Category Archives: Word Work

Love of Wisdom

Yesterday we continued with looking at base words, prefixes and suffixes.  We try to infer their meaning based on a list of words that share the same base and then we look it up to test our theory.  Then, we look for the etymology of the word, from which language did it originate?  Often it’s Greek or Latin but we will see more languages emerging as we progress.

Here is the list of words we started with:

Here is some of the work the class did:

We discovered that we could put some of our root words together.

phil means love of and soph means wisdom so

phil + soph + y is philosophy and means love of wisdom.

We’re making a chart of the base words we know.

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Posted by on March 10, 2015 in Word Work


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Wordy Nerdery – Morphology & Etymology

I borrowed the titles of this post from a blog of the same title about word study using inquiry.

We are in the beginning stages of our inquiry, looking at prefixes, suffixes and base words.  I assign some words and the students try to figure out the base word and then find its etymology (history – which language it originates from).  The groups then find other words that share the same base and create a word matrix which clearly demarcates the different parts of the work.  My hope it to get to the level of word knowledge that we can do inquiry like the Wordy Nerdys do!


Here is some of our work so far.

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Another way to increase our vocabulary is to read daily.


and here we are reading!

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Posted by on March 3, 2015 in Read to Self, Reading, Word Work


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Vocabulary Study

The National Reading Panel (click the link to read the report, it is very long but very thorough and interesting – note how important phonics is), a very large meta-analysis of data collected on reading instruction and learning, identified vocabulary as one of five critical components of learning to read.  In order to become proficient readers, children need to have a large and varied vocabulary. Effective methods of teaching vocabulary include direct instruction and asking questions about words.


Before Christmas we started vocabulary study in both classes.  On Monday I read a text to the class.  For the grade fives, the text is Hana’s Suitcase, for the grade fours I am reading pieces from The Story of Canada.  While I’m reading the students write down two or three words they don’t know.  After I’m finished reading, the students share the words they wrote down and I record them on the SMART board.  Together we decide on two words to learn for the week.


Next the students independently complete a word page entry in their Vocabulary notebooks.  We learned how to do the entry before the holidays.  The entry includes the following:


Part of Speech:  verb, adverb, noun, adjective.

A definition in the students’ own words.

A synonym and an antonym.

A sentence accurately using the new word.

A drawing that represents the meaning of the word.


Here is an anchor chart we made together:




One of this weeks grade five words is deported and it provided us with the opportunity to talk about prefixes, root words and suffixes.  (Even the word prefix afforded us an opportunity to discuss the meaning of pre)

We talked about what the word might mean and several students had the general idea of what it meant but we couldn’t quite get at the meaning of de-  & port so we decided to look them up on  We discovered that de- usually means to reverse or remove and that port was “carry“so deport means to carry them away from a place.  Of course it doesn’t literally mean that the government picks them up and carries them out of a country, they force them to leave.


Words are so fun and I love the etymology (history and origin) of English words.  It’s so diverse and includes so many words from other languages, particularly French.


Check this out:




This chart shows the lexical distance — that is, the degree of overall vocabulary divergence — among the major languages of Europe.

The size of each circle represents the number of speakers for that language. Circles of the same color belong to the same language group. All the groups except for Finno-Ugric (in yellow) are in turn members of the Indo-European language family.

English is a member of the Germanic group (blue) within the Indo-European family. But thanks to 1066, William of Normandy, and all that, about 75% of the modern English vocabulary comes from French and Latin (ie the Romance languages, in orange) rather than Germanic sources. As a result, English (a Germanic language) and French (a Romance language) are actually closer to each other in lexical terms than Romanian (a Romance language) and French.

So why is English still considered a Germanic language? Two reasons. First, the most frequently used 80% of English words come from Germanic sources, not Latinate sources. Those famous Anglo-Saxon monosyllables live on! Second, the syntax of English, although much simplified from its Old English origins, remains recognizably Germanic. The Norman conquest added French vocabulary to the language, and through pidginization it arguably stripped out some Germanic grammar, but it did not ADD French grammar.

The original research data for the chart comes from K. Tyshchenko (1999), Metatheory of Linguistics. (Published in Russian.)


Source for the quote and diagram above

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Posted by on January 9, 2014 in Word Work


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Prefixes, Root Words & Etymology + Fractions! Awesome Day!

I apologize for not posting for a few weeks.  Things got busy and….you all know how that is.  We are back on track with blogging and I will try to post at least twice a week.

In English we have been looking at prefixes, root words and etymology.  Etymology is the study of words, their history, their origin and how the form and meaning  have changed over the years.    Wikipedia

We have been looking at prefixes such as:   un-  dis-  im-  in-  ir- & non- which all affect roots words in similar ways, changing the meaning to its opposite.  For example, irresponsible means not responsible, dislike means to not like, impossible means impossible.  We also looked at ex- meaning out of or from or upwards.  Words like expand means to spread out.  Some prefixes and roots can be quite complicated because they come from latin, old French or Old English  or other languages.  We can’t always rely on the trick of thinking “Can the root word stand alone?” like in nonsense; sense can stand alone and non- changes the meaning to its opposite.  See this example from the online etymology dicitonary for expand:


dictionary expand top


Dictionary Latin


dictionary expand


I love fractions.  Really.  I know they are a challenge but once kids get it – WOW!  It is critically important that students understand the value of fractions, can compare fractions, understand equivalency, etc. 

Friday we talked about the set model or concept of fractions.  We had a discussion about the fractions of girls and boys in our class.  The class, or set, is 26 people so 26 is the whole or 1.  The girls are part of the set, 20 out of 26 to be exact and the boys are another part of the set, 6 out of 26.  Here is our chart to represent the set model based on the students in the class:

fractions set model

Today we made our Fraction Kits which are based on the linear model of fractions.  The black strip is 1 or the whole, and the other colours are different parts, or fractions, of the whole:

fractions linear model

After we made the kits, which helps students understand equivalency, we played a game called Cover Up.  Here are the rules:

Cover Up Rules

This game helps students to compare the value of fractions and to understand equivalency.  Tomorrow we play uncover!  Here are some students playing cover up:

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Posted by on March 4, 2013 in Fractions, Math, Word Work


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What a Great First Day!

I really enjoyed seeing the 5/6 students again. I’m still learning some names but they all know to correct me if I get them wrong.

Today I showed the class this video to introduce myself to them. We will be making similar class videos highlighting everyone’s interests.

We also watched this video created by Royan Lee, a teacher whom I admire very much. I had the good fortune to meet him in August and will be seeing him again at ECOO – a conference I will be attending in October.

Today the class did a formative spelling test. It’s purpose is to show me what they know and what they need to work on. The words are carefully selected to hit on specific phonics rules and spelling patterns. Once they are all marked I will conference with each students and we will begin the work. I will send the conference notes and goals home.

We also looked at number bonding in math. All numbers can be bonded together to make new ones or deconstructed into smaller numbers. We played some games with dice making bonds to 10. Being able to use friendly numbers like 10, 100, 1000 etc. is very helpful for mental math and computation, as well as conceptual understanding.

Here is an online game for bonding to 100 practice.

I hope the students enjoyed their day as much as I did. See everyone tomorrow when we will begin our regular routines!


Posted by on September 4, 2012 in Math, Mental Math, Word Work


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