Hello all,

A little while ago I posted this question that came up in my daughter's class about how to understand the relationshiop between words <drama> and <dramatic>.

I used that question to try and lay out key orthographic concepts and strategies for developing and testing orthographic hypotheses. I suspect that there is much in that post that may help any teacher/student "Language Labs" out there take on this same question about the words <tragic> and <tragedy>. 

My purpose for posing this question is to encourage some teachers out there to take the leap into an "inquiry-led" investigation with their students. Some parts of the discussion of <drama> / <dramatic> were fairly advanced, but mostly we can see how much can be leanred by working through the questions: What does the word mean? How is it built? What are the relatives? What are the grapheme-phoneme correspondences? If you can read through that post and it mostly makes sense, why not investigate this new question WITH your students. You caon model using the same principles that were practiced in the post on <dramatic> and what happens when you apply them to a new set of words. 

By the way, isn't this exactly what we ask students to do when we write math and science assessments? If we can expect students to take content knowledge and problem solving strategies learned in the context of certain problems and then apply them to new contexts, it only seems fair to assess ourseles with a similar yardstic!

I'm not asking teachers and students who take part in this investigation to be able to get to the final answer, but if we have classroom "language labs" around the world take on this investigation and share findings and questions, I know we will get to useful answers about how spelling works along the way.

Why not just treat Real Spellers as a virtual classroom in which an interesting question has arisen. If you read my post on <drama> / <dramatic> you'll see that I posed that question before I had resolved an answer for myself. I had a hypothesis in mind when I posted it, but I refined my understanding along the way with the help of fellow learners that frequent this virtual calssroom. In fact I still have questions for that discussion that I have not posted yet. 

Similarly, I have not actually arrived at a conclusion for the description of the linguistic relationship between <tragic> and <dragedy>. I have not yet analyzed evidence gatherd from sources like the he Word Searcher or etymological references like Etymology On-Line. When I do, I may find this pair has a fairly simple relationship to explain. However, setting such a process in mostion may lead to surprising discoveries.

There is no way to find out other than starting to investigate.

Here are some reminders guidelines for taking on this inquiry-led investigation. 

1) Let this chart guide the process of your investigation:

2) Word Sums & Matrices: Make it easer for everyone to consider and discuss your hypotheses of word structure by writing out full word sums includeing the process of spelling the word structure out-loud. Such an investigation is also enriched by the construction of word matrices. These can be don on paper or computer.

  • Click her for a clip on making matrices with Word.
  • Click here for those using Pages.
  • If you are working on a PC I would recommend you consider using the Word Microscope to support your investigation as well.

It's much easier to identify false leads and promising paths of inquiry when we can look at and discuss the written representations of our thinking. 

3) Help each other in your teams to use the most linguistically precise language tha tyou can. If this investigation makes you realize that you don't understand a term, this is a great forum in which to ask for clarity regarding an orthograhic term. This is the context in which we will learn this vocabulary best because it is in this context that these terms are most likely to bring increased clarity to our understanding of spelling. Precision is especially important when you get to the point of organizing and presenting your formal response to this question in Real Spellers. It will alsohelp readers learn from and build on your response if you do your best to be as clear as you can about the references and evidence you gathered and how you gathered it. Do your best to tell us not only what you are thinking, but why you are thinking what your thinking.

4) Ask questions! Don't be shy about asking for clarifying questions. If your "langauge lab" needs clarification, I'm sure others do as well. (I often see 50-100 visitors on Real Spellers with only one or 2 members. There are many more readers than writers here!) The most informative post is likely to result from a question from someone who doesn't know the answer.

And one technical point. Don't for get that when you use the angle brackets <> the text inside must be in in bold like this <bold> or the word will not appera in your post. 

With that, I'll leave our classroom to investiate the orthographic relationship between <tragic> and <tragedy>. 

I have to say -- It is a pleasure to start such an investigation in this "virtual classroom". I am certain that our collective wisdom will find a scientificaly valid resolution to this question once our classroom takes on this question. And as we do so, I am sure that the wisdom of the group will grow such that it can resolve even more complex questions in the future.

Happy following of the orthographic footprints