In all aspects of life, we want out children to “dig deeper”, right?
There is a lot of love going around in February, and a lot of kids writing the word. What a great time to give them the inside story on why this amorous, affectionate, word of adoration doesn’t follow our normal sound-symbol (phoneme-grapheme) relationship.
English isn’t crazy, but it does have a long history. Middle English manuscript was made up of “minums”, which are a series of vertical strokes. Without rounded letters, it could be extremely difficult to work out which vertical stroke went with which letter. The letter “u” next to a “v” or a “w” could get a little wonky.
The practice of replacing “u” before “m”, “n”, or “v” with an “o” was to break up a sequence of minims. In other words, there were just too many vertical lines in a row because “u” was also made up of vertical lines.
There’s even a science behind this called paleography. We know that a paleontologist is a scientist that studies life forms from previous geographical periods. A paleographer studies old handwriting from previous periods, examining manuscripts and parchment. (A little word study thrown in here). While these minims shown are from Latin are written in a later period of Gothic, it still gives one the idea of the difficulty of straight lines and readability. (this example was from Wikipedia)
I don’t want our “littles’ to learn to write in minims, but I do like them to have a simulation of it to understand why the language was changed and why it makes sense that these words have changed. Their attempts don’t have to portray accuracy of a minim….the exercise is to help them understand WHY “love”, “come” and “done” (and other words that end with v, m,and n) have an “o” instead of a “u” and end with an “e”. “Digging deeper” to become involved in the spelling will help them with understanding and retention.
Explaining and showing these examples to children deepens their understanding of our language and helps dispel the idea that English is a crazy language. It’s just a language that has evolved over many centuries.
I have my “littles” try to write words like luv, duv, gluv and even uvin and muny using all vertical lines to give them a bit of an experience of what it must have felt like to read these words, and how wonderful it is that they have evolved into love, dove, glove, oven, money so WD can read them! English isn’t crazy once we delve a little deeper. And to hear our “six” tell her Grandpa the story on the phone was precious. She’s loves this “word detective” stuff! And when she can tell an adult, it’s like being invited into the “Big Kid” club!
Download: FREE Four in a Row game that has students read and become familiar with these words. To see them visually, without confusion, will help instill these exceptions into their repertoire and appreciate where the language comes from.