Real Spellers

English Makes Sense!

Hey all,

A couple of days ago I visited the amazing Grade 7 blog by Ann Witing at the International School of Kuala Lumpur. I was so excited by what I saw that after I watched just the first video of two students investigating their investigation of the word education that I sent off an email to a group of colleagues that I knew would want to see it. I am now simply pasting that email in here to share some of the reasons why I think the work of these students, and the guidance of there teacher is so important to attend to. 
 
Here is the text of my email with some additional links etc...
 
I just started to watch the first video at the new post by Ann Whiting at her Grade 7 blog.

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The investigation of the word education that her students do -- how they use the word searcher and etymonline to develop and test hypotheses is just wonderful. Ann's ability to let the students make "errors" and not jump in to correct them is masterful. Watch how she lets them start with the base <duc> saying nothing, even though she knows it is <duce>. Because she does that, she gives the students the opportunity to catch their own mistake. She supplies only the most minimal of guidance necessary to for the students to stay on track. 
 
I would describe this as an inquiry-led learning session as the whole process is fuelled by the students questions, and their already existing knowledge of word structure and how to investigate in references like etymonline and the word searcher. Ann does actually know the structure of the word education and that helps her guide the session, but she offers as little as is ever needed to keep the investigation productive. 
 
Earlier today a  friend  who  is new to this work who has been working diligently on her own to support this kind of structured word inquiry in her school asked if I had any suggestions for an investigation that would be good for a Grade 6 class with a teacher that was hesitant. 
 
I offered a couple of possible ideas that both of which included using word sums and matrices, the word searcher and etymological information about the roots of words to determine the structure of a word, relatives that could be in same morphological family in a matrix, and to distinguish words that might share the same root, but not the same base. Those words are of the same etymological family, but not the same orthographic morphological family. (Here is a link I recommend to investigate this idea.)
 
I sent a note to her suggesting that if she studied this investigation of an inquiry-led investigation, she could practice this one so that she could use it as the basis of a "teacher-led inquiry" in which she helps novice students run into the same questions these well-experienced students encounter. By watching this investigation, that teacher new to this understanding, gets to see the trail of a real investigation, practice it and the construct a lesson that will take a similar path. That lesson won't be an inquiry-led session, but it will build the skills and knowledge necessary for her and her students to do the kind of independent inquiry -- the development and testing of hypotheses - that Ann has prepared her students to do.
 
Since I was passing this on to one teacher, I thought I'd send it on to a large group of people at vary different places in their learning about this work. We can all learn from this excellent example.
 
One more thing -- one thing I love about the videos like this that Ann and Dan put up on their sites is that they are clearly unedited videos that capture real investigations with false steps, and reframing of thinking. The camera bounces around, there are "lulls in the action" but that is what real inquiry looks like. I encourage you to keep going. 
 
I need to now go back and watch the following films. The first one was enough to get me riled up so I could lead you all to this amazing work...
 
Cheers,
 
Pete

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