Today’s word is ‘receive’. It comes up almost every time I ask a room of people about difficult words. It’s almost always taught alone as part of some list or other in some kind of spelling sequence, but again, if you look under the bonnet and see what drives this word and other words like it, you might have a better chance of helping your students remember it for spelling.
I also like the fact that it starts with re-, but this prefix is more of a structural affix than a plain and simple denotation of ‘back/again’, which many who are jumping on the morphology bandwagon are keen to say it is. I used to teach that myself, but it’s not strictly true. Once again, living and learning are two of my favourite things.
I’ll explain further with a word list:
resent (I resent the accusation.) re-sent (He re-sent the letter.)
repair (Please repair the light.) re-pair (I re-pair my socks after washing them.)
redress (I sought redress in court.) re-dress (We re-dress the wound every day.)
The words in column one begin with re-, but the sense of ‘back/again’ has faded, as has the vowel sound in the first syllable in speech (no, you don’t say /riːzɛnt/, you only think you do because you have fully built lexicon, think of the novices you’re teaching, not your own, adult mind). The words in the second column have emphasis on that first syllable now, showing the sense of ‘back/again’.
Doug Harper of Etymonline puts its history and its identity very well here.
So back to ‘receive’. I’ll tell you the story and then I’ll tell you how I remember it. Etymologies are great and wonderful to know, but the creation of easily retrievable mental orthographic images relies on practice. Make sure you plan for the practice of this and the other words in its family.