[NOTE: The string of comments on this investigation got disconnected when Matt had to reboot the system after being hacked. If you've ended up here, read along - but the richest post to see the context for this is HERE. I recommend going there after reading this post. This was the very first post on this topic, but the link gives you the overview of the investigation and resources etc.]

Hello Real Spellers,

I just received a brilliant email from my friend Fiona at the Riffa Views International School in Bahrain. I have been doing some on-line work with them, and I could not be more pleased to get this email from them as my first student-led question of 2013.

I am pasting in the text of the email I received from Fiona the literacy coach who was first asked the question about the spelling of the base <come> from a Grade 2 student. I want to share the text in full as the original question of the student and the scientific inquiry that Fiona and her team of teacher took on is just exemplary. There are important answers to this question, but before we get to any answers, I want people to attend to the fact that the way the student first asks the question, and then the way Fiona and her fellow teachers investigate and than ask their question is crystal clear evidence of advanced understanding of English orthography and how to begin an investigation.

The Grade 2 student identifies a rich question and then explains his/her own independent investigation that eliminates some plausible hypotheses. Note that this young student reveals and reinforces her/his knowledge of some conventions for the final, single, silent <e> through asking this question by the act of showing they do not provide the answer to the question. This includes a convention that I did not know until I encountered in Real Spelling during my 9th year as a classroom teacher!

Although I'm delighted that this young student has learned to perceive and ask a question in this way this does not surprise me. I see questions of this calibre from young students very frequently. What really made my day with this question was the quality of the investigation/question posed by Fiona and her team of scholars.

You will see from the email that they very carefully followed the guidance of the questions from this chart that I have been encouraging them (and everyone!) to use to guide their own thinking before asking for help from someone else.

Consider all the facts about the spelling system this group of teachers is reinforcing in their own understanding just by investigating the question. When this group of questioners are provided with responses to their question they will be able to see how much of the answer to their question was actually signalled in their investigation. Teachers who take the questions of their Grade 2 students seriously like this are on a fast track to learning how to support their own understanding of the writing system and thus that of their students.

With no more ado, then, here is the amazing questin I received. For the moment, I will suggest that people trying to help Fiona and her community of scholars (indluding the Grade 2 student) attend to the infrormation they have uncovered about the origin of this word, and the ideas they had by thinking of related words.

Anyone out there want to have a stab to help our fellow orthographic travellers?



Hi Pete,
Happy New Year. I hope you had a great Christmas.
A grade 2 student stopped me in the corridor today and asked me about the spelling of come. His question was what is the reason for the single silent <e> on the end of the word. As he said – it is not there to make the vowel long and it is not there to prevent the word from ending with <v> so what job is the single silent e doing? I said ‘ great question’ and promised I’d get back to him!
A group of us have investigated the word and here’s where we’ve got to so far
Meaning:                      to move towards a place
Built:                            no evidence of prefixes or suffixes
Related Words:             Origin – from Middle English <comen>
                                   past tense <came>
                                   Link to some/same? – also Middle English but from <sum>                        
Phoneme/grapheme correspondences:     /k/       /ʌ/       /m/
                                                                 <c>    <o>     <m>    

[Note: This IPA symbol /ʌ/ is for what is typically called the "short u" in schools. I helped Fiona with that symbol.]

Use of <o> to represent /ʌ/ is explained in Kit 2E (<o>/<u> relationship)
Function of <e> must be conventional rather than phonological
Conventions for use of non syllabic final <e>:
To prevent word ending in <v> x
To comply with lexical word convention  - needs at least 3 letters x
Plural cancelling marker x
Perhaps the word <some> uses <o> to differentiate it from the homophone <sum>? However, this doesn’t explain the single silent <e> or the use of <o> in the word <come>?
We seem to have reached a dead end at this point. Do you have any ideas?