Homophone of the Week: Fawn, Faun

Homophones are words that are pronounced the same but spelled differently. The base <phone>  relates to sound, while the base <hom>  denotes “same”. The study of homophones allows us to look at the meaning behind the spelling of two words that sound the same and why they might be spelled differently.

This word pair came up when a student spelled <fawn> as <faun> and I’ve learned that sometimes what we might think is a “nonsense word”, is actually a real word. It certainly was here. This was one of my favorite homophone studies to date!


Fawn is a noun meaning a young deer (Websters). Bambi is a fawn, a very cute fawn. Fawn can also be used as a verb to show affection. The teenagers are fawning over the band. The noun originally came from Old French <faon, feon> earlier derived from the Latin of meaning an offspring (Etymonline). Originally the term referenced any animal baby, but over time it grew to just apply to deer. The verb however is Old English <fægnian> denoting “rejoice, be glad, exult, applaud”. It derives from the Old English word for glad.



Faun is a noun meaning a deity with human form along with goat characteristics in their ears, horn, tail and legs (World Reference). Mr. Tumnus in The Chronicles of Narnia is a faun. A faun is similar to a satyr, that is referenced in Riordon’s Percy Jackson books. While fauns and satyrs are similar, fauns are Roman mythology and satyrs are from Greek mythology. A faun’s animal characteristics are goat and wasn’t always represented with goat hind legs. The animal characteristics of a satyr are typically horse or donkey. The word faun derives from Latin <faunus> which came from Greek φαῦνοςphaunos. Faunus was a Roman woodland God. He was written about by Virgil and in modern times he is referenced as Pan. A grammatical note that the plural of <faun> is <fauni>.


I would like to thank my students who brighten my day with their questions and Doug Harper at Etymonline for providing us with such valuable resources, as well as the artists who created these fabulous images.



Faun image credit: http: Amanda Edlund //www.deviantart.com/art/Faun-196262322

Fawn image credit:Jessica Lee https://www.facebook.com/JLPhotos


Periaktoi – those spinny set pieces

Word of the day: periaktoi



Periaktoi (“perry-act-toy”) are theatrical prism shaped set pieces that turn to define separate scenes. The face of a periaktos (singular) is painted to represent a scene. The periaktos will traditionally have have 3 faces, but can have more. It is thought that have 3 faces gives the quickest scene changes. When periaktoi are used on stage, there are typically more than one matching periaktos that are moved in synchrony and highly coordinated.

The word itself is Greek, as it comes from Greek theatre. The initial base is <per> which denotes round, or revolving. It is seen in words such as <perimeter> the measure around something. <Periodontal> means to go around the tooth. The second base is <aktos> which denotes “carry”.  The word sum for <periaktos> is peri+i+aktos. It is something that is rotated and carried. Before set pieces were on wheels, they would have to be picked up and carried to be moved or rotated.

Now you can enjoy your theatre a little more when you see periaktoi moving around the stage.


6 different scenes using a 3 sided periaktoi video

3 different cityscapes video

Photo credit to Lexi Marton –  http://alienaritist7812.deviantart.com/art/Periaktoi-4-332124938

Matrix of candidate

Let the Best Candidate Shine

Matrix of candidate

Matrix of candidate

In honor of election day, I wanted to shine some light on the word <candidate>. This word originates from the Latin word <candere> which means to “to shine, to be white”. It is where the word <candle> comes from. An <incandescent> bulb means to shine within, as it shines within a light bulb. A <candidate> is someone aspiring to be in office. In Roman times, a person seeking office would wear white, specifically a white toga. Well, let’s see who will shine today.




The Story of Halloween


The traditions of Halloween date back about 2000 years ago with the Celtic festival of Samhain /say-when/ which was celebrated on November 1st. It was thought that the ghost of the dead came out on the even of Samhain. So on the last day in October people would not leave their house unless dressed as a ghost to fool any actual ghosts into thinking they were a ghost and thus leave them alone. Additionally, people would leave food and wine on their doorstep in order to appease the ghosts. It was a great celebration.

In the 8th century, the Christian church turned Nov 1st into Allhallow’s Day, to celebrate the saints. Hallow means saint or holy person. It appears that our current word <halloween> comes from allhallow’s day. It was often referred to as Hallow’s Day. Evening in that time was just called “even” which was often shortened to “e’ve”. Over time, Allhallow-even was shortened to halloween, which became the common usage.

The concept of Halloween spread with the literature of Robert Burns in his poem, Halloween. I’ve included a reading of Robert Burns’ reading of the original poem that popularized Halloween in 1785. If you would like to see the original poem text, here’s the link.



Homophone help



Homophones are words that sound the same. means same. means sound. Common homophones we use in daily life: two, to, too. I often get the question, “why is it spelled that way?” when it relates to a homophone. Sometimes I hear, “why don’t they just spell all those words the same way?”

I have to start this conversation with the fact that our writing system is a way to record meaning, not necessarily sounds. Our oral English language has been used for a lot longer than our written language. Spoken language shift over time. Think of the word, “selfie”. That is a word that did not exist 20 years ago, but became popular in our language with the advent of smart phone and front facing cameras. Eventually Webster’s dictionary decides that it needs to formalize it’s spelling and add it into the written language. You can see how spoke words typically develop long before a written representation exists.

So what’s the deal with homophones? Why do we have to spell them differently if they are said the same? Most homophones start in our speech, but as we talk the context we use allows us to know whether we are talking about items or meaning also. We might as a society revolt against the word and insist everybody uses because it is distinguished from and , but society will continue to use words that are familiar.

So it leaves scribes attempting to figure out how to spell homophones differently because they represent two different items or meanings. Therefore, scribes must look into the history of related words to choose the spelling of words that create meaning on its spelling. One might ask, why it is that there is a unvoiced in . Great question! That marks a connection to the words such as and which both have a in them. It may seem odd to insert an unvoiced letter into any word, but English scribes worked to create morphological connections between words. They wanted to connect the meaning (2, 12, 20) together in the spelling or orthographic representation.

So when you come across a set of homophones, try to consider what their history is. Try to consider what meaning a vowel team or unvoiced letter might have in the spelling. It wasn’t put there to be “weird” or “crazy”. It has a meaning.

Lastly, I will leave you with a resource for finding homophone. It is the homophone dictionary. There are many homophones that we come into contact with daily, but some are more obscure, yet equally valid.

Dyslexia Warning Signs App

APP TESTER NEEDED: Dyslexia Warning Signs

Dyslexia Warning Signs app is a simple app designed for professionals that have no experience or knowledge with dyslexia, but who are professionals that parents come to for help. This app is currently in its testing phase and that is where I need your help. I am looking for parents who would be willing to download this free app on their iPad, take the questionnaire, and give me their feedback on the experience. Feedback should be emailed to apps@levelupdyslexia.com. I need feedback on look/feel, usability, information provided, and additional features that would be helpful. Thank you again for your help and support.

Download app on your iPad here. It’s free.

Why we teach the difference between a grapheme and a phoneme.


graphemes and phonemes of the word “school”

All children need to be taught what a grapheme and a phoneme is and why. A grapheme is the letter representation of a sound, while a phoneme is the sound representation of a letter or letters. The reason why this is important in English is because we don’t have a one to one letter to sound correspondence. So we use two or three letters to make up a sound such as ‘sh’ making a shushing sound. Likewise there are some phonemes (sounds) that are represented with more than one grapheme. The /z/ sound as in the beginning of “zoo” is typically thought of as spelled with a ‘z’, but it is also spelled with a “s” in words like ‘please’ and ‘design’.

The reason to use these distinctions is mainly to assist in spelling, although it does also have a place in reading. I point out a great video by Pete Bowers who explains about the spelling of ‘school’. Note that he talks about how there are 6 letters in ‘school’, but only 4 graphemes and 4 phonemes. While some may wonder why there is a silent ‘h’ in school, there really isn’t. The ‘ch’ represents the /k/ sound, such as in Christmas. The teaching of kids in the lower elementary grades that there are phonemes and graphemes helps them significantly with spelling.

If we were to break down words according to not only their letters but by phoneme and grapheme, it makes it easier for kids to see and remember the words for spelling and reading at a later time.

California Dyslexia Law 2015

CA dyslexia bill
Today, Governor Brown signed into law, AB1369, a California Dyslexia Law. It is the first time in 30 years that dyslexia has been addressed.

It should be noted that there is not a mandate for teachers to use a specific program, but with the guidelines by the state forthcoming it will be expected that multi-sensory structured literacy will become the method for reading remediation. Additionally, it give parents, teachers, and administrators guidance on what is effective, as delineated by the scientific evidence.

Additional California law is expected to follow to address the inadequacies of screening for dyslexia and the need for teachers to be trained in the risk factors and implementation of these reading interventions.

Declaration of Independence From All Ineffective Literacy Methods for Students With Dyslexia

In CALIFORNIA, July 4, 2015

The unanimous Declaration of Independence

from all

ineffective literacy methods for students with Dyslexia 

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve an ineffective educational method connected by Dyslexia, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the Laws of IDEA entitle them, the decent respectful opinions of mankind requires a declaration cause which impel them to revolt.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all students are not created equal, but that all students are endowed with certain unalienable rights, that among these are free, appropriate public education.

To secure these rights, the Educational system, deriving their powers from the laws governed by our state and country, that whenever an Educational method becomes destructive, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Educational methods, laying its foundation on such principles for students to seek Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that certain Educational methods for Dyslexia long established should not be changed for light and transient causes: and accordingly all experience hath shown, that students are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations occur within the educational systems, it is their right, it is the duty, to throw off such Educational practices, and provide new interventions to guard for their future.

The student who is suffering with Dyslexia; now it is necessary to alter Educational practices. The history of the California Educational system has a history of repeated injuries and usurpations for such students, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over their School Districts. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to to candid world.

Districts have refused to follow the IDEA related to Dyslexia, indicating that it does not exist; it needs to for the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

Certain educations organizations have forbidden his Legislators to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance in literacy

Districts have called together their administrative bodies in such a way that its effect, and seeming purpose of fatiguing families into signing IEPs in which they do not agree that meets their child’s needs

Districts have endeavored to prevent the families from feeling they have the right to evaluation and testing, or interventions for that matter

Districts who have evaluated students have obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing to qualify students for a myriad of unfounded reasons.

Districts have combined with others to subject us to:

Following unacknowledged rules, regulations and policies; such guidelines which do not exist and cannot be found in writing among their district writings

Blocking access to evidence-base multi sensory direct explicit structured and systematic intervention; Only allowing the use of ineffective curriculum that only frustrate our child, leaving them grades behind

Depriving our children of the opportunity to read

Depriving our children of the opportunity to write and spell that is on par with their intellect

Ridiculing our children’s efforts, by way of telling them to “try harder”

Stabbing and stealing their self esteem, a secondary effect of they Educational system’s inability to effectively remediate our children’s reading and spelling

Absconding with their desire to learn; dashing their hope they can learn beyond.

Imposing a financial burden upon our families because the California Education system has failed to teach our children the basic inalienable right to read and to write, leaving families who want their capable children with Dyslexia to be literate to employ tutors trained in evidence-base multi sensory direct explicit structured and systematic which should be and could easily be available at every educational institution in California

For segregating those children, who are fortunate enough to have the Educational system agree to help them, by placing them with peers who do not have such similar educational goals

For the stronghold that takes place when a family should speak out about such Educational rights, and declaring these families should be fought in the area of due process

We do not want the attentions that has been bestowed upon us. We have warned them from time to time of the attempts of unwarrantable erroneous literacy interventions. We have reminded them of the circumstance of our right to a free and appropriate public education. We have appealed to their humanity and have requested the disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our children’s education. They too have been deaf to the voices of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounced the efficacy of these Educational methods to teach our children with Dyslexia in literacy, and hold them as unknowing, unlearned in the ways, yet those we must over come for the sake of our Children’s livelihood.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the children with Dyslexia of California, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Legislators of California for the rectitude of our intentions, do solemnly publish and declare, That these children and students have at their disposal the evidence based and effective interventions at their disposal at each and every educational institute erected in the the state of California. Being absolved from all previous ill mannered and ineffective literacy programs for our children of Dyslexia shall be dissolved and abolished from their curriculum. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of IDEA, we mutually pledge to each other our Loves, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Written by Lisa Klipfel

Adapted from the Declaration Of Independence of the United States of America


United We Stand Against All Ineffective Literacy Methods for Students With Dyslexia

United We Stand Against All Ineffective Literacy Methods for Students With Dyslexia

Word Analysis: Is it gray or grey?


Is it gray or grey?

After a long discussion and confusion about the spelling of whether it is <gray> or <grey> at the dinner table, we had to “look it up.” <Gray> started in use in 1863 as the color the Southern troops of the US Civil War.

The distinction between the two spellings is defined by location. The US spells the color <gray>, while in Britain it is spelled <grey>. I think some of the confusion comes from the word <greyhound>, a specific dog bread. Although most greyhounds are not necessarily gray, it has created some confusion about how the word <gray> is spelled. <Greyhound> came from the word <grew> which is a middle English word for <Greek>. There is reference to a saying, using <grey>, that was used by the Old Norse in Iceland which almost sparked a war between the pagans and the Christians. In this saying <grey> referenced a derogatory term for a female dog.

So, if you are in the US, it might be especially important to spell the color between black and white with an <ay> at the end. You wouldn’t want to offend an Icelandic person, or anything. If you don’t know anyone who is Icelandic, you do now.