Real Spellers

English Makes Sense!

Click HERE for a PDF of our investigation of <perpendicular>.  Here is the first page.  We would love to hear any comments you have. 

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Comments (3)

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Excellent Gail! There is an etymological connection between <spend> and <depend>! I am guilty of the cardinal sin of not following the link to <expend> that Doug placed right there for me:

expend (v.)
early 15c., from Latin expendere "pay out, weigh out money," from ex "out, out of" (see ex-) + pendere "to hang, cause to hang; weigh; pay" (from PIE root *(s)pen- "to draw, stretch, spin"). Related: Expended; expending.

How cool!

Peter Bowers
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Ellen, I think this is mind-bogglingly wonderful, both what happened and how you wrote about it. it's a beautiful narrative, drawing the reader right along with the class as they go deeper in their investigation. It's definitely going on my list of must-read links that I pass on to people who think this work is for older students. Actually to any people who express interest in this work. Thanks so much for sharing it. The connection of the word <spend> to this family was a surprise to me, too, Pete, but it's right there in etymonline!

Gail Venable
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What a great investigation! When I got to the end, I had forgotten that this was a Grade 2 class in a public school. What a brilliant foundation your school has already given your students.

Great set up with this Ellen, "every kid was hanging on the edge of their seats in suspense."

I love that planting of "hanging" and "suspense" in your description before we actually get into the structure and meaning of this family. I love that kind of word play when I write about SWI.

What a range of vocabulary and orthographic concepts these Grade 2 students are working with. They are obviously totally comfortable with bound bases, word sums and matrices and how to work with etymology to guide their understanding of the meaning of related words and test hypotheses. "It was amazing to watch them apply the process they had worked with all year." Indeed. It's so satisfying to see the joy with which that "mechanical" orthographic knowledge is so useful for stoking student curiosity -- and motivates on-going learning.

The motivation for on-going learning was clearly shown with this part of your story.

"Two weeks after this investigation, a child approached me and wondered if <compendium> belonged to the <pend> family. He had been reading a Simpson’s book and wondered if it was related."

This is such great evidence of real learning. Once a structure has been encountered and understood, it becomes almost impossible not to notice those structures when encountered elsewhere. How cool that this student couldn't help but see a potential link to and SWI class while watching the Simpsons! My Newsletter "Structure is Freeing" is one that specifically addresses this idea of the effect of developing "noticers". It's one of my faves. Check it out here if you are interested ((see this link:

My only question for you and your scholars is what you concluded about the very cool hypothesis about <spend>. I didn't see any evidence of the Latin root pend(ere) to link <spend> to this same etymological family.

Such great stuff Ellen. Thanks for sharing!


Peter Bowers
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