I recently received a marvelous email from Diane Soffe a teacher in New Zealand who helped me organize my first 5-session video conference course on structured word inquiry with teachers attending from four separate computers at the same time. It is such a treat to be able to introduce teachers to this work over time so that they can try lessons out and then regroup, reflect and build our learning together.
I have long argued that there is no better assessment of the quality of instruction that the quality of the questions it sparks from students. We worked with the handout for constructing a <know> matrix that you can see along with related resources at this link.
Diane sent one one of the great emails that went out to the group on the next day about her experience with her Grade 4/5 class after having a go with her version of the <know> lesson we addressed in that first session.
With Diane's permission, I am sharing parts of that email. The questions her students ask are just so rich with leanring possibilities. I hope that by sharing these questions that will be famiilar to many real spellers, that they can get some feedback from our wider community to help guide them on their way...
I had a great session today with both the Year 9 and Year 10 classes. Mostly we got completely off topic and it was all good!
We started with the more complex matrix for <know> and worked from there. I followed quite a bit of the way you'd presented the ideas to us and we took off from there…
I also spent a considerable amount of time wondering around your web page and especially enjoyed many of the youtube clips you have there. It's so good to actually see someone in action - very powerful.
Ideas from the kids:
- Is it possible to know when to use <n> or <kn> for /n/?
- If we spell <learnt> (very common in NZ) <learned> how is it different from "the learned gentleman”?
- Why don't we take the <e> out of <knowledgeable>? (We have begun an ongoing investigation into this one with kids gathering examples from their reading.
- Why do we take the <e> out of <truly>?
It was very exciting to see so many students willing to ask so many questions, no matter what they were….
It also clearly shows the interest these students have in the way English really works.
We really did have a great time talking and investigating and remembering things that had been earlier investigated.
Most of them became quite engrossed in the matrix for <know> and treated it as a puzzle to be solved.
When I wrote back to Diane and the group, I explained how excited I was at these questions. I explained that these questions are quite literally questions that every experience real speller encounters along their journey of learning.
While "the answers" to these questions are not the point, I thought I'd share this groups question and invite our wider community to share and explain any hypotheses that they may have regarding any of thes questions. The great thing is that whether or not we find the answers these students are looking for in the new future, we know that there are reasons for the spellings these spelling scientists are studying.
I have no doubt that those who follow any of these trails of inquiry will deepen their udnerstandig of the elegant order of English spelling!