Determination is what it took to consider this word today! I had asked the students to look at this word and:

  •  read three denotations (trying to get a feel for the difference in available dictionaries as well as reinforcing the idea to check several sources)
  • divide the word into its respective elements, (how is it built?)
  •  find the root (where does it come from?)
  • identify its relatives (words sharing he same base). Ultimately students will use this information to consider the word in relation to Odysseus and other heroes. Is determination a heroic quality? Is it free will or predetermination that governs heroes’ choices?

Establishing morphemes

Students worked in groups to establish the morphemes. There was some confusion in one group with: <deter+min(e)+ at(e) +ion >.

Despite the miscue here, I was really pleased to see that this student recognized <-at(e)> as a suffix and that the vowel suffix <-ion> had forced a change – removal of the final non-syllabic ‘e’. Others immediately spotted <de-> as a prefix and someone said that ‘mine’ could not possibly be a base element as it had nothing whatsoever to do with the meaning. Most groups rapidly established that the elements were in fact: <de+ term+in(e)+at(e)+ion>.

Finding Related Words:

A British student recognized ‘term’ as a free base element as his former school had been divided into ‘terms’ and others were quick to point out several related words. Life in the tropics often involves unwanted guests in the form of cockroaches, rats and mosquitos and we want these exterminated from our houses! So ‘extermination’, and our pest-ridding hero- the ‘exterminator’ were rapidly recognized as sharing the same base element. Naturally ‘terminator’ was quickly spotted, thanks to Arnold Schwarzenegger,and added to the list.

At this point I wanted to introduce the Word Searcher and have students consider the raw data that this provides. Inputting <term> led to 104 related words! Audible gasps of astonishment from the students followed by lots of valuable questions ‘Watermill?’ – ‘Impossible! It’s a compound word!’ Students realized that although the words appeared swiftly, they would have to analyze the data to ascertain if the words listed were indeed ‘related’. One student indicated that ‘aftermath ’ would not be possible on our list and another responded to the word ‘watermill’ with the valuable lesson, ‘Just because the letters come in the same order as ‘term’  doesn’t mean it’s the same morpheme! For example it would be wa+term+ill .. and that’s no way the morphemes!’

Liam shared his discovery concerning <interment> and <determine>. Although he uses “short for” instead of the term the root, he nevertheless shows critical reasoning and excitement about his research.

 We discussed several times that although you may have had to look for the words within a word as a spelling activity in the past, it does not help in understanding the meaning or the word’s structure. In fact it’s a hindrance! Today we really emphasized that the ‘spots’ in dictionaries indicate syllables and not morpheme boundaries. I think this will need constant reminders as a few students gravitate to these syllable divisions assuming that this representation must be the same as the morphemes.

We traced the root to Latin terminare and terminus. We read that ‘term’ was a doublet of ‘terminus’. (Noted, but more research for me to understand this! At this point not a critical piece of knowledge for the students). Students found the links to the Roman deity Terminus ruler of boundaries and limits via the Online Etymology Dictionary! So tomorrow building a matrix to contain all possible words- hence the sorting of data into elements so teams can learn how to operate the mini-matrix maker. This sorting into elements and deciding what is related to the free base <term> involves considerable checking to ascertain whether the roots are the same as well as reinforcing knowledge of prefixes and suffixes.

‘Terminus, whether a stone or a stump buried in the earth,
You have been a god since ancient times.
You are crowned from either side by two landowners,
Who bring two garlands and two cakes in offering.
An altar’s made: here the farmer’s wife herself
Brings coals from the warm hearth on a broken pot…

Terminus, at the boundary, is sprinkled with lamb’s blood,
And doesn’t grumble when a sucking pig is granted him.
Neighbours gather sincerely, and hold a feast,
And sing your praises, sacred Terminus:
‘You set bounds to peoples, cities, great kingdoms:
Without you every field would be disputed… 

Ovid, Fasti

Image: 16th century illustration of Roman god Terminus