Edvard Munch’s painting Ashes (1894)

Daily we continue building onto the ‘foldables’ ( see previous post) in preparation for the dreaded word- study test!! Every morning students are arriving before school to discuss words! Some ‘teach’ others, some words we just discuss altogether. We are spending 10-15 minutes at the beginning of the period reviewing all our words investigated in the course of the year. At the moment we are reviewing the first 10. This is an excellent opportunity for me to check individual understanding:

  • Can students match root to the word?
  • Can they give the denotation of the root?
  • Can students accurately divide the words into morphemes?
  • Can students state whether the base element is free or bound?
  • Can students give a few examples of other words sharing the same base element..of other base elements springing from the same root?
  • Can they link the word to characters in the novels read or our units this year?

The review process is also an excellent opportunity for students to ask questions. Just because we have covered this before, does not mean we have explored all opportunities or considered the word from different angles. I am sometimes surprised by my assumptions about what students know:



Today we discussed the fact that just because we can see ‘pass’ as the base element in compassion’ it is not a free base element because the letters superficially look like the free base pass. In compassion the base element is bound while in pass, it can stand alone without affixes and so is free. Both base elements come from different roots.

Below see students reviewing the following words: desperation, courage . Hear Sarah ‘talk like a professor’ about ‘desperation’:



Watch Nina and Oluwadara discuss with the rest of the class what they understand about the morphology and etymology of ‘courage’:



The young lady in Munch’s painting looks as equally fraught as some students in my class at the thought of the ‘word test’. There were strips of paper, scissors, markers, glue-sticks and sticky-tape everywhere as we constructed foldables. I am  assailed by a barrage of questions and the usual hectic, heady swirl of learning and hormones in Grade 7 and even though my hair is a little shorter than Munch’s desperate damsel above, the resemblance to me at this moment was striking. Until I remembered… ‘when you’re chewing on life’s gristle, don’t grumble give a whistle, And this will help things turn out for the best..’

For those of us feeling that the end of the year is coming roaring at us in a rush with what seems like so much curriculum in too little time to cover, then… join in   sing along with a youthful Eric Idle and ‘Brian’. The words are below so that ‘when ‘feeling in the dumps … ‘( Note to self: Teach this to the students so we can all burst into song as in a musical when feeling desperate!) Watch this excerpt from Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979):



Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you’re chewing on life’s gristle
Don’t grumble, give a whistle
And this’ll help things turn out for the best…

And…always look on the bright side of life…
Always look on the light side of life…

If life seems jolly rotten
There’s something you’ve forgotten
And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.
When you’re feeling in the dumps
Don’t be silly chumps
Just purse your lips and whistle – that’s the thing.

And…always look on the bright side of life…
Always look on the light side of life…

For life is quite absurd
And death’s the final word
You must always face the curtain with a bow.
Forget about your sin – give the audience a grin
Enjoy it – it’s your last chance anyhow.

So always look on the bright side of death
Just before you draw your terminal breath

Life’s a piece of shit
When you look at it
Life’s a laugh and death’s a joke, it’s true.
You’ll see it’s all a show
Keep ’em laughing as you go
Just remember that the last laugh is on you.

And always look on the bright side of life…
Always look on the right side of life…
(Come on guys, cheer up!)
Always look on the bright side of life…
Always look on the bright side of life…
(Worse things happen at sea, you know.)
Always look on the bright side of life…
(I mean – what have you got to lose?)
(You know, you come from nothing – you’re going back to nothing.
What have you lost? Nothing!)
Always look on the right side of life…

( Thankyou Eric Idle…so true)

Read more about Edvard Munch in a Smithsonian article: Beyond the Scream (title of an a MOMA exhibition) and listen to a fascinating BBC discussion on Munch and his life: Munch and the Scream.