I was just reminded of this story by the great Ann Whiting from her Grade 7 class and had to share. Just consider the opportunity for learning Ann offers her studnets by giving them the ability to use orthographic research to uncover the meaningful connections between words in the process of their writing. 

While I highly encourage teachers to learn to work with matrices and word sums with their students, I also want to highlight that for this particular context, simply learning to work with etymology offered all the key information for the rich insights for this student, and his ability to express that understanding. 

Here is Ann's account of Oliver's brilliant work that is guided by orthographic investigation...

Rather than always checking with formal assessments, you know when key understandings of the principles of orthography are becoming internalized when unasked, this knowledge is spontaneously making its way into students’ essays. 

Oliver had initially struggled with word analysis, being dominated by a syllable mania which was leading to wild guessing at morphemes, but just recently something has shifted in his understanding as I discovered yesterday. Below, the final paragraph from Oliver’s essay on the Hitler Youth movement. 

"Seduce, with an underlying meaning ‘to persuade, to be lead away, lead astray, or to desert allegiance or service’ is from Latin ducere- ductus, to lead. Children were led and persuaded to ‘desert their responsibilities’, to ‘desert ‘ties between their families. Hitler Youth affected the entirety of Germany, it had a domino effect on those who were caught in it. The scandalous desire to belong drove the young down an unhealthy and unstable road. They sacrificed all they had, their freedom and loyalty. Preying on the young is a hideous way to take advantage of people and it comes in many shapes and sizes. The Hitler Youth was in the light of a growing cult, a cult which focused on playing with the illusion of belonging. Hitler cast his thrall over Germany’s children. They could not resist. Now he could bring his unrevealed purposes into the light."

In a writing conference with him yesterday he told me he’d also looked up ‘illusion’ to discover Latin ‘ludere -lusus’ had a denotation of ‘play’ and he used this idea in his phrase: ‘a cult which focused on playing with the illusion of belonging’. And if that wasn’t enough music to my word-nerdy ears, he said he’d also researched ‘cult’, and discovered its relationship to ‘cultivate’ and ‘colony’ and in a previous draft included images about Hitler planting seeds of hate and harvesting this to develop the third Reich, but felt it was a bit too much with what he already had!!! He had also checked out 'thrall' in the Online Etymology Dictionary and decided this was the perfect word for what he was trying to suggest! And Oliver is not alone, his other grade 7 peers are becoming more independent in their research and this is bubbling up into many of our investigations which is having a 'knock-on effect' in their writing and reading. I’ve even spotted hypothesized word sums in their annotations and scribbled paraphrases on their history readings!

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