Saturday, January 28, 2012

Prefixes, Metafiction, and Enrichment

This year, my school has adopted an intervention period right after lunch. I love it! On three cycle days, I work with students who need help with fluency. On the other three cycle days, I work on word study with an enrichment group. The variety is so much fun and I feel like I can really go far with my groups.

This week, I tried something new with my enrichment group. We're finishing up our work with prefixes, and I was trying to think of a literature link that would be enriching and interesting and appeal to my group's somewhat subversive sense of humor. But I had a deeper motive in mind. As I look at the next few months with my group, I wanted to set a new tone for our work together--something that goes beyond just test preparation and word work.

Luckily, a student had just reorganized my picture book shelf this week, and I had rediscovered the Elephant and Piggie book We Are In A Book. So--what about metafiction?

If you're not familiar with the term, click on the link above for a full explanation and a list of books that show metafiction. Basically, metafiction is just fiction about fiction--books in which the characters are aware that they're in a book.

My group quickly grasped the concept, connecting it to episodes of Phineas and Ferb and The Name of This Book Is Secret (currently making its rounds around the room). But what about the prefix link? Well, I made a chart with the prefixes we had been working on--mis, dis, re, and un--and, as we read each page of We Are In A Book, we tried to think of words with prefixes that could describe the characters or events.

It was a wonderful activity for this group. Working with their basic knowledge of prefixes, they worked to generate new words for each page. Some were obvious, like unhappy and reread. But other pages were hard. (It challenged me, too, which I always enjoy!) We talked about how some combinations of word plus prefix are generally accepted, but others are not. We also looked at how some words with prefixes have "lost" their base words--for example, repeat. But since the word repeat so clearly shows the meaning of "re", to do again, it should count as a word with a prefix.

After we finished, students made their own little metafiction mini-comics, trying to use at least one word with a prefix. And they were hilarious! Even better, students were trying to use new and interesting words with prefixes.

The idea of metafiction is incredibly appealing to the tween reader. Now that my students know the word, they feel like they are in on the secret. I casually set out The Stinky Cheese Man and it was read by 5 students in one afternoon--one even stayed in from recess to finish. :)  And techniques of metafiction are blossoming in student journals.

It's nice to have a fairly basic word study lesson become something much more interesting.


  1. I JUST discovered the Piggie and Elephant book and LOVE it! I also have the other book sitting on my bookshelf, just haven't had a chance to read it. Thanks for the reminder (and the new lesson in metafiction ;))

    Teaching in Room 6

    1. The Piggie and Elephant books are so much fun to read with kids--one of my students said that "It tells so much with only a few words!" Good luck as you share it!