Archive for May, 2013

Illustrated Etymology

A friend just pointed me to this site, Illustrated Etymology, where creative types illustrate the histories of words, as researched by the incomparable Douglas Harper on The Online Etymology Dictionary.

What a great project to do with kids: choose a word to investigate, research its history and relatives, illustrate, and explain the development to present-day sense and meaning.

Go get lost here for a bit, maybe think up your own.


Late 14c., flowering plant (Iris germanica), also “prismatic rock crystal,” from L. iris (pl. irides) “iris of the eye, iris plant, rainbow,” from Gk. iris (gen. iridos) “a rainbow; the lily; iris of the eye,” originally “messenger of the gods,” personified as the rainbow. The eye region was so called (early 15c. in English) for being the colored part; the Greek word was used of any brightly colored circle, “as that round the eyes of a peacock’s tail” [Liddell and Scott]. Illustration by Daniel Dickson

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I am wholly delinquent in posting about the March seminars in greater Chicago and greater Philadelphia. I have a great working title, though: “True Friends.” It’ll be worth waiting for, but my semester has more pressing writing demands for the present.

In the meantime, here are some details about current activities in the LEX Professional Development Series. Mark your calendars and join us if you can!

Spelling Matters

June 14-15, Greater Columbus, OH

  • question traditional views of English spelling, including cultural and pedagogical perspectives
  •  learn to assess spelling knowledge and understanding, not just spelling correctness and memorization
  •  discover the visible structures of the English writing system
  •  practice investigating the historical forces behind Modern English spellings
  •  understand phonology better and more accurately
  •  explore both print and online resources for ongoing learning and consultation
  •  acquire tools and strategies to implement the next day
  •  take vigorous and robust spelling knowledge and strategies back to their classrooms
  •  be captivated by the why of spelling as well as the how

With the Academic Language Therapy Association ~ 130615 ALTA Spelling Matters

The Spell of Spelling and the Glamour of Grammar

July 29-30, South Bend, IN

For centuries, spelling and grammar have been treated as mysterious and elusive things. Historically, literacy was situated within and controlled by religious institutions, and no significant distinction was made between those who were learned and those who had magical powers. Even in the present day, spelling and grammar are still considered to be cryptic or unexplainable, as evidenced by confusing “rules” and long lists of “exceptions,” and by teaching phrases like “magic <e>” or “trick words.” In spite of these common perceptions, written English, like any language, is a highly ordered, rule-based system that can be studied in a structured, sensible way.  The job of the writing system is to represent sense and meaning — so join us for a no-nonsense investigation of where spelling and grammar intersect!

With the Children’s Dyslexia Centers ~ 130729 SB Spelling & Grammar

Dyslexia, Reading, Spelling,and School

September 7, Danville, IL

The scientific field of dyslexia research has a well-defined, clinical description of dyslexia. Dyslexia is included in psychological diagnostic standards as well as federal education law and state policy. Moreover, a state-of-the-art understanding of dyslexia encompasses its positive aspects and benefits, as seen in The Dyslexic Advantage, Journey Into Dyslexia, Proust & the Squid, and Dislecksia: The Movie. Likewise, our scientific, educational, and cultural understanding of literacy is rapidly changing due to digital technologies, literacy practices, and linguistic research. We can exploit these growing, evidence-based understandings to improve the ways in which we help all of our children become literate and make sense of their world.

With the Children’s Dyslexia Centers ~ 130907 Danville Dyslexia Registration Flyer

Something about Spelling with Pete Bowers (TBD!)

November 2-3, Greater Chicago, IL

Currently in the planning stages. We’re hoping for a location in Elgin or environs.

What would you like to study with Pete and me? Schools in the area may be interested in booking classroom time with us in the week preceding or following the seminar. Details to follow as they come together . . .

LEX is also working on an affix deck, and investigating options for an ongoing Illinois course for graduate credits.

And you wonder why I never write!

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