Recounting an investigation of and in my visit

Recounting an investigation of <gratitude> and <grateful> in my visit to
Grade 1 class of Diana and Alice at Nueva
I had the great pleasure to visit Diana and Alice’s Grade 1
class on Tuesday to investigate the relationship between
the words <gratitude> and <grateful>.
In the morning message, teacher had written the
sentence “Find your spot to write in your Gratitude
They also had the writing prompt: “I am grateful for Nueva
I rewrote the sentences on the board and asked if
children noticed any words that might be related between
the two sentences. Without hesitation, the words
<gratitude> and <grateful> were noticed. Children said
they both had to do with the idea of being “thankful”. As I read through the entry with them, we saw that way
back in the 1550’s the word meant “pleasing to the mind”
but then we also saw the word “gratitude” in the sense
“full of gratitude…” We were excited to see evidence of
the meaning connection we were looking for! We found our way to the Latin root gratus for “pleasing”.
We were also curious to see that the word <grace> was
listed as part of this family of words. We said that we
knew about “grace” as in one could “dance gracefully” but
wondered what that had to do with “thankful.” Then we
remembered that many people “say grace” at dinner. And
that is a way of “giving thanks”. It looked like we were on
to something. Indeed! With that background, I suggested that we look into the
history of these words on Etymonline. Take a look at what
we found -- and click the hot links if you want to explore
more yourself!
grateful (adj.) 1550s, "pleasing to the mind," also "full of gratitude,
disposed to repay favors bestowed," from obsolete
adjective grate "agreeable, pleasant," from
Latin gratus "pleasing" (see grace (n.)). "A most unusual
formation" [Weekley]. Is there another case where
English uses -ful to make an adjective from an adjective?
Related: Gratefully (1540s); gratefulness.
We took a quick look at the entry for <grace> and did find
out Latin root gratus again, so we knew we were still in
the same extended family of words. But now it was time
to see if <grateful> was too! So off to Etymonline we went
gratitude (n.) mid-15c., "good will," from Middle
French gratitude (15c.) or directly from Medieval
Latin gratitudinem (nominative gratitudo)
"thankfulness," from Latin gratus "thankful,
pleasing" (see grace (n.)). Meaning "thankfulness" is
from 1560s.
There was the idea “thankfulness” and our friend the Latin
root gratus. We now had evidence that our words were in
the same etymological family. That means they share a
root. But….
Do they share a base???
I wrote the two words one above the other
with the Latin root they share below.
Now it was time to analyze our words with
word sums. The first one was pretty
straight forward. When I asked if anyone
saw a prefix or suffix in <grateful>, the
first response was perfect — they
identified the suffix <-ful> by spelling it out
loud. (Note that the bass word <full> is
not the same as the suffix <-ful>!
Now we could make our word sum:
grate + ful —> grateful
We mentioned that this is not the same <grate> as the
word for a “metal grate”. It turns out that this one is a
“bound bass” I may not have used that term yet, but some
children will be familiar with this.
Now the question was whether we could analyze
<gratitude> to find a base <grate>.
Here was our initial analysis:
grate + itude —> gratitude
We didn’t think <-itude> was a suffix, but we wanted to
analyze one step at a time. I identified the <-ude> suffix
as this is one few adults know about -- but it is essential
for knowing how to this word, and many others. One
problem is that many resources cite *<-tude> as a suffix,
but it turns out not to work. (This is like the false *<-tion>
that we will take on later!)
With this piece of the puzzle we were left with this…
grate + it + ude —> gratitude
But we still had a couple of issues. There is no <e> after the <t> in <gratitude>, and we were
not sure about the idea of an <-it> suffix.
I shared that I was quite confident that this word had an
<-ite> suffix even though I don’t know of a word <gratite>.
But an <-it> suffix is possible too. Either way, I got to
introduce a very important suffixing convention. I
explained that vowel suffixes replace final, single, silent
<e>s. We could see that in a word like <making>
make/ + ing —> making
So we tried a new word sum with the <-ite> suffix and the
<-ude> suffix that looked like this…
grate/ + ite/ + ude —> gratitude
It worked! So we could see that the words <gratitude> and
<grateful> share both the meaning of “thankful, pleasing”
from the Latin root grat(us) and that they could be
analyzed to make a matrix with a base <grate> that links
both words!
So we gave the children a matrix with just the <-ude>
suffix in place and gave them a few words to make word
sums to complete the matrix.
problem was that I made this spelling mistake
*<Greatful>. A kind friend of mine who was a good speller
pointed it out to me and said what he thought to be true
(and kind) — that if English spelling made any sense,
it would be spelled <Greatful>. But now we know different! The word <grateful> has
nothing to do with <great>! We actually looked up the word <great> in Etymonline
and found that it has to do with ideas of “big” not
“thankful”. And to make it even clearer, <great> comes
from Old English not Latin!
great (adj.) Old English great "big, tall, thick, stout, massive; coarse," I asked the students why they thought I might have made
that mistake. They noticed that I must have linked the
pronunciation of <grateful> with <great>. But we know
that the primary purpose of spelling is meaning. Now we
can remember that <grateful> must use just the <a>
rather than the <ea> and that is easy to remember when
we think of the word <gratitude>. See images of some of the student’s work that resulted
from this session on the next page.
We are so thankful that spelling makes so much sense!
Pete Bowers,
Finally I shared a story from my days as a high school
student when I was a terrible speller. I remember writing
the name of a favorite band of mine “The Grateful Dead”
on my binder. (You may have heard of them!) The only
November 19, 2015,
The Nueva School
L. grat(us)
Alice guides her Grade 1 students as the start to build the matrix for
the base <grate>. This matrix is inside the “circle” representing
etymological relatives of the Latin grat(us) for “pleasing, thankful”.
Notice that <grace> is represented in that same “circle” because it
shares the same root as <grate>, but it can’t be in the matrix,
because it is a different base.
After I left, Diane and Alice helped students construct their own
matrices on white boards. We see students beginning to show
etymological information. One student wanted to show that
<grace> was related, but had to find a way to keep it separate
from <grate>. Well done!
These may seem like subtle distinctions, but why not expose young
children to the idea that words can be similar in some ways (share a
root), but different in others (different base).
Word sums show that
the words <grateful>
and <gratitude> share
the same underlying
base spelled <grate>.
Meanwhile, in the other Grade 1 class, teachers
Jordan and Emily had children play a game of “pin
the suffix on the matrix” with this same word family!