Friday, October 16, 2020

The Saints Block and SWI

Our homeschool co-op met remotely instead of in person this week, and the children doing the Saint stories read St. Christopher, St. Jerome, and St. Werburgh at home for Week 2 of their Saints block. I have been working with a child in California on the Saints block as well, and realized that my notes from combining the Saints and SWI with her -- which I was going to post when we were done -- might be helpful to my Illinois families too. So I am posting this midway through the block and will do a Part II later on.

Here are some thoughts of word explorations that might be good tie-ins.

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Doing the Saints block with an SWI twist. SWI and its explicit teaching of orthography is key for students in second grade in a Waldorf school for whom reading has not "clicked." Go ahead and get systematic. Don't wait!

If working with a child remotely on Zoom for this, which I was, I like to use Stormboard. The three columns and stickie note format are helpful for SWI. You can color-code the stickie notes. I do them as follows:

When you are having your "In the Family / Not in the Family" conversation, just double-click in the column where you'd like the stickie to go and then type what you want on it. At the top you can choose your color. Hit enter and the stickie will appear. They can then be dragged around if needed. Another nice feature, if you give the tutoring client access, is that the parents and children can also go in and add stickies to the board when they think of other words that are in the word family later when you are not in session.

Remember: to be in the family, a word must have both a meaning connection AND a spelling connection (in other words, be built upon the same base). We also are doing the thing where you show with your hands how a word is built. A fist for a base and two fingers beside it for a prefix or suffix. A compound word like fireplace would be two fists put side by side.

We do the telling of the story, writing the summary, and adding an illustration steps -- just as you always do in Waldorf -- but then we also tack on a quick exploration of a key word. At this introductory point, it is playing "In the Family / Not in the Family" with a group of words. We aren't going into etymonline together, although I may have it open on my phone as a resource. I can simply tell her a simple version of the etymology if she asks, or look for other words built on the same base, but I'm not pulling it up on a Screen Share. Too visually overwhelming when you're a struggling reader!

Here are the Saint stories we did and the related words we explored:

Saint Kevin and the Blackbird
story source: Saints Among the Animals by Cynthia Zarin, page 64
SWI exploration of < protect >

our words were protect, protected, love, protection, cage, water, protective

A Story About Saint Hilda

story source: Saints Among the Animals by Cynthia Zarin, page 35
SWI exploration of < stone >

our words were stone, stones, stonefish, stoning, birthstone, whetstone, pebble, hailstone, door, sandstone, smoothie

we did discuss that the word < smoothie > as a drink is not in the family, BUT you could potentially make a new compound word < smoothiestone >, in which case it would be in the family!

The Giant at the Ford, St. Christopher
story source: The Giant at the Ford and Other Legends of the Saints by Ursula Synge, page 9
SWI exploration of < brave >

our words were brave, braves, braver, bravest, braveheart, strong, bravery, chair, braved, bravado, bravo

continuing to push our explorations with the idea of the replaceable < e >, two suffixes, and words that may be cousins (morphological relatives share a base; etymological relatives share a root)

there is a difference between having the same modern-day spelling pattern (base) and sharing a long-ago Greek or Latin relative (root)

St. Jerome, the Lion and the Donkey
story source: The Giant at the Ford and Other Legends of the Saints by Ursula Synge, page 37
SWI exploration of < instructions >

introduction to prefixes, explanation of free base vs. bound base, introduction to the idea that the spelling carries the meaning

art note: there are instructions on how to draw a lion in Drawing Simple Animal Forms by Live Education!

Werburgh and the Troublesome Geese
story source: The Giant at the Ford and Other Legends of the Saints by Ursula Synge, page 150
SWI exploration of < pot >

You don't have to use Stormboard; you can also play "In the Family / Not in the Family" with a hula hoop. Or even a loop of string! I like to do this as a Word Bag, where I write each word on an index card and we pull it out of the bag and decide if it's in the family. Fiona Hamilton suggests not always looking things up right away, but focusing on having kids think things through and make hypotheses. She says that cards with words they are sure go in the family go IN the hula hoop, cards with words they are sure are not in the family go OUTSIDE the hula hoop, and cards that kids have a question about go ON the hula hoop. And those are the most interesting ones!

Here are 20 possible words for a Word Bag for < pot >:









flower pot












If you want to create your own list, a way to search for words that contain a string of letters is the website Word Searcher by Neil Ramsden. I just typed in "pot" and got a huge list of words that have those three letters in sequence... no guarantee of relationship. Like "hypothesized."

To check and see if you are correct about the relationship of words, I suggest the Online Etymology Dictionary by Douglas Harper. < Pot > comes from Old English pott. Any word that you look up the etymology of that does NOT go back to this same word pott is not in the hula hoop.

When kids get into more sophisticated word study, you can point out that there are actually two kinds of relatives. Morphological relatives share a base (a modern-day spelling pattern) and etymological relatives, which are more like cousins, share a root (a historical word from a language like Greek or Latin). For example, < tree > and < true > go back to the same Proto-Indo-European root *deru-.

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