This is a question I ask myself a lot lately when I’m thinking about word study at the end of my teaching day.  Every morning in my second grade class, students sign in on a chart in the classroom as they enter by answering a question or writing an opinion.  Yesterday I had them sign in with a hypothesis for a word sum of <celebration>. It was was a special occasion at our school, Celebration Day, during which students share a talent or hobby with the class and parents so the day was ripe for an investigation of the word celebration.  I also thought this would be a great assessment piece.  The discoveries I make about my students during word inquiry are fascinating. 


During our morning meeting, we talked about our theories and brainstormed related words: celebrate, celebrity.  Here are some discussion points students brought up:

Is <cele> a prefix and <brate> a base?

Could <celebr> be a bound base?

Is the base <celebrate>? 

Is <ity> a suffix?

Someone recognized <ate> as a suffix and others cited migrate, suffocate and vibrate as evidence.

Someone reminded us that <ion> is a suffix, but not <tion> as discovered in another investigation.

We looked on Word Searcher and found these words we felt positive were related: celeb, celebrant, celebrate, celebrity, celebrants, celebrated, celebrates, celebrating, celebratory, celebrities, celebrations.  We added <ory> and <ant> to our list of possible suffixes.

We then looked at Etymoline and found:

celebration (n.) 

1520s, "honoring of a day or season by appropriate festivities," formed in English from celebrate, or else from Latin celebrationem (nominative celebratio) "numerous attendance" (especially upon a festival celebration), noun of action from pp. stem of celebrare. Meaning "performance of a religious ceremony" (especially the Eucharist) is from 1570s; that of "extolling in speeches, etc." is from 1670s

We concluded that <cele> was not a prefix because the words related in meaning had <celebr>.  We hypothesized that if  <celeb> could be a bound base then the following word sums are plausible:

Celebr +ate/  +ion --->  celebration

Celebr + ity -----> celebrity

Celebr + ant -------> celebrant

We talked about the parts of speech these suffixes indicate and what they mean, but generating more words with these suffixes proved to be too difficult.  I've found that this step often brings itself back up when students find words in their individual reading.

So what I ponder now is:  Where do I go from here?  How do I know if we can be sure that we are correct?  I am perfectly comfortable saying "I don’t know." or "Let’s look it up," but I’m not comfortable declaring something to be true if I haven’t read it somewhere or asked someone.  Could we declare <celebr> a bound base at this point? Any advice for beginner next steps? Any suggestions for my process or questions I could be asking my students or myself?

Thanks for reading,