Always be prepared to be amazed when you visit Ann Whiting's Grade 7 scholars to see what they have been up to. When I went to this post titled "Portals of Discovery" I was just so impressed with the understanding these students were able to express about the world issues they are studying with the grounding of expert analysis into the morphology and etymology of written wrods which represented core concepts of these studies. 

As one example of what is to be found by visiting Ann's post, watch Emma's video presentation of her concept ladder for the word/concept of confomity. 


There are many other videos to explore there and the excellent description about the process of this work by Anne. I, for one was introduced to a new understanding of the word ruthless thanks to Johnathan's presentation. I also love that Ann shares videos of working with a student who -- through his presentation -- demonstrates to Ann that he needs clarity on the term "connotation". We get to see this student show us what he needs guidance in understanding by making a mistake in a safe setting, and then we get to watch as Ann expertly revisits that error in a follow up video. 

Perhaps this shouldn't be a big deal, but it seems to me that we are often too afraid to post videos or discuss classroom encounters that include students or teachers making mistakes -- a practice that belies the standard "School Mission Statement" that learners are "risk takers". So thank you to Ann and her students for their sharing of the process of encountering big fat juicy mistakes that teach us all.

When I saw Ann's post, I asked if she would be willing to share resources and a description of this task so that other teachers might be able to make use of and adapt it for their own purposes. Ann sent me a gold mine of resources to share. Let me first, however, take the liberty of copying and pasting key statements in her introduction to the idea behind this "concept ladder" assignment:

  • Discussing the ladder forces synthesis. In many cases those that have understood the morphology and etymology more deeply, or are more secure in their knowledge are able to chat rather than read. They are not here speaking as they are thinking rather they have had time to process their thinking through their research and the notes they have made in the graphic organizer.
  • This organizer really is only a suggestion to help some students make connections and shouldn’t become formulaic. It may help teachers ask students questions.
  • As always with word study my aim is to make connections be it to literature, history, art, movies… words do not exist in a vacuum waiting for us to dish them up to students to analyze. I want students to develop a love of and a joyousness in reading, writing and uttering words. I want students to be in the ‘spell’ of words.


  • Click here to download a pdf of a blank copy of her "concept ladder" sheet that you see in the video above, and the full description of the task. I have embedded hot links to relevant on-line resources. 
  • Click here for a concept ladder on the word/concept malevolent by Yijia - a Grade 7 student with 2 years in English. Then click here for the essay he wrote with the foundation of his research and presentation of his concept ladder. 

If you haven't gone yet, now head directly the the full post on Ann's Word Nerds blog with more student generated videos and Ann's description of the process. 

If you find this work of Ann and her students inspiring, please share comments in her blog and/or in the string below. If you make use of Ann's resources that she has so kindly prepared and shared, please use the comment butten below to share with her and our community how their tossing of this orthographic pebbles set ripples of learning around the world. If you need help with sharing documents, pictures or video, please contact me This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and/or Matt "Real Spellers" Berman This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. himself!