Forensic (n/adj)

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been reading and editing college application essays in a couple of senior English Language Arts classes I co-teach. It has been awhile since I dealt with this kind of writing–to wit my own application essay. In any case, this is my first time teaching this course. It’s fun, but new, and therefore challenging in the way teachers hope to be challenged.

Quite a few young people are interested in careers in forensic science these days. Forensic is one of those tricky polysemous words in English. When I wrote this context clues worksheet on the noun and adjective forensic, I wanted students to understand its meaning, as you will see if you use it, as an argumentative exercise, as in a debate team. But it also means, as television shows have it, as the application of scientific knowledge to legal problems; esp: scientific analysis of physical evidence (as from a crime scene).

As time passes, I am persuaded that the best way to help students develop their own deep understanding is to start them with the Latin adjective forensis, from which the English forensic evolved. That way, students begin with the basic conceptual knowledge this word represents, i.e. public; pertaining to the courts. Then, with that prior knowledge as a foundation, teachers and students can move forward in understanding forensic in English, which is more nuanced that its Latin ancestor.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

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