Monday, July 17, 2006

A Spelling Strategy, for all ages

What's the last show of a television season?

season FINale

What's the last, comprehensive test you take at the end of the year?

FINal exam

What do you say when you've completed a task?

I'm FINished!

What do you see at the end of old-fashioned movies?

FIN

What are French and Spanish words for "the end"?

FIN, FINito

What's a term for limiting something?

conFINe

What is the word for limiting an idea, say, the number of people you can fit in a phone booth?

FINite

What is the word when you set a limit or explanation to something?

deFINe

What is the noun version of a limit or explanation for something?

deFINITE

How about the adverb version?

deFINITEly

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What does the root "FIN" mean?
An end or limit!
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There are NO 'A's in the words define, definite, or definitely! No A! None, whatsoever! ZERO A!
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Look! Now you know how to spell! Latin is your friend! So is etymology in general!

(PS, for word nerds like me: "finite" and "definite" are from different but still-related Latin root words [definire and finire], so the "de" is NOT a negative prefix in this case. )

Here is a long but very useful page, listing common Greek and Latin roots, their meanings, and words they are found in.

Here is an excellent site with specific explanations, examples, vocabulary, and exercises for roots, prefixes, and suffixes.

Here's a really great site using Harry Potter spell charms--the kids will know this stuff!--to teach roots. I've done this only with the root "lev" (eLEVate, LEVer, alLEViate, LEVity, etc) and it worked pretty well with 6th graders and dictionaries.
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If you are a teacher or parent, please figure out a way to incorporate root learning into your child's/class's education. If you can link words together like this, I bet you five bucks you'll see the light go on about their heads! Fantastic! With a couple repetitions and reinforcements, students would 'get it', and would forevermore know how to spell words that seem tricky but really aren't. What a win-win situation!

6 comments:

CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

Being a word nerd myself, I love this post! Thank you!

BeccaU said...

I'm a science teacher in Connecticut and I try to work in "roots" as much as possible through out the year - I don't know how much of it sticks! Thank you so much for the links!

Kim said...

SO interesting! Roots are a state-mandated objective for language arts; it seems like a logical way to do vocab lessons-also a mandate. What grade level do you think this should be introduced? I want to teach high school, so I'm wondering how much background most kids will have in this realm.

Chance said...

How interesting. Just last week I turned in a fake lesson plan based on roots and affixes. I always thought I was an original thinker with my mnemonics and roots ideas, but it turns out it's a very wide-spread idea amongst teachers.

Anyway, yes. Etymology really helps spelling, and word power in general.

"Ms. Cornelius" said...

I totally agree with you! When I taught middle schoolers, Iwould have them learn 10-15 Greek roots a week when we studied Greece, and 10-15 Latin roots a week when we studied Rome. Five years later, I had some of the same kids at the high school, and it was amazing how much they still remembered. They said they used those old lessons all the time.

Vocabulary is the weakest link for our students, in my opinion. No matter what your subject area, it impinges upon your ability to teach concepts and ideas.

Greek and Latin are especially useful for mathematics and science. I was very disappointed to learn that my replacement at the middle school has stopped teaching these roots.

Pigs said...

That is awesomely awesome. You're my hero.