Real Spellers

English Makes Sense!

In this video, Sam Modest, a Grade 2 teacher at The Nueva School walks us through the on-going iterations of how he and his co-teacher Erin Metcalf are tracing and organizing the trail of orthographic learning going on in this classroom. (I am the "visiting scholar" supporing SWI at Nueva for the 201-2016 school year.) Notice how these teachers have instituted (and are continuing to revise) structures for collecting students’ questions about words and then how those questions are used as a context for guiding inquiry-led investigations. 

For some time Sam and Erin had made a conscious decision to bring a greater focus and precision to their inquiry of orthographic phonology. But guided by their learning about English orthography over the last few years, they understood that effective phonological instruction had to occur with explicit attention to morphological and etymological constraints. 

It was a students interest in the word <hypnosis> provided the launching pad for this investigation. They use the chart of 4 questions to use when investigating an interesting word. Since they are truly committed to the process of “inquiry learning” they jump into this investigation of the structure of <hypnosis> without knowing how to resolve the analysis themselves. Instead they let themselves take the investigation as far as they can, and then draw on various resources -- Etymonline, Gina Cooke’s (LEX) Matrix Study Sheets and LEX Grapheme Cards and other colleagues to help them come to a better understanding. We also see how Lyn Anderson’s (Beyond the Word) recent visit inspired ideas for organizing the phonological aspect of this investigation. 

Notice, by the end of the video, they still have unresolved questions -- and that this is totally appropriate! 

Below I will paste some images and resources that are referenced in the video to facilitate your ability to take advantage of and build on this exceptional work of Sam and Erin. 

Download the "4 Questions for Investigating a Spelling" HERE


Screen Shot 2016 04 19 at 8.31.09 PM

Here are images of the charts addressed in the video...

1) The spelling, meaning, structure and relatives of <hypnosis>

Screen Shot 2016 04 19 at 8.49.12 PM


2) Chart investigating the phonemes that the <y> grapheme can represent.


 Screen Shot 2016 04 23 at 3.14.44 PM

NOTE: If you look closely, you will notice that compared to the chart in film, the image of the chart above has been edited to to show the IPA symbol /j/ for the phoneme representing the grapheme <y> in <you>. After posting, I noticed that on Sam's chart they used the IPA symbols /juː/ which actually represents the pronunciation not of <y> but of the whole word <you>. Having noticed the error, I wanted to make sure that the chart that readers are most likely to inspect is accurate.

As ever, an error like this is an opportunity for learning. When Sam and Erin share their initial error and this revision, they and their students gain the opportunity for a deeper understanding of how the IPA symbols work. The <y> in <you> represents a phoneme that is comprised of only one "phone". Many phonemes are comprised of more than one phone. For example what is often referred to as the "long i" is actually a phoneme comprised of two phones. Here is the IPA representation of that phoneme /aɪ/.  Note how the IPA representation  uses one symbol for each phone ina phoneme.  The second grapheme in <you> is the vowel digraph <ou> which represents the phoneme /uː/ in this word. Teachers can sometimes be worried about diving into using IPA symbols for fear of making a mistake. But as we teachers are forever saying to kids -- if we are not will ing to make "mistakes" we will never learn. I'm quite confident that for Sam, Erin and their grade 2 students sharing this initial error and how to understand it will end up providing one of the richest learning opportunities in terms of ortphgraphic phonology in this already rich lesson!

3) Graphemes for the "long e" phoneme

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4) Meaning, Structure, Relatives, Phonology of <moment>

 Screen Shot 2016 04 19 at 8.49.33 PM


5) The graphemes and phonemes of <moment>

 Screen Shot 2016 04 19 at 8.49.42 PM



Comments (3)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Video is such a fantastic medium to get a real sense of how people are putting SWI into practice. This really illustrates the power of those four questions! I think the form that the kids have to fill out for their wonder words uplevels the experience by leaps and bounds. Requiring them to pause, reflect, and explain their thinking is an invaluable skill, and it gives the teacher so much important information. How does assessment work with SWI--there's a piece of it right there! Thanks to Sam for giving us this window into his classroom.

--Rebecca Loveless

Comment was last edited about 4 years ago by Rebecca L Rebecca L
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Great stuff Lisa. I'd say that their are two key reasons for the ever-deepening understanding and practice our SWI community of educators and the steady, healthy not-too-fast growth of the size of this community. Firstly, our understanding builds on scientific principles of inquiry, with the use of precise scientific concepts, tools and terms. Each new understanding is generative for perceiving new questions, and identifying and dropping previously held false assumptions. Secondly, our desire to deepen our understanding values the collaborative nature of a healthy scientific community. The act of sharing our learning is one of the best ways that we learn ourselves. Matt's Real Spellers is just one key forum allowing for the sharing of a video of Sam and Erin's classroom with our wider community. But the video itself shows the community they built on to refine their practices.

And by the way Lisa, the technology you seek is (virtually) already with us! I use Zoom video conferencing to visit classrooms around the world. This year, my position at Nueva means I can't during my school hours. But next year I'll be back in that mode. I can't wait to visit the learning community in your classroom!

Peter Bowers
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

BRAVO!! This video is a tremendous help to bridge the phoneme/grapheme gap I've been feeling lately! I have current phoneme/grapheme chart with IPA symbols posted that students add words to and use as a reference but actively placing words in initial, medial and final positions is just what we need to strengthen our skills. I appreciate seeing how others work with their students as it solidifies how I'm feeling about our practice and gives us new ideas to try. I am inpressed that you are able to carve out 15 minute intervals for some of this work -- makes it more doable for some to know it can be this fast. I think the structure you have with the large chart paper and your pre-thinking helps focus the lesson greatly -- another "take away" for me.

I keep dreaming of a teleportation device to be invented so Pete can come to my classroom to let me watch him work with my students so I can learn more, faster. I doubt the machine will be invented anytime soon, but the power of video is certainly the next best thing! Thank you for taking time to share your work with us!

Lisa Barnett,
Special Education Teacher, K-5
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Lisa Barnett
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