece of honeycomb and my Ashford wool carders
    • look up the word < combat > (a child questioned if it was related to < comb >), which led us nicely into < battle > and < batter > from the base < bat >
    • review the consonant doubling rule and why it is needed

        cap / cape / capped / caped

        scrap / scraped / scrapped / scraped

    • look at consonant doubling in < knitting > and do word sums; do exploration of < kn > just as we did < mb > and then come together to share what we learned
    • explain the word < brush > and why it means both hairbrush, paintbrush, etc. and a mass of low bushy vegetation or twigs

    April 19

  • The Prefix Post

  • May 3

    • share a bit from Etymology Seven with Gina Cooke & Doug Harper (where I learned a lot more about Old English and Middle English), show some of the Old English letters like yogh, eth, thorn, and ash

      (I did not show this to the kids but you may enjoy the YouTube video 10 Letters We Dropped From the Alphabet)

    • read Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum by Meghan McCarthy and look up the word < mastication >
    • look at Emily O'Connor's Truer Words (decks 1, 2, 3) and explore cards for < museum >, < technology >, and < subtraction >; make word sums for the colored word and its associated word list; determine the base of the word family; organize the base, prefixes, and suffixes onto sticky notes and arrange them into matrices

    May 10

  • The Many Surprises in Our Exploration of < Rodent >

  • This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!

    The Prefix Post

    I'm working on a long and comprehensive SWI blog post, listing all of the lessons from the year which I hadn't yet expounded upon, and recapping the year's study in chronological order so you can see how we got from fairly simple to fairly complex ideas. It's incredible how much they now know about the English language, and I've really seen evidence of that in their rough drafts of their MLB summaries. I see a lot fewer spelling mistakes! I can't wait to teach this subject again next year, since I'm totally smitten. And I'm hoping that more local homeschool students will also join us.

    This particular lesson, from April 19th, is a little convoluted, so I'm giving it its own time here. It's a prefix exploration of < co >, < con >, and < com >.

    The question was,
    Does < con > carry a meaning of "with" or "against"?

    This was already a question I was carrying around in my mind but it really came up to the surface because of the previous week's look at < combat >. We were doing the word < comb > and < combat > is not related... but it sure got us going in some interesting directions!

    The word sum for < combat > is com + bat, with < bat > as the base (as in the word < battle >). The question here was also does < com > carry a sense of with or against? Are you beating/fighting with someone or against them? And are the letters < co > related to < com >? Do they mean with?

    Prefixes aren't easy. They can indicate a sense of something but they don't really have a definintion the way a base does.

    The prefix < re > does not simply mean again. As Gina says, if you touch the stove and burn yourself and you react, that does NOT mean you act again. You don't touch the stove again!

    Here's the original < combat > discussion of possible word sums from April 12th; the underlined part is the hypothesized base:

      com + bat

      comb + at

      co + m + bat

      com + bat

    Here are some of the words we came up with as a side note, when I asked for some evidence of a < co > prefix and a < com > prefix. You can see how much the co's and com's get jumbled up:














    One child hypothesized that < compost > was < com + post > with < post > as the base and a meaning of "sending away."

    When we looked up < combat > we found that < bat > was the base and meant beat/fight and < com > was the prefix meaning with.

    I knew the exploration of prefixes was going to be tricky, but the kids were really interested so we dove into it.

    Soooo... on April 19th, I passed out yellow paper and red paper and put the kids in two groups. The group with yellow paper was looking for evidence that < con > meant with. The group with red paper was looking for evidence that < con > meant against (like "pros and cons"). I asked them to simply list as many words as they could think of that appeared to have that prefix with that meaning, and then begin to look them up as to language of origin.

    Here are their lists and you can see how complex their thinking was.

      Yellow Team
      < Con > words with a possible meaning of "with"
















      Red Team
      < Con > words with a possible meaning of "against"

      "pros & cons"











    The whole point here is to be thinking in terms of morphemes. What might be the prefixes or suffixes? What might be the base?

    It is the thinking that matters.

    And Ms. Flossie and I had a stimulating discussion about this as well, while the teams were working, which can happen when you're really truly doing an authentic investigation. Even the adults were thinking this one through! As we overheard teams come up with words we were automatically eliminating prefixes and suffixes to try to find the base and then considering word sums.

    We knew the word < dictation > and so figured < dict > was the base which meant talk, which gave us evidence of the word sum < contra + dict > with < contra > as a possible prefix that meant against. Hmmm... < contra >, not < con >?

    Discussing this further, we looked at < confiscate >, knowing < fisc > was probably a base (as in < fiscal > and with a sense of money). We got interested in this and looked up on etymonline whether there's a meaning of money in < confiscate > and, sure enough, there is.

    We were also looking at < contrast > and if < contra > is a prefix which means against, how then would we create a word sum for < contrast >? Is it < contra + st >? We looked that up too and, yes, < st > is the base. It's a version of the PIE root *sta as in < stand > and < stance > and many other words, with a meaning of "to stand, set down, make, or be firm."

    Ultimately we had a rousing discussion, with everyone presenting evidence that could support or falsify their hypothesis (that's the scientific method part of SWI). We looked it up and < con > is a Latin prefix meaning with or together. So that leaves us with many more questions that we are wondering about, like < contra > and < com >. An exploration for another time...

    Friday, May 24, 2019

    Zoology II, Week 4: Moose, Giraffe

    Here are some notes from our fourth and final week of Zoology II.

    Monday, May 20

    • recall, draft, revise, edit, and add White-Tailed Deer to MLB
    • look at and sketch White-Tailed Deer antlers
    • read "Moose" chapter from Horns and Antlers by Wilfrid Swancourt Bronson

    Tuesday, May 21 - Pajama Day

    • watch episodes from David Attenborough's wonderful documentary series The Life of Mammals (click here to see the contents of all the episodes)

        episode 3 - Plant Predators (ruminants)

        episode 4 - Chisellers (rodents)

        episode 5 - Meat Eaters (carnivores)

    Thursday, May 23

    Friday, May 24

    • recall, draft, revise, edit, and add Giraffe to MLB
    • AND RELAX!

    On the last day of school, when everyone had finished all of their work, it was time for some fun and games.

    All of the children, older and younger, had a great time playing with Zac's new Fagus trucks from Nova Natural. We already had the car carrier with the speedie car and the zippie car, as well as the tractor, the hay wagon, and the horse trailer. For his birthday yesterday he got the fire engine and the garbage truck.

    The older children opened up the boxes of vintage Lincoln Logs I just got off of eBay (for the upcoming Housebuilding camp) and I just let them build. Some children also used the patterns in Suzanne Down's Around the World with Finger Puppet Animals to sew wool felt animal finger puppets.

      Farm Animals: sheep, pig, donkey, cow, horse, chicken, goat, rooster, dog, cat, duck, swan

      Forest Animals: owl, deer, bear, bunny, squirrel, hedgehog, mice, bird

      Meadow and Pond Animals: fish, turtle, frog, ladybug, caterpillar, butterfly, bee, snail

      Around the World Animals: elephant, lion, zebra, tiger, giraffe, seal, crocodile, whale, polar bear, wolf, caribou, kangaroo, octopus, parrot

    And, of course, they had plenty of outside playtime! We also set up our soil testing shake jar for this summer's cob building project. And we looked at the final leaderboard for the Stock Market Game. It's been a rough time to invest and the children certainly learned a lot about the stock market as well as some world economics.

    The Hand-Sculpted House: A Practical and Philosophical
    Guide to Building a Cob Cottage

    I hope everyone has a wonderful Summer. It's been a great school year!

    This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!

    Wednesday, May 22, 2019

    Goldilocks and the Three Bears ECE

    Some notes from our final weeks of the school year, still full of porridge fun! We ended with Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the classic English fairy tale.

    The underlying message of this story, so brilliantly highlighted in Movement Journeys and Circle Adventures: Therapeutic Support for Early Childhood, Volume 2 by Nancy Blanning and Laurie Clark, is finding what is JUST RIGHT for you. This can even be seen as a therapeutic story for the sensory child, full of tactile defensiveness, as Goldilocks also navigates her very uncomfortable world before finding the comfortable sensations for her.

      Food that is
      Too hot
      Too cold

      Chairs that are
      Too hard
      Too soft

      Beds that are
      Too scratchy
      Too lumpy

    Looking at the story in that light certainly challenges the assumption that it's simply a tale about an ill-mannered child!

    For us, the theme was a larger one. We have one student bridging out of Early Childhood this year. He's 6 1/2 and ready to start First Grade next year, like Goldilocks opening the door to new explorations. And next year that is the classroom that will be JUST RIGHT for him. How incredibly exciting!

    We continued with our Songs, Verses & Movement for classroom routines.

    Circle Time

    Monday, May 13

    Our final porridge recipe today featured teff, the ancient grain from Ethiopia. It was delicious. We also enjoyed the exuberant rendition of "The Three Bears" from the Putamayo Kids CD Animal Playground, hearing the story in song form as a fun way to transition into our new fairy tale.

    In playtime, kids worked on picking up the tape line which we walked for our "Sweet Porridge" movement journey (laying down and then picking up masking tape lines on the floor is wonderful fine motor and walking them is gross motor). A whole new play of Baby Bunnies and Foxes began today, with the two littler boys curling up beside me as baby bunnies and the two older boys taking a break now and again from building a town with the blocks to come and pretend to be foxes, getting closer and closer and closer. It was so interesting to watch the boys experiment through play with being a little bit afraid, and they both had no problem speaking up immediately when it stopped being fun for them. Developmentally, this is very important work.

    The group engaged in Baby Bunny play for the whole rest of the two weeks, so clearly they were still drawn to it. The boys never played Baby Bunnies without being physically close to me, however. I'd sit on the sofa and they would say, "Let's be baby bunnies," and dive onto the cushions and curl up and ask me to cover them up with silks. I think it would have been too scary to be a bunny and meet a fox without a Mommy Bunny being quite nearby.

    On the last day the play wrapped up on its own and all of the children agreed that the foxes would be kind foxes the entire time.

    Tuesday, May 14 - Field Trip to the St. Louis Zoo

    Thursday, May 16

    • narration and dramatic play

    Today we reviewed the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and then I narrated it fully as the children and I acted it out, moving through the house from the kitchen table (where the porridge bowls were set out), to the dining room (complete with two big chairs and a little rocking chair), to the living room (where the sofa, the loveseat, and our Circle Time quilt on the floor acted as the three different beds). One child was Goldilocks, one was Baby Bear, one was Mama Bear, and I played the part of Papa Bear. It was so fun!

    Today I also had to sew a very large patch on Zac's bottom bedsheet from some overly exuberant scissors play on his part, so the children were very interested in watching that. Plus, it was Fruit Salad Day. Here was our list of group contributions for the final Fruit Salad of the year:


    Monday, May 20

    I actually love Stan & Jan Berenstain's retelling of this story best out of all the picture book versions I have! Truly. It's not too long; it's not too short; it's just right.

    Today we had beautiful weather so there was lots of outside play time. It mostly centered around transporting. The magnolia is about to flower and get its new leaves, so the old leaves from last season have fallen off in abundance. One group was collecting the leaves and using them to fill in holes they were happily digging. The other group made a boat out of the landscape timbers and was spearing "fish" by stabbing the leaves with sticks. They delighted in filling the sticks up with great bunches of pierced leaves.

    The children had a lot of curiosity around watching Becca and her grandmother as they were in the kitchen working on a Science experiment for Becca's current study of Chemistry. This was the "Hot-Air Balloon" from Awesome Physics Experiments for Kids, page 88. The younger children didn't need to know all about molecules and air pressure... they could simply enjoy the results of this very cool experiment!

    Tuesday, May 21

    We had the opportunity to act out this story in a new way, as a Circle Time movement adventure. Today was also a snuggly Pajama Day! And I saw a renewed interest in fine motor skills, with board games that feature balancing (like Pandabo), eeBoo lacing cards, and Moulin Roty hand puppets.

    On Thursday, May 23 and Friday, May 24 we celebrated birthdays and wrapped up the school year. And I hope everyone has a wonderful Summer!

    This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!