Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Fruits of Laying a Path

Moira and I get so many online questions about how to work with children who have dyslexia and dysgraphia, as well as children who are poor spellers. This year, I decided it was more efficient and effective to address questions personally, showing parents my ideas, rather than attempting to write about complex strategies.

In an effort to achieve more personal as well as broader instruction, we piloted two online classes, both recorded for parent use. While we had some (inevitable) technology issues, the results were wonderful!

One series of courses titled Laying a Path launched in March on the topic of Phonics and Spelling. Moira and I demonstrated how we teach children of varying ages:

-  Short vowel sounds (closed syllables)
- Silent-e long vowel sounds (silent-e syllables)
- Vowel teams (vowel team syllables)
-  Open syllables
- C+le syllables
- R-controlled syllables
- Multi-syllable words
-  Spelling rules for syllable types
- Jobs of the single silent-e

Each 90-minute session was crammed full of ideas and information, followed by Q & A regarding implementation of strategies, phonics and spelling programs, and students' specific struggles. Here is what parents told us:

“I had no idea there was so much fun to be had in online classes for a home school mom to take.”  

“Basically, I have learned so much and I am so grateful to you both!  I can’t wait to learn more!”

“I LOVE how you explain it and the hands-on cards make so much sense.  I'm excited to review vowel teams with Noah again.  I'm so thankful to have access to the videos I can listen to again, so that my notes make sense!”  


Naturally, planning for the class sparked many ideas for resources and activities to make available to parents...
Moira and I are always drawing and writing with our kids. So for the class, we asked our artist friend, Tracy, to do the drawing for us (seriously, it’s better this way). We created five phonics games for strong practice in an activity we call Build-a-Bug. There are more games to come, (i.e. bigger bugs) in the future. For now, Build-a-Bug is being sold for $12.95 on the page (under Activities & Lessons)!

You’ll also find The Many Jobs of the Single Silent-e as a free download in the shop!

We are pleased with the success of the first Laying a Path course and the positive (as well as constructive) feedback we received. To further reiterate how much we value the needs of the parent educators who seek our assistance, we asked the class to vote on our next course topic, and they have spoken: the next Laying a Path class will address Word Study (Morphology). We will announce plans for that class in the next few months - stay tuned!

Meanwhile, if you missed the Laying a Path: Phonics and Spelling class, you can purchase access to the videos for the same price as the course (three 90-min videos for $79.00). You can watch them as many times as you need throughout the school year, using them to guide your home phonics practice! It’s a great way to grow along with your children, so as their skills progress, you can learn the next step for effective phonics teaching!


Monday, April 3, 2017

Insight Words: Spelling "said"

Last week, one of our clients asked if we could provide any insight into the spelling of the word "said." 

I liked that she used the term "insight," because a word like "said" is often considered to be a "sight word" - a term which implies that one must recognize the word by sight, and use one's visual memory to spell it. Gina Cooke (Linguist-Educator Exchange) uses the term "insight words" instead of "sight words" because, with a little investigation of a word's morphology, the spelling may not seem so random. 

Word study (investigating a word's history and its meaningful parts) gives us insight into a word's spelling, giving us deeper understanding beyond visual memorization of letters. This typically results in better, more accurate spelling, especially for kids who struggle with word-form memory (as is often the case with children with dyslexia and/or dysgraphia). 

So, I wrote to our client:

I get my understanding of the word "said" from Pete Bowers (Word Works Kingston). Here is what I understand from his tutelage:

We know "said" is the past tense form of "say" - so these words are definitely related. We also know that we cannot seem to assume that "said" is merely <say> + ed, because even if we change <y> to an <i> it would be spelled "saied." We do not drop letters from suffixes, so we cannot conclude that the <e> was dropped from the -ed suffix. 

Therefore, the word "said," while clearly a past-tense word, does not use the productive suffix of -ed to mark its past-tense status. But that's ok! While -ed is a common way to mark past tense, we have many words whose past-tense forms are just irregular. (i.e. ran, slept, paid).

Let's first think of other related words to "said" that we know we CAN break into word sums based on our morphology knowledge so far: 

says --> say + s
saying --> say + ing
saith (a very old form, as in "saith the Lord") --> sai + th (-th is an Old English Suffix, no longer in use today because it has been replaced by -s). 

We also know that <ay> and <ai> spellings are related vowel teams that say the long /a/ sound. And we note that we seem to have several irregular past-tense words that follow the <ay> to <ai> conversion pattern:

Looking back at "saith" (sai + th), we now know that <-th> is an old suffix that we no longer use, so we call it a non-productive suffix. Past-tense suffixes like <-ed> are productive, because it is still used to create new past-tense versions of words. Pete comments that <-d> is also a non-productive suffix, one that is no longer in use today. Both "said" and "saith" are very old words, and thus may both have non-productive suffixes that we no longer recognize widely today. 

Thus, we have:

sai + d --> said

sai + th --> saith

say + s --> says

say + ing --> saying

SO, what have we learned? Well, in our initial word sum we tried to connect the words "said" and "say" as if they shared a common base of <say> (i.e.: say + ed). However, once our word sum proved this to be incorrect, we have to pause and consider that these two words (while clearly related in meaning) may NOT share a base, but rather only share a root. If you look up "said" on Etymoline, it will point you to its relative "say," and give the Old English root: secgan - "to utter, inform, speak, tell, relate."

We now know that "said" and "say" do not share a base, but they are both derived from the Old English root secgan. 

If you'd like to read Pete's blog on "said" for a slightly more in-depth discussion/explanation, here is the link: 

This is, indeed, a very tricky word! But hopefully after all this discussion and investigation, the spelling will stick in your child's head, which is our goal!