Real Spellers

English Makes Sense!

A little while ago a friend pointed me to a blog post by Jordan, a teacher associate in Grade 3 at the Nueva School who has been doing great work this year after his first introduction to Structured Word Inquiry when he attended my SWI Institute at Neuva last summer. (Plans for another institute this year are underway!)



I am not able to share the Nueva blog, but I did get permission to share the content of the post. Not only is Jordan doing great work investigating spelling with his students, but he is a great writer too. I hope you enjoy this story of their investigation...


Structured Word Inquiry

“If you went to the farmers’ market and bought a root,” teacher Jordan asked, “what would you get?” “A radish!” a student replied.  This week in Structured Word Inquiry, we considered Latin root words.  We began by comparing a Latin root to a radish.  A student completed the metaphor, “A root is down in the dirt and like a Latin root it sprouts new words that are connected but not the same.”  We began our exploration by considering a moment from social studies.  We have been learning about contemporary water problems in the Nile basin and traced the problems back to a British Treaty.  Here was a passage on the subject that initiated our Structured Word Inquiry as a group: 


“The 1906 Tripartite Treaty (Britain-France-Italy) denied Ethiopia its right to use its own water.  The British agreement gave Egypt complete control over the Nile during the dry season when water is most needed for agricultural irrigation. The treaty also severely limited the amount of water allotted Sudan and provided no water to any of the other riparian states.” 


While “tripartite” and “riparian” share similar letters (“ripar”), do they come from the same root?  Are they linked in meaning?  We found each word’s root and learned they are not related; they come from two different radishes.  Tripartite links back to the Latin root for “part” and with the prefix “tri-“ means “three parts,” which made sense in context as the treaty was between three nations.  Riparian links back to the Latin word ripa for riverbank.  A riparian nation was a country that touched a river, in this case the Nile. 


Students then had a chance to explore the words, “radical” and “eradicate” in the sentence, “During the Egyptian revolution of 2011, the police tried to eradicate all the radicals who threatened to overturn the government.”  Are these two words related?  We found that both words trace back to the Latin word radix, “root or radish!”  The word “radish” was a root!  When you eradicate something, you destroy it completely or pull out the root entirely.  Radicals are new movements trying to establish roots that are often at odds with more entrenched forces.  The words are indeed related and help us better understand the current events we have studied this year, the 2011 Revolution in Egypt.  We will continue to root for roots in the coming weeks as we develop our knowledge of Egypt and expand our vocabulary for understanding the country’s history and current events. 


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