A coeducational day school serving students JK-12

Move over spelling lists and rote memorization. A new, more favored approach to learning spelling and vocabulary exists, and it’s called structured word inquiry (SWI). 
Structured Word Inquiry is a way to scientifically investigate words, what they mean, how they are connected and how they are spelled. SWI is a way to scientifically investigate words, what they mean, how they are connected and how they are spelled. “It’s a thinking routine, a method for understanding the structure and spelling of words,” said Jennifer Reese, Latin’s Lower School Reading Specialist.

How It Works

Through a guided discussion with teachers, students explore what a word means, how it is built, its history, related words, and the letters and sounds that make up the word. Take for example the word ‘recycle.’  Most first graders will know it means to reuse.  But how is it built? The base of this word is ‘cycle,’ which means revolve or circle. If you add the prefix ‘re’ which means again or back, the meaning of the word becomes clear. Depending on the grade, teachers might discuss the history of this word, and how it originally referred to industrial processes. Teachers will then guide students to identify related words including those with other prefixes (unicycle, bicycle, tricycle, lifecycle) or suffixes (recycles, recycling, recyclable). Last, teachers and students will explore the sounds and letters. For example, the /s/ sound in ‘recycles’ is spelled ˂cy˃.  But the /s/ sound can also be spelled ˂ce˃ like in the word ‘nice’ or ˂ci˃ like in the word ‘city.’  
   
Traditionally, students learned to read by sounding out letters and words. Vocabulary and spelling were taught by rote memorization which isolates words in silos so that they are learned independently of one another. SWI turns this notion on its head. It uses tools such as word sums and element boards to group words into families so students can see the links and relationships between them.

Structured Word Inquiry element board

This is an element board from a first grade classroom mid-year. The right side lists the thinking routine students use. The "bases" first graders' study include all the following essential phonological patterns that are hallmarks from any spelling program. This same "board" is a work in progress throughout the school year. Students add to it constantly and will see one each year in their classroom, but the bases will be different.

Structured Word Inquiry word matrix

These are a couple of very simple completed word matrices. They are the end product of studying the morphological relatives of a base. Students might create these in conjunction with, or after having completed lexical word sums. This is created with a student, like an anchor chart.

Educators and researchers have realized that the traditional approach to reading, spelling and learning vocabulary is limiting. “It’s like the tip of an iceberg, where you are not seeing what’s underneath,” said Reese. “If you are not giving students more information about patterns, they don’t make the connections in meaning.”

In the video above, a small group of SK students works on a word web from "language games." It shows how easily these young students can engage in the study of word structure in a very age-appropriate way.

If you are not giving students more information about patterns, they don’t make the connections in meaning.
Jennifer Reese, lower school reading specialist

Advantages to SWI    

SWI was first introduced to Latin students in 2015. Koren Zelek, Latin’s Learning Resources teacher, quickly realized that SWI promoted student questioning. Not only that, Zelek loves how SWI discussions can veer in many directions based on students’ questions. “It may take us several lessons to get through the material,” she said with a laugh.  SWI’s focus on questioning and examination perfectly aligns with Latin’s statement on teaching, where learning is the process of meaningful inquiry, reflection and feedback. 

Teachers also appreciate SWI because students heartily contribute to the discussion. “It’s exciting because rather than the entire lesson being fed to the student, there is this nice balance between something being student-led and teacher-led,” Reese said. Watch any SWI discussion, and you’ll notice that students are talking as much as the teacher. 

Moreover, SWI is multidisciplinary, with students studying words from math (i.e., numerator, denominator) and social studies (i.e., community, equity) curricula. This multifaceted approach piques the curiosity of students, who then may spend more time with the material. Kids who normally can’t pay attention are volunteering and listening because they are intellectually engaged.
Koren Zelek, lower school learning resources
“It’s so engaging for students, especially those students who are intellectually intrigued,” said Zelek. “Kids who normally can’t pay attention are volunteering and listening because they are intellectually engaged.” 

Zelek and Reese are particularly gratified when students use classroom tools like the element boards just for fun.  “I have students who tell me, ‘Hey, Ms. Zelek, I just made some words with the element board.’ That is awesome.” 

Academics
 

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Structured Word Inquiry in the Lower School: A Scientific Investigation of Words

Move over spelling lists and rote memorization. A new, more favored approach to learning spelling and vocabulary exists, and it’s called structured word inquiry (SWI). 
Structured Word Inquiry is a way to scientifically investigate words, what they mean, how they are connected and how they are spelled. SWI is a way to scientifically investigate words, what they mean, how they are connected and how they are spelled. “It’s a thinking routine, a method for understanding the structure and spelling of words,” said Jennifer Reese, Latin’s Lower School Reading Specialist.

How It Works

Through a guided discussion with teachers, students explore what a word means, how it is built, its history, related words, and the letters and sounds that make up the word. Take for example the word ‘recycle.’  Most first graders will know it means to reuse.  But how is it built? The base of this word is ‘cycle,’ which means revolve or circle. If you add the prefix ‘re’ which means again or back, the meaning of the word becomes clear. Depending on the grade, teachers might discuss the history of this word, and how it originally referred to industrial processes. Teachers will then guide students to identify related words including those with other prefixes (unicycle, bicycle, tricycle, lifecycle) or suffixes (recycles, recycling, recyclable). Last, teachers and students will explore the sounds and letters. For example, the /s/ sound in ‘recycles’ is spelled ˂cy˃.  But the /s/ sound can also be spelled ˂ce˃ like in the word ‘nice’ or ˂ci˃ like in the word ‘city.’  
   
Traditionally, students learned to read by sounding out letters and words. Vocabulary and spelling were taught by rote memorization which isolates words in silos so that they are learned independently of one another. SWI turns this notion on its head. It uses tools such as word sums and element boards to group words into families so students can see the links and relationships between them.

Structured Word Inquiry element board

This is an element board from a first grade classroom mid-year. The right side lists the thinking routine students use. The "bases" first graders' study include all the following essential phonological patterns that are hallmarks from any spelling program. This same "board" is a work in progress throughout the school year. Students add to it constantly and will see one each year in their classroom, but the bases will be different.

Structured Word Inquiry word matrix

These are a couple of very simple completed word matrices. They are the end product of studying the morphological relatives of a base. Students might create these in conjunction with, or after having completed lexical word sums. This is created with a student, like an anchor chart.

Educators and researchers have realized that the traditional approach to reading, spelling and learning vocabulary is limiting. “It’s like the tip of an iceberg, where you are not seeing what’s underneath,” said Reese. “If you are not giving students more information about patterns, they don’t make the connections in meaning.”

In the video above, a small group of SK students works on a word web from "language games." It shows how easily these young students can engage in the study of word structure in a very age-appropriate way.

If you are not giving students more information about patterns, they don’t make the connections in meaning.
Jennifer Reese, lower school reading specialist

Advantages to SWI    

SWI was first introduced to Latin students in 2015. Koren Zelek, Latin’s Learning Resources teacher, quickly realized that SWI promoted student questioning. Not only that, Zelek loves how SWI discussions can veer in many directions based on students’ questions. “It may take us several lessons to get through the material,” she said with a laugh.  SWI’s focus on questioning and examination perfectly aligns with Latin’s statement on teaching, where learning is the process of meaningful inquiry, reflection and feedback. 

Teachers also appreciate SWI because students heartily contribute to the discussion. “It’s exciting because rather than the entire lesson being fed to the student, there is this nice balance between something being student-led and teacher-led,” Reese said. Watch any SWI discussion, and you’ll notice that students are talking as much as the teacher. 

Moreover, SWI is multidisciplinary, with students studying words from math (i.e., numerator, denominator) and social studies (i.e., community, equity) curricula. This multifaceted approach piques the curiosity of students, who then may spend more time with the material. Kids who normally can’t pay attention are volunteering and listening because they are intellectually engaged.
Koren Zelek, lower school learning resources
“It’s so engaging for students, especially those students who are intellectually intrigued,” said Zelek. “Kids who normally can’t pay attention are volunteering and listening because they are intellectually engaged.” 

Zelek and Reese are particularly gratified when students use classroom tools like the element boards just for fun.  “I have students who tell me, ‘Hey, Ms. Zelek, I just made some words with the element board.’ That is awesome.” 

Academics
 

Explore Our News & Stories

hands up in the air at concert

Nora Cheng '21, one-third of Chicago's alternative/ indie rock band Horsegirl, is featured in a Rolling Stone article. Check out their song "Billy" and its accompanying music video, which the band described as “a love letter to past music scenes we wish we could have witnessed”.

Read the full Rolling Stone article and watch Horsegirl's music video "Billy" here.

Read The Forum's article on Horsegirl's emergence here.

 

 

  • Alumni
Third grade computer science students

Our youngest Romans in the lower school spend a significant amount of time on their digital devices, however, what’s important is how they spend that time and if they are being good digital citizens while online. 

Digital citizenship is integrated into daily learning throughout the school, from keeping passwords private to balancing screen time. Lower School Computer Science & Technology Integration Specialist Fiona Deeney, integrates digital citizenship into classroom discussions in computer science classes, with projects or activities in all grades. One example of a project is first grade students using Scratch Jr. to show what they know about keeping passwords private, asking adults before going online and balancing use of technology. The fourth graders create an infographic to display in the school to show their knowledge of what it means to be a positive digital citizen and positive digital footprints. (You can learn more about the project in this article from the 2020-21 school year.)

It’s also important for families to practice good digital citizenship skills, so we have included some helpful resources for families to learn more about managing a healthy online presence for themselves and their children. These may help facilitate conversations at home about digital citizenship and being safe online and align with conversations we have at school in all three divisions.

K-2 SEL in Digital Life-Family Conversations Starters Packet
Grades K-5 Family Tips: Help Kids Balance Their Media Lives 
Cyberbullying
Privacy and Internet Safety
Follow the Digital Trail: Our Digital Footprints 
International Society for Technology in Education Standards for Students 
SOURCES: Common Sense Media, ISTE

Academics

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  • lower school
Fall 2021 Athletics Athletes

The upper school athletics teams were on fire this fall season! Check out their season highlights and accomplishments.

Boys Cross Country

Boys and Girls Cross Country
It was a historic season for the Romans Cross Country teams. Both the boys and the girls teams won Conference, Regionals and Sectionals. The girls team finished fourth at the State meet in Class 2A. The Boys team WON the State meet and are the Class 1A State champions! It was a fantastic season for the entire team. All-State honors was given to Ryan Hardiman '22 who set a new school record at 14:59. He's joined by Akili Parekh '23 and Ben Gibson '25 as All-State athletes. Ava Parekh '22 won the girls State meet, while also setting a new school record in 16:23. She's joined by Mia Kotler '25 as an All-State Athlete. All five were honored as All-Conference, All-Regionals and All-Sectional athletes.

GIrls Field Hockey

Varsity Field Hockey
The 2021 Latin Varsity Field Hockey team played one of their best seasons ever! This team demonstrated grit, determination, and passion while competing to finish the season with an overall record of 16-4. They are proud to have swept the ISL league with a record of 6-0. This accomplishment was the first time Latin Field Hockey had won the ISL in 20 years. They had nine clean sheets to the season, and a 14-game winning streak. Not only did this team exceed expectations on the field, but they were a joy to coach with their charisma, free-spirits, and genuine love for one another and this program. The team will greatly miss the 10 seniors next year. They are the trailblazers for what's to come for Latin Field Hockey. 

JV Blue Field Hockey
The 2021 JV Blue team had a record-breaking year. The record of 10-2-2 will go down into the history books, but what got them there is much more important than the numbers themselves. Behind these numbers are 20 individual stories. These are stories about what they learned about themselves and as a team. The things they sacrificed and the things they did both physically and psychologically that they never thought possible. The team made and solidified important and lasting friendships that will last a lifetime. Their stories brought them together to this point. It led them to realize that there is more joy in succeeding together than succeeding alone. 

JV Orange Field Hockey
The 2021 JV Orange squad made tremendous strides on and off the field. Their growth and competitiveness were reflected in our final record of 6-0-4. Each and every individual on the team contributed to our undefeated season. The team hammered down fundamentals, learned new skills and challenged ourselves to think tactically. The top goal scorers were Ulla Ciaccio '24, Maddie Gaines '24, and Alexa Valentine '24. With the potential of the girls on this team, this is surely only the beginning when it comes to their field hockey success! 

Boys Golf


Varsity Boys Golf
The 2021 Golf season afforded Latin to continue its recent strong program standing within the ISL and IHSA State series. The program was recognized by the ISL with this year’s Sportsmanship Award, identifying the program's consistent focus on respecting the game, ourselves, and our competitors. The team finished the season with a dual match record of 9-1 and finished in second place in the ISL standings to long-time foe, North Shore Country Day. The program tips our hat to the entire roster, with a special thank you to our seniors; they will be missed!  The coaches look forward to the continued growth and success of the Golf program into the future.

JV Boys Golf
JV Golf posted a strong 8-3 record for the 2021 season. The team's captains, Quinn Lovette '23, Ryan Rose '23 and Clark Patton '22, fostered lively camaraderie and a dedicated but relaxed team culture. The future bodes well for Latin golf, as Freshman Will Behan '25 and Karim Patterson '25 posted the team's lowest scores all season long, quickly cementing themselves atop the roster. Above all, JV Golf had a ton of fun this year - every minute spent with these guys was a pleasure. The coaches couldn't have asked for a better group.

Girls Golf Team

Varsity Girls Golf
The 2021 season was the strongest for the Latin Girls Golf program. The team played a very competitive schedule and finished the season with a record of 11-2. The girls won the ISL conference, IHSA regionals and the IHSA sectionals. At the IHSA state tournament, the team finished in eighth place overall after the two-day tournament.  All of the players made significant contributions to the team’s success. The team was led by seniors Emilia Rose '22, Giuliana Dowd '22 and Pickle Coleman '22 along with junior Lizzie Lucas '23, sophomores Maggie Zeiger '24, Ellery Axel '24 and Nisa Ahmed '24. The coaches look to continue to build upon the success of the golf program next season. 

Boys Soccer


Varsity Boys Soccer
Latin demonstrated a high level of class and resiliency during the 2021 season. For the third year in a row, Latin was recognized by the ISL with the sportsmanship award identifying our program’s focus on respecting and honoring the game. Latin finished 10-4-7 and advanced to the sectional finals. This year’s team was led by seniors Andrei Nikitovic '22, Ascher Cahn '22, Cesar Blas '22, David Cordon '22, Israel Martinez '22, Kai Lugo '22, Reed Rasmussen '22 (C), Sam Gibson '22 (C) and Shane Healy '22. While the team is losing nine seniors, the program has a strong foundation and nine starters returning. 

JV Boys Soccer
JV Boys Soccer was awesome! The boys honored the game by playing good, clean soccer. Every member of the team did their job and no one let their teammates down. The coaches would regularly receive praise from the opposition as well as from the referees! A referee came up to us after a match compelled to share that we were the best team he’s ever seen. And it wasn’t the final score or one individual's skill, but rather the entire team playing good soccer! Every match, they showed up with mad swag and walked away classier than ever. This group was the epitome of cool. It was tons of fun.

Girls Swimming


Girls Swimming
Led by captains Mia Wolniak '22, Lauren Valentin '22 and Reena Nuygen '22, the Girls Swim team had an amazing season. The team had a final meet record of 6-4, and placed second in the ISL. At Sectionals, the team placed eighth overall. Junior Elynor Starr '23 placed top 12 in her individual events (ninth in the 100 fly, 10th in the 500 free) and scored a lot of points for Latin. In addition, all three relays had season best times by a wide margin. The 200 medley relay finished eighth (Wolniak '22, Valentin '22, Starr '23, Weiskirch '25), the 200 free relay finished ninth (Mann '23, Hallinan '24, Cahill '23, Valentin '22), and the 400 free relay finished seventh (Starr '23, Hallinan '24, Wolniak '22, Weiskirch '25) overall.  

Girls Tennis


Varsity Girls Tennis
In 2020, Girls Tennis, unfortunately, did not have a State series despite winning ISL and Sectionals. However, they still came back in 2021, firing on all cylinders with the new additions of our two freshmen Marlo Leik '25 and Malia Chen '25. The team was led by seniors Phoebe Lembeck '22, Lucy Mitchell '22, and Junior Alice Mihas '23. Together they led the team to place second in State and ISL. Our State team consisted of our top two doubles teams, Alyssa Batcheler '22 and Lucy Mitchell '22, who had a triumphant win over U-High at the State final and won first place! Talia Truska '23 and Alice Mihas '23 fought their way to fourth place by beating Wauconda in a full third set in the quarterfinals. Overall, the team finished with a record of 13-2! 

JV Girls Tennis
The JV Girls Tennis team had an action-packed season with 12 matches, one weekend tournament and daily practices. Overall the team had a winning season finishing 8 and 4, with some of the losses almost too close to count. The coaches are so proud of the resilience, hustle and sportsmanship they saw on court day in and day out. Special congratulations to McKenzie Goltermann '25 the winning our Most Improved Player award. Alanna Madry '22, for winning the Sportsmanship award, and Lauren Pearsall '23 for winning the Most Valuable Player award. 

Girls Volleyball


Varsity Girls Volleyball
2021 was a difficult season for Girl Varsity Volleyball. After a challenging non-conference start to the season in the TC/Westmont and Niles West tournaments, the girls were able to pick up some momentum for the season. Lead by the seniors Tobi Morrow '22, Remy Rigby '22, and the setting of freshman standout Kate Malaisrie '25, the Romans were able to finish with a respectable 6-2 third place ISL finish and an overall 11-16 record. The team powered through our IHSA Regional competition and ended up falling in the Sectional semi-final to the eventual State championship team. While many individual players showed excellence during the season, three were recognized on the ISL All-Conference Team: Tobi Morrow '22, Remy Rigby '22, and Kate Malaisrie '25.

Freshman Girls Volleyball
As the fall 2021 Freshman Volleyball season has come to a close, the word to best describe it is new. New spaces, new faces, and new experiences. Though new, it was also a time filled with learning, laughing, and most importantly conditioning. The growth of these players in the past 10 weeks was very encouraging and should serve as a positive indicator of what’s to come over the next three years for this group. The season finished with a 5-6 record. However, the improvement that each player made cannot be deduced to a simple win-loss record on the stat sheet. The group showed up each day giving it their all, staying patient, and challenging themselves to be better athletes (and if they didn’t, well we ran). The team bought the mentality of “always believing that they can” and towards the end of the season fought hard with everything with that they had to win.

For a photo recap of the fall season, check out this video by Alyssa Batcheler '22, which was created for and presented at Fall Sports Banquet in November.

Athletics

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Lower school students in computer science class

Do you know how to think like a computer? In computer science classes, our lower school students learn to take a complex problem, break it down and focus on key ideas and information in order to solve the problem, just like a computer, but on a much smaller scale. 

At Latin, students gain computational thinking skills at a young age, which expand significantly through their time at the school. Computational thinking is a thought process around organizing problems in a strategic, organized way. In the lower school, students learn how to break down a big problem and then think through ways to solve that problem, building skills and a solid foundation for working through real-world challenges as they get older.

First grade computer science students explore how to build circuits with a tool called littleBits. Students are provided a power bit, an input, such as buttons, slide dimmers, proximity sensors and temperature sensors, as well as an output like buzzers, lights, motors and fans. They use computational thinking skills to create a circuit that makes the output work properly by understanding how energy flows through the necessary components all connected together.

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