March On In to Word Studies with “Shamrock”!

Nearly 365 days ago I did a thing that I forgot about. I made a video of a word study that my students and I had begun investigating at the beginning of March 2020.  The pandemic had just shown it’s ugly face and lives all around the world were turned upside-down. At the time, we had just been sent home to try to figure out quarantining while teaching from home. We worried about the health of our children, our families, our students, friends, neighbors, even strangers. We had no idea how long the shut-down would last. We hoped it might only be a few weeks or months at the most– it was unfathomable. Nearly 1 year later, so much in our world has changed and yet we all try to do as many familiar things as we can to bring back a sense of what used to be, our norm. Our school just kicked off March Is Reading Month and soon it will be St. Patrick’s Day.

As I began thinking ahead to St. Patrick’s Day, I kept feeling like I’d forgotten something. I checked for my keys and wallet multiple times over the past few days. Finally, at the end of the school day today, it hit me — I had made a St. Paddy’s Day word investigation video last year!! I quickly searched my blog, but did not find it. I searched both of my YouTube channels, but did not find it. I searched my laptop and school computer hoping to find the video — no luck. Then dread set in as I recalled that the piece-meal computer system I had been using at home last year, which had suddenly been thrown into being overworked, died after a few weeks of teaching from home. Oh no! I sure hoped it wasn’t on ‘Ole Bessy, her memory left before she even knew it was gone. I vaguely recall several people commenting about how much they liked the video, that it had clearly demonstrated all four of the Essential Questions of SWI, so I must’ve posted it in my Facebook Group for Structured Word Inquiry at some point…..but where was the actual video file??

Finally, I remembered to check my Zoom account recordings!!   Oh, thank goodness! While organization has never been my strong suit, especially abstract computer files– this past year has been challenging to say the least– finding time to create lessons for a virtual setting took all the available time I had. Besides, I totally own my disorganized filing systems– it just isn’t in my wheel-house. I secretly feel giddy & satisfied when someone shares the meme that a messy desk is the sign of a genius (and stick my nose up at the meme that says an organized person is a sign of a genius –wink, wink!). I digress. At last, I have found it and done so in time for this year’s St. Patrick’s Day studies — I feel so relieved!


This video lesson takes you through an investigation started last March by one of my students who quietly wondered aloud if shamrocks shared any relationship to real rocks.  Students in my classes are not shy about asking questions about potential relationships because they know we can find the answer and that they will learn something even if their thought or question ends up inaccurate. I’m amazed at the questions they ask or the mutterings they verbalize even when they don’t realize they’ve asked them aloud! I often wonder how much confusion my previous students kept hidden in their too-afraid-to-ask minds before I taught SWI, that saddens me a bit.

I much prefer to relish in the joy of kids sharing what makes them curious.

My favorite mentor has a saying we have posted in our classroom, “Scholars are people who notice things” (and thanks to my friend, Mary Beth, we have an actual poster of that instead of having it scrawled in my handwriting on a piece of butcher paper!).

Visit Mary Beth’s blog to learn from her rich writings and order you own set of SWI posters


What happens when kids share their curiosity or their hypothesis about a word? First, let me tell you what does not happen; students do not hear, “Rocks, why would you think rocks is related to shamrocks?” nor “What? No! We don’t have time for that nonsense.”  OH NO, SIR!!

Instead, they hear,

“hmmmm… I’m not sure, what makes you wonder about this?” and

“Let’s go find out!”

Sometimes, we don’t get to the other lesson I had planned (but don’t tell my boss!); sometimes, the word is put on a Wonder Wall of Words We Are Curious About; sometimes, students investigate these on their own; sometimes they don’t; sometimes I squeeze out a few extra minutes to lead an investigation. In any case, they learn an awful lot about the sense & meaning and the structures of the language they speak, hear, read and write every day. They apply that knowledge to read with higher accuracy, at faster rates and most importantly, with higher comprehension. They write and spell with more accuracy and fluency. Even more than that, they remain curious and learn to think critically, knowing they need to find evidence to back up their hypothesis about a word sum or a related word.  This takes time. How much time? It takes the time it takes. Nothing is lost, only gains are made. They may momentarily depart from the lesson-at-hand but they will learn far more than the lesson-at-hand.

“They may get carried away and depart the text.” From Goodnight Opus, by Berkeley Breathed

When we study one word, we almost never only study one word.

The result is often one, two, three or more additional rabbit-holes/branches/paths/meanderings/jaunts/you-name-its……and it’s wonderful, scholarly and addicting!

I hope you enjoy learning about the history and relationships of the word shamrock and the many other words we encounter in this video. There are 2 parts — after minute 15 or so the initial work with shamrock is finished. But why stop there? There is a second part that may surprise you even more. Happy March Is Reading Month and Happy St. Patrick’s Day 2021!

Are We Cemented in Common Practices?

Image credit: Eghtesad Online

“Common cement,” uttered by a young 7th grade student took my breath away.

We were analyzing words, phrases and sentences from a novel he was reading that had been giving him difficulty in understanding details in the story.

He had been reading a story about a young couple from his hometown set back in the late 1940’s, early 1950’s. He understood most of the plot and setting well enough but some of the details were fuzzy or downright confusing.  As he read about this young couple who were going to a “Commencement Dance” he became confused. He thought they were headed to an event of some kind but didn’t know the meaning of the word “commencement”. Once he landed on this word, which he attempted to sound out using syllabication skills taught in previous years, he read it as,  [ˈkɑmən sə ˌmɛnt]. He read this in a hurried kinda-way since he was not confident with his pronunciation of the word and he had no idea what common cement and a dance could mean.  I was surprised he’d read this word as a phrase but after a moment or so I could see how it was possible for him to come to this conclusion. How devastating for his comprehension of the detail the image in this part of the story is supposed to evoke.  

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Curious About Curiosity?

I am.

I care how this word evolved over time so I can learn about it’s orthography (spelling).

I care about my own wonderings about other words these two could possibly be related to so I will study the etymology of these words.

I care to try to understand the suffixes in this word, there’s WAY more to it than just trying to remember that ‘curious’ has a <u> and ‘curiosity’ does not.

Most of all, I care to bring understanding of this language that we speak so easily, to my students who struggle to either read, spell, comprehend or any combination of those.

This makes me curious. Curious to learn more and more about how the English language is structured. Is it possible to bring sense or order to spelling?

One thing I remember hearing often as a child was the phrase, “curiosity killed the cat,” which in some small but profound way, ebbed at my innate curiosity each time I asked a question and was met with the phrase by an adult.

Eventually, I began to stop wondering, stop questioning, stop thinking when words, individual or in groups, didn’t make sense. I saw my students doing the same thing.

Fortune rained down one afternoon during one of my many, fervid internet searches for a better way to teach phonics. I found the same components of what I’d been doing, repackaged in oodles of programs, but I also stumbled upon something different.

Something led by wondering, questioning and thinking. Something built on scientific principles of inquiry, hypothesizing, testing theories, research and the building of actual evidence within the language itself! 

I had clicked on a presentation given by Dr. Pete Bowers of Word Works Kingston on Structured Word Inquiry (also known as Scientific Word Investigation).  Boy, was my curiosity piqued!! He was talking about spelling in a way that made sense!  In a way that connected words to other words!  He was not looking for patterns or chunks or sounding words out.  He wasn’t doing any of the strategies that every other program was touting.  He wasn’t even teaching or selling a program, he was simply uncovering the sense and order of the real and true structures of our language and he’d been doing it with elementary students.

My curiosity got the best of me for the next few years.  I’ve reopened wondering, questioning and thinking about spelling, reading, ….well, all of literacy actually.  There is an oasis beyond phonics, beyond whole language, beyond balanced literacy and beyond memorizing spelling lists. And it isn’t just studying morphology. It is the interrelationship (dependency on each component) of morphology, etymology and phonology that drive the structures of this language.  Each of these ‘ologies can influence the how and why of orthography.


Here’s an example of a small word study we are doing for the kick-off of the Positivity Project at our school.  The first character trait we will study is ‘curiosity’.

Historically, the words ‘curious’ & ‘curiosity’ link back to the Modern Day English (MDE) word ‘cure’ and even further back, to the Latin etymon ‘cura‘ which has an orthographic denotation of (sense of meaning of)care”.

When one is curious or his/her curiosity is piqued, one cares so much, he/she wants to know more.

Analytic Word sums (separate [verb] the orthographic morphemes):

  • curious —>   cure/ + i + ous                                            
  • curiosity —> cure/ + i + ose/ + i + ty

[the / bracket indicates that the vowel suffix replaced the preceding single, final, non-syllabic <e>, which is one of the 3 spelling conventions]  

Many people look at morphology, but if you also study the etymology (true sense & history), you can find more words in this family — this is where meaningful connections are really made!!

Synthetic word sums:                                                          Spelling convention applied:                   (bring together morphemes)

ac + cure/ + ate —>                            accurate                      (replace <e>)

ac + cure/ + ace/ + y —>                    accuracy                     (replace <e> 2x’s)

in + ac + cure/ + ace/ + y —>           inaccuracy                     (replace <e> 2 x’s)

in + ac + cure/ + ace/ + y/i + es —> inaccuracies                  (replace <e> 2x’s; toggle <y> to <i>)

se + cure ->                                         secure                       (No spelling conventions applied)

se + cure/ + i + ty —>                          security                     (replace <e>)

mane/ + i + cure —>                       manicure                      (replace <e>)

pede/ + i + cure —>                         pedicure                      (replace <e>)

All words in this family carry the sense of ‘care’ in them.

  • accurate:      done with care 
  • inaccurate:   not done with care
  • secure:         free from care of dread or danger
  • manicure:     caring for one’s hands;
  • pedicure:      caring for one’s feet

There are many more and plenty of evidence for that Replace the <e> spelling convention too:

         cure/ + able →           curable

 in + cure/ + able →            incurable

         cure/ + ate/ + or →     curator

pro + cure →                       procure


But it isn’t necessary to represent every word in a word family…besides, it leaves you curious for more, doesn’t it?!

Studying the etymology of a word is far more valuable than many people recognize or understand.       It uncovers meaningful connections. 

It is in these connections and in these denotations that depth of meaning finds a new layer to anchor to, causing comprehension to increase.

  Another way to represent word families is in a Lexical Word Matrix:

If your curiosity is piqued, you can learn more from the many resources listed on the Resources and Blogs tabs of this website.  I highly suggest watching the embedded video above and taking a look at the research links on Word Works Kingston’s website.  A colleague recently posted a stellar article on her website, Learning About Spelling that you may also want to read. Two more superb articles that explain SWI well are linked here (Mrs. Steven’s Classroom Blog) and here (Ann Whiting of Word Nerdy).  Word Works has a host of research articles linked here. Of course, you’re always welcome to post your wonderings, questions and musings below as well.

Enjoy curiosity, it’s a characteristic that has created inventions, life-saving devices, solved world problems and so much more….I bet the guys at Positivity Project are full of curiosity!  


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Please Don’t Make Pleas!

Spellbound by the connections I see in word families, morphemes and etymons, I dreamily mutter, “What’s more pleasing than finding out that English spelling really does make sense?!?”

“Are you joking? No it doesn’t!” some plea. Others quip, “English has too many words in which the spelling does not make sense!”

“Give me an example of this nonsense,” I plead.

A distraught person nearly shouts, “My students never spell ‘please‘ right, they leave off the final <e> (*pleas). I can see why they do this; the digraph <ea> says the sound for ‘eee’ already. That extra <e> on the end is not even necessary!”

Another adds, “Well, I can never remember to put the <a> in the middle (*plese) because the <e> on the end already makes the first vowel say its name.”

“Oh! this simply will not do,” I plead, “We must open our eyes and our minds to the structures of words!”

The room begins to buzz with even more tension and grumblings of ways people misspell this word!  I gather my voice, talk above the rest and scratch out the word ‘please’ on the whiteboard in front of me.  “Please, let’s investigate, let’s see if there is more to be discovered other than letters and sounds.”  The buzz in the room begins to settle and we begin our journey with one simple word.

Click the video link to view the Power Point presentation:


This version of the video includes an explanation of the lesson:




Happy About Spelling on International Day of Happiness

We are too happy about spelling on International Day of Happiness not to share these unedited videos!

With at least 5 unfinished drafts about our learnings from this year in my Draft folder — I’m just gonna make this entry short but sweet for fear of running out of time to complete the post!  One thing’s for sure, when one begins to understand a language that previously appeared to be crazy or weird, one does not want to post about it in a way that is less than scholarly — so as it often happens, I begin writing, then want to double check my work (for good reason!!).  Then the enemy of lack of time and my personal need for extended processing time interrupt that all-important work.  I actually don’t mind in some ways because when I set something aside for a bit then come back to it, I see errors or less than accurate information that I know I can fix or I learn something in-between time and am glad I waited to post so I could clear it up.

Today however, is not one of those days — this topic is time-sensitive.  We are participating, school-wide in the International Day of Happiness today so my groups began investigating the words ‘happy’, ‘happiness’, ‘happily’, etc. to see what we could learn about their spelling.



We tried taping ourselves during the lesson but it did not work out so instead, I taped myself giving a mini-lesson.  The first video is a condensed version — 7 minutes long — about the relationships between the spellings of words in the family ‘happy’.   (NOTE:  volume increases about half-way into it)




The 2nd video is longer and more packed with information about structured word inquiry, matrices, orthography, relationships of words, histories of words, etc. — it lasts about 15 minutes (NOTE:  sound begins 15 seconds into it).



Both videos/lessons are not perfection — what lesson ever is? I would change things if I had time for editing and software to do it. For example, in the 7 minute video, I totally transpose the letters <i> and <y> in one section, and I used ‘happy’ in a sentence and called it a noun, but it is an adjective (She is happy.); but I think the overall understandings can be gleaned from the videos and that the information serves its purpose. At some point, I will remake them but would rather explain errors at this point and move forward with investigating more about this base.

We have plans to take this learning even deeper by further analyzing the word ‘happy’ and looking for more relatives — watch for that video soon!

Go out and spread some happiness!  It’s contagious!

There’s Strength in Learning about Lovely Valentines

These past few days my groups have been learning about the structures of words that we use often in the middle of February….. love and Valentine. We learned the origins of each of these words.  <love> comes from Old English and is a free base (can be a word on its own without any affixes).  We learned that <valentine> comes from Latin and has a bound base of <vale> (a bound base is an element that must have an affix attached to surface as a word in English).  Bound bases are very useful and can be hidden in many other words but only those that share the etymon (the denotation of the root word) are related.

We finished analyzing words to see which elements each was made from, looking for connections of meaning and structure along the way. Some of the words we analyzed:

loving –>     love + ing    (spelling convention: replace single, silent, final <e>)

loved –>      love + ed

lovely–>       love + ly

loveliness–> love + ly + ness   (spelling convention change y to i)

lovebugs –>  love + bug + s  (compound word: no spelling convention)

lovable –>     love + able  (hmm…2 acceptable ways to spell this one!)

unloved –>  un + love + ed    (prefix: no spelling convention; suffix — yes)

beloved –>  be + love + ed    (hint — we’ll talk about this one later)

Along with these wonderfully, lovely word sums, we also discussed the parts of speech each of these words can be — may depend on how it is used in context — grammar, grammar, everywhere!

He loves pizza. (verb)

Oh, pizza and steak, my two favorite loves! (noun)

The girl has a beloved dog. (adj.)

That dog is her beloved. (noun)

We also learned that some words have more than one way to pronounce them, like ‘beloved’ which can be /bəlʌvd/ or /bəlʌvɪd/ — the suffix <-ed> has an allophone — more than one way to pronounce this grapheme. We analyzed and organized our list of affixes into a matrix.  We made a rough draft before making a final copy to display in the hallway.

One of the last things this lovely group of 3rd graders did, was to learn about other words that may or may not have a direct relationship with <love>. We did not find any relatives that share the same etymon even with a different spelling so we did not have any words to place in the oval (words that share etymon AND structure, spelling of the base, go in the matrix; words that share an etymon but not the same spelling of the base go in the oval).

We did have a few words that are often synonymous with ‘love’ or used to show our love for our friends such as:  caring, kind, and friend.  We placed those words outside of the oval on our white papers.

We found a word that shares the same letters and sounds as our word, it was <glove>.  But, we quickly determined that their was no meaningful relationship to <love>.  In this 30 second video, you’ll see the kids practicing this learning… takes a lot of thinking to see letters with our eyes and hear phonemes with our ears and STILL understand that they are in no way related.  There are only 26 letters in the alphabet, you know, so there are bound to be repeated letters and sounds but without a meaningful connection, those are just random things to remember.  We have proven, through the progress and confidence the students are gaining with studying the structures and meanings of words, that the letters and sounds just are not as important to our learning as the meaning and structure connections.

The fifth grade group tackled the bound base element <vale> which denotes strength, worth, power, health” and is part of the word ‘valentine’ –we were surprised to learn it did not mean love but we can see how its denotations are meaningful.  When we give a valentine to our friends or loved ones, we are showing them the strength of our affection or friendship with them.

Some of the words we were surprised to find connected with this base element whose origin is the same Latin etymon of valere, are ‘convalescent’ and ‘convalesce’.

con + vale/ + esce/ + ent –>  convalescent

con + vale/ + esce –>  convalesce

What most of us thought of as ‘an old folks home’ is actually a place to live while one regains strength and health.  Clearly, this is a related word and provides a much deeper connection to both valentine and these two words.    We also learned that the pronunciation shifts on the suffix <-esce> from a short /e/ to a long /e/ (IPA  /ɛ/ to  /i:/).

Studying bound bases of Latin origin often generates much longer lists of related words, both inside the matrix as well as inside the oval, so this group needs a bit more time to complete their work.  They are working in pairs or trios and have had many days with one or both partners is absent (we may need to study viruses next!), however, one group was lucky enough to have less interruptions and has displayed their work.

Our first graders were in on the action too —                                                                 creating a valuable [vale/ + u + able –> ] resource for their learning as well!

We hope you have a lovely Valentine‘s Day with your loved ones and we hope your love is [equ + i + vale + ent –>]  equivalent to that of an ocean!

History in the Making

Today was an historical day in the world of working together as a group and as learners who are generally challenged by the English language.  Today, the students broke out of the shell that has encapsulated them most of their lives through searching for meaning and structure of a word and by helping each other reason out a word sum with NO teacher prompting, guided questioning or leading.  This moment was so rich and so profound, I had to take a breath in to hold back a tear or two from escaping my gleeful, smiling eyes.

We started the lesson by looking at a Social Studies chapter from their General Education classroom — quite happily, I am able to support their reading, spelling, & writing by doing SWI (Structured Word Inquiry) with concepts and vocabulary from their GE curriculum.  I asked what they needed to understand deeper/better about the chapter on Native Americans. They said they were not able to tell what the words in red ink meant (vocabulary words).  We made a list:  origin stories, migration route, environments, & adapt.  

We looked at the first term in parts:  first we tackled <stories>.  I wrote this word on the board and asked the students to analyze it as we did last school year (without guidance which would help me determine how much review would be required and plan future lessons).  When the group grew quiet with uncertainty, I encouraged them to hypothesize the structure of this word — reminding them that a hypothesis allows us to think and not worry about correctness — we would test out each theory, we would find evidence to determine which hypothesis is right or wrong and we always learn from both of those experiences.

Within a few seconds, downcast eyes began to lift to the board and I could see their minds shift gears.  A few still met with trepidation while still a few others raised their hands to give it a try.

Here’s what was suggested from <stories>:

  • Student #1 said:             <stor>  + <ies>
  • Student #2 said:             <store>  + <s>
  • Student #3 said:             <story/(i)>  + <es>      “s-t-o-r-y, change y to i; plus es”

It is here that the real learning began when St #2 declared,  “OH!! I see what I forgot! My word sum needs to be <store + …….i? no….I forgot the <i> but….hmmm” and he trailed off, clearly recognizing that he knew he was forgetting something but couldn’t make it fit his word sum.    Then St #3 said, “I think mine’s right ‘cuz I remember, ‘change y to i when you add <es>'”.  Student #2 defended his use of <store> and St #1 quickly reminded him that <store> is pronounced /stor/ not /story/. Another student chimed in to say that <store> is a place you buy things from and the collective agreement from the group was audible, “Oh yeah!” which came loudest from St #2.

From here, much discussion ensued among the majority of kids who were present. The quietest kids were the 2 who are new to our group this year.  There was a wonderful debate, very mature, no demanding tones or indignation; simply discussion of meaning and suffixes and spelling conventions.  All the while, I stood there, biting my lip to stop myself from interjecting to provide clarity, guide or lead.  The students did not need me to interrupt their remembering of past lessons or the processing of the 2 words before them.  While they discussed and debated, the one thing that rang clear for me as I simply watched and took this moment in, was that they were all around the evidence but no one was confident in declaring why their word sum worked or did not work, even St #3 who appeared to understand the relationship between <stories> and <story> and who’d rattled off the spelling convention with ease or the others who agreed with this convention.  Some of the students were not convinced that <store> and <story> were not the same (a few forget that <e> is silent at the end).

After I shared my absolute joy with the group at their stellar debate, I drew a picture on the board –the rectangle barely surfaced before someone blurted out that I was drawing a store and our word is stories, they do not mean the same thing! And yet, still the connection was not quite solidified in their minds (quizzical looks on their faces told the story!).  So I asked them, “What are stories?; Are they buildings where you can buy things?” Answers drew us to the conclusion that stories are the plural form of story and a story is something you can tell or write that tells about something.  Once the students saw the connection to the singular form <story> they were confident they were on the right meaning track and their use of the spelling convention of changing <y> to <i> was applicable.

We then looked at the hypotheses on the board and began to reason out their accuracy with the evidence we had come up with: <story> as the base word; spelling convention of changing <y> to <i> when adding a vowel suffix (more to this convention at a later date). We reasoned we had no evidence, past or present, for an <-ies> suffix and that <stor> was not a bound or free base element.  We recognized that <store> + <s> would give us the plural form of <stores> where we buy things.  In conclusion, St #3’s hypothesis made sense in its structure and meaning.

As a group we celebrated this moment of connection, meaning, and mountain of evidence we’d collected. The next little gem of knowledge was about to be unveiled — not given, but unveiled through thinking, linking it to SS, and physically clipping off a piece of paper …. the students eventually recognized that the word <story> is a clip of the word <history>!

A lot of time had gone by and we hadn’t even gotten to complete the first vocabulary word!  No fear, no worries, only smiles and a sigh of awesomeness; I know these students gained more from these last 20 minutes than they would have had we read the terms from their book with the definition and tried to memorize them (besides, they’d already tried it that way and were here, asking for help with these terms!).

So, onto the first part of this term, <origin>:  a quick look at Etymonline revealed the denotation of the Latin nominative root origo “a beginning, a start, source, descent, lineage, birth”; putting these two words together, gave the students a deeper sense of what their text book meant by Native American origin stories.  These would be stories that reveal the history of this culture, from the beginning of its time, not their current culture or stories. The students’ tone and gestures told me all I needed to know– they understood with deeper meaning — how do I know?  I saw it in their exuberant smiles, heard their cheer, watched them lift their arms in victory — that’s as real as it gets!

We had minutes to spare before the end of the session, so we tackled <migration> our hypotheses came at rapid speed, the discussion and debate even faster.


We quickly ascertained that 2 of the hypothesese were not even going to be up for consideration — as one student loudly proclaimed, “<-tion> can’t be a suffix — remember the video from last year?!?! We proved it!”  I couldn’t resist pointing out that the there would have to be 2 <t>’s in <migration> if we had one at the end of the base and one at the beginning of the suffix as well — hey, the more the evidence ithe better, right?!   Before we ended the session (Mrs. B’s stomach was growling, it was lunchtime for me!) we all felt very comfortable with <migrate> as a base with <ion> as the suffix. Tomorrow, we will begin testing our final hypothesis that <migr> is a bound base by looking at Etymonline and the Word Searcher.

Take a moment to notice the poster hanging in the picture above, it is of a caterpillar’s journey to becoming a butterfly with a quote from Real Spelling’s Michel, that says, “Scholars are people who notice things“.  The poster was inspired by Mary Beth Steven, a teacher in Wisconsin who blogs about her class’ SWI learnings, she made a big poster of this quote for her classroom and shared it with our SWI community.  I found it too valuable not to copy! When kids notice things that build on their learning or solidify a concept or denounce a theory, it’s worth pointing out to them.  It makes them stronger learners, more aware of what makes sense and in turn, builds their confidence.

I am excited to continue noticing these little scholars’ learning this year!

Celebrate Good Times

The end of another year has arrived.  This is always such special time of year, when we celebrate all that the students have accomplished and we say good-bye to our 5th grade students who move onto the next school building for 6th grade.


(Did you notice how many words have the suffix ?!?! Remember why we drop the non-syllabic !)


celebr + ate/ + ed –>  celebrated

celebr + ate/ + ing –>  celebrating

celebr + ate/ + ory –> celebratory

celebr + ate/ + ion + s–>  celebrations

celebr + ity –>  celebrity

celebr + ity/ (i) + es –>  celebrities


Each of my groups has their own celebration in which we pass out awards for demonstration of character traits that make each of us unique or that help our group learn well together.  It’s one of my favorite times of the year.  While we compliment or acknowledge many of these traits daily during our group time, there’s just something special about being recognized on paper — seeing the kids eyes sparkle, a smile form and seeing them sit a little taller after receiving their official recognition makes these moments special.

Ah, the 5th graders….such a tearful time — while I smile and celebrate with them, I am always holding back tears of knowing that I will miss them.  The crew this year, have all been with me for at least 2 years, some as long as 4 years.  I’ve watched them grow as learners and as young people. I’ve experienced a large part of their early learning journey with them.  After we passed out our Character Trait Awards, we read a poem and letter I wrote to each of them and feasted on some delicious pizza and snacks.  We ended our celebration with a game of Pie Face….it involves a huge dollop of whipped cream, a timer and a slap-stick hand that if you’re unlucky, or lucky…depending on how you look at it, may come splatting into your face!  Such a fun way to celebrate an especially fun group of kids!

Whipped Cream-Nosed Selfie

Whipped Cream-Nosed Selfie

Scroll down for a few pics and video clips of us anticipating getting creamed!  The videos uploaded sideways..don’t know why…but still fun to watch–be sure to turn on your sound too!

Thanks to all my students for a fantastic year of great learning!  Have a wonderful and relaxing summer!


Love, Mrs. B

The Debut of the SWI News!!


They decided that others needed to know about this suffix information,

so they created the SWI News

Please take a few minutes (6 min and 12 seconds to be exact) to watch this informative and entertaining newscast.  The students are hopeful that teachers will show the video to their students and they are eager for their families to watch.  They are excited to pass along this nugget of knowledge to you!  Feel free to post a question or comment as well.


These 5th graders are hoping to make this a monthly Newscast Series to bring you the latest orthographic conventions, evidence and knowledge.  Orthography is spelling and they know that if you can spell a word, you can read a word!!

Today’s segment questions the suffix <-tion> and provides evidence of the real suffix being         <-ion>.

Note: after reviewing their first filmed event, the group would like to add a few notes for clarity.

  • When announcing word sums (base + suffix) they would like to point out that the word ‘equals’ should have been the phrase ‘is rewritten as’.
  • In the next video, they want to be sure to announce the spellings of each word instead of saying the base and spelling the suffix.
  • They would also like to clarify why there may be an ‘e’ crossed off on some of the base words. This is due to a common spelling convention of dropping the final, single, silent e when adding a vowel suffix. They also think this spelling convention might be a good one to make for their next newscast!

Thank you for your understanding of any small faux-pas due to their nerves as they participated in their very first filmed event!  We want to thank you for watching and hope that you learned something new today!


Mrs. Barnett and the Star Group wish to thank our videographer and mentor, Fenton High School Senior, Nick Campbell for his time, videotaping & editing skills and for his advice on Newscasting!!

Greed and Patience

Matrix_greedThe Diamond Group (4th graders) are studying Fables at the moment.  A common theme among the fables we are reading is greed.  This theme also provided a nice transition from our author study of Patricia Polacco who often writes and speaks of bullying and the consequences of greed.  Last Friday we watched a speech she gave at a school in which she talked about greed, bullying and learning disabilities along with kindness, compassion and finding one’s own strengths.  The students listened to her set ground rules before she passed the wishing stone  around to the kids to make wishes upon. I was humbled by the understanding my students had of why she set rules that they could not wish for anything that could be bought for them or done for them….no money, toys, etc., that greed was likely to take over and they’d want more. She also said they could not wish to change anybody, because we can take action to help someone by showering each other in kindness.  The students gave exceptional responses to the discussions we held after the video, some even surprised me with their self-reflections and grasp of the message she intended to convey. (Click on the above link to view the video)

This week, as we began studying the theme of greed in fables, The Goose with the Golden Eggs, The Lion and the Hare and The Stonecutter Who was Never Satisfied (all found on, we also wrote word sums with the free base word <greed>.  Digging into a word study takes time and leads to distraction — in a good way–the best way, actually.  It leads to reviewing what the word means, what it doesn’t mean, connections to their own lives, and noticings by the students (“Oh! I see a ‘y’ suffix like we did last week…” and “Wait, what about the word …”).  We didn’t get as far with the reading of these fables as I wanted to, but I spent a glorious amount of time being impressed by the kids’ reading and reasoning skills as they came across unfamiliar words–this is another amazing distraction that warrants spending quality time praising their efforts, their noticings and wonderings– “Look Mrs. B., I can cover up the <-ly> suffix and I can see the beginning is <even> but I’m not sure if <tual> is another suffix or a base” — how can you ignore the richness of this type of wondering?  It’s impossible unless the clock runs out…which of course it did.  But alas, there’s always tomorrow!

It was on the second day, I got greedy!  The lessons we do with SWI take longer than many other things we do because we go off on many different trails.  While these trails are rich and deep and filled with discovery and meaning, I fight the battle with Father Time….I want it ALL — time to dig deep and practice reading and writing text; but 45 min goes by far too quickly.  In my greed, I planned to start the lesson with an Entrance Ticket, which is a way for the kids to show me what they remember from the prior lesson; which I thought we’d finish in 2-3 minutes then have time to finish reading the stories and move on to the comprehension questions.   The best laid plans were meant to be broken, reminding me of the flexible nature of teaching.  On this Entrance Ticket was the task to write 2 of the word sums from the day before and 1 additional word that wasn’t covered.  The kids wrote two of the few we’d done the previous day:

greed + y –>  greedy

greed + y (i) + er –>  greedier

greed + y (i) + ness –>  greediness


However, when they each came up with their own, it did not make sense. I was surprised that in the silence of this 2-3 minute task, all of the kids (group of 5) chose the same suffix or derivation of it with the same ending result — a word they thought sounded like our word, but had a completely different meaning!  The words were:

greed + ing –>  greeding

greed + ing + s –>  greedings

I was completely surprised and not surprised at the same time.  Surprised because, after so many lessons about meaning being central to any word study coupled with feedback from the kids during previous lessons, I felt the kids knew that whatever word they came up with had to connect to the base word of <greed>.   However, they had just demonstrated that the sounds they process in their mind independently, often do not assimilate with meaning yet which does not surprise me.  Language processing is often a weaker area for people who struggle with reading.  Words often sound a lot like other words.  Lately, because of the holiday season, they’ve been hearing ‘greetings‘ quite often.  When we discussed the meaning of that word, they knew instantly that it did not connect with the meaning of ‘greed’ and yet, they still had such quizzical looks on their faces….they were certain these two sounded just alike.  After some practice with the 2 base words and feeling where our tongue taps as we say the /t/ and /d/ sounds (eureka! — it’s in the same spot! — just a difference of air flow — try it!) the quizzical looks dissipated and heads began to nod in understanding.

I learned that I need to take a step back and sideways sometimes … provide more opportunities for the kids to independently practice writing their own word sums more often.  I think up til now, I’ve provided more guidance than I realized.  Time to gently push them out of the nest and begin to flap their own wings and make these discoveries of connecting what we hear/say to the intended meaning.  I also learned that I need to be more patient with the pace of the lessons.  If I had rushed this lesson, maybe skipped the Entrance Ticket, I may have missed a very crucial opportunity to right a misunderstanding.

Watching the students’ faces go from confusion to “ah-ha!” when they finally recognized why ‘greeding‘ was not the same as ‘greeting‘ but also that they were not alone in their misunderstanding and that paying attention to how sounds are formed in the mouth can be a clue too, was pure joy.  Joy in the fact that they felt the discovery — I led them there with questioning and wonderings but they made the discoveries.  There is joy in making mistakes when we celebrate the things we learn because of it.

I learned that I if I am greedy with my expectations in teaching with SWI, we risk losing grand opportunities to learn at a deeper level than is recognizable on the surface.  I learned that although I can’t see how we will fit everything in this school year, that if I am patient, I will be open to setting up and recognizing these moments which will be of much greater benefit to the students than rushing through to the finish line.

Hmmmm…..there is another fable I am reminded of……….The Tortoise and the Hare……I believe that fits well here!