Matt's Blog

It has been awhile since I've gotten around to writing a blog entry. But, inspired by Mary Beth's Real English Manifesto, I thought it might be worthwhile to mention how I introduce Word Study (which in my class we call FWI -- Forensic Word Investigation) each year to the parents of my students.

Recent comments

  • Hi Matt, Great Post! I wish I had the eloquence to be able to articulate so succinctly the arguments raised in your post. I have been thinking lately how on earth language arts teachers can get away with teaching language the way they do without regards to concepts and principles in a manner that ...
  • Nice Matt. I've heard you tell this story and it does reveal the utter absurdity of the situation. Here's the line from your post that really hits home for me, "How many children are diagnosed because of their inability to make sense of nonsense?"  This makes me think of a frame I often toss out ...
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One of my fourth grade students from last year moved to Connecticut over the summer and enrolled in a new school for fifth grade, a well-known and highly-considered private school. His mother just visited today and told me the following story.

Or, as some of my students want to call it, Bluff Masters. Introduced a new class game yesterday, to replace Word Match (mentioned in a previous blog post), which we had already played for several months.

The new game is our take on the old British gameshow Call My Bluff. We divided into teams of 3. Each team was given a packet of slips for a single word. One slip had the definition, the other 2 said, "BLUFF!" All the slips had word sums, pronunciation (sorry, Melvyn, but I didn't use IPA, as it still takes them awhile to decipher it -- we need more practice), and etymology, and, for the first time playing, the Bluff slips included some hints for possible bluffs.

One of Melvyn's many talents is his ability to state important ideas in a way that is both succinct and memorable, often in the process solidifying something that I half knew or vaguely surmised without really thinking about it, such as when he said:

Dictionaries are descriptive, not presecriptive.

The students in my FWI classes were literally thrilled when I passed that little nugget along to them at the beginning of the school year, having been hammered all their lives with the dictionary-as-arbiter of real language routine.

This semester I was given an extra period with each section once a month, thus once again fulfilling my primary job, not as a teacher of Word Investigation, but as a plugger of scheduling holes. I decided that we should do something different with this occasional extra period, rather than just have another regular class (if a Word Investigation class can ever be called "regular").

So, I made a new game for the classes to play in teams, called Word Match. Here's how it works:

One of the many pleasures of using Real Spelling is how excited my students are about words. They are constantly emailing me things they have discovered, or bringing them up in class. Here are two from this past week.

Picayunalism? Picayunosity? Well, whatever ...

Several times now in Forum entries, Melvyn has been surprised to find that one of my word choices is not a dreaded "Californism." This is based on his assumption (a practice he abhors) that, because I currently live in California, I am, therefore, a Californian. Nothing could be further from the truth.

So, as one of our former presidents was wont to say, let me be perfectly clear -- I am NOT nor will I ever be, no matter how long I live here (and, please God, let that not be the rest of my life!), a Californian.