Sarah's Song

story by Anna Trigwell , illustrated by Andrew Joyner

Learning intention:

I am learning the origins of complex words so that I can spell them correctly.


Success criteria:

  • I can identify complex spelling patterns
  • I can independently research the origins of words
  • I can apply my knowledge of word origins to spell similar complex words


Read the story aloud to students without letting them see the text. After reading, have students attempt to write the following words from the narrative:

- hysterics

- technicality

- geriatric

- auditioning

- potential

- professional

- malfunctioning

- criticism

- applause

- official


Display the words on the board and have students check their spelling. Do a think, pair, share to give students a chance to discuss which spelling sounds surprised them. For students who spelled everything correctly, ask them to find all the ways that the sound ‘sh’ is written. Answers: ‘ti’ (auditioning, malfunctioning, potential), ‘ci’ (official), ‘ssi’ (professional).


Each student will need three small blank pieces of paper, about the size of an index card. They are to choose three words to research online (preferably words they had spelled incorrectly). Tell them their jobs are to find:

  1. Why their three chosen words are spelled the way they are.
  2. How to divide their words into syllables.
  3. The definition of their words.
  4. Words with similar origins.


Students are to independently find answers online. Give guidance where necessary. An example is below.


Side one of index card:



plural noun: fits or convulsions of hysteria


Side two of index card:

The word hysterics originates from Latin hystericus meaning “of the womb”, from Greek hysterikos meaning “of the womb, suffering in the womb” and from hystera meaning “womb”. The -ics comes from Greek ikos meaning “matters pertaining to”. (Source: Etmyonline’s entry for hysterics)

Words with similar origins: hysteria, hysterical, hysterectomy


When complete, students share their answers. They can compile their papers into an accessible classroom book. They can also add other complex words as they come across them in different lessons.