Sunday, December 22, 2013

Higher Vocabulary

Talking to a 14-month old sometimes feels like speaking a foreign language. While I try to model appropriate sentence structure and words, I have to admit I find myself saying ridiculous things like, “Sit down for your sippy” and “Shoes. Shoes. I got shoes. I got shoes on my feet.” The latter is a song that we regularly sing in the morning.
I think that there is definitely a time and place for appropriate sentence structure and higher level words, but when I’m trying to cram tiny toes into a shoe that was clearly not constructed to bend to the will of a writhing, slippery child perched precariously on top of a changing table, that is not the time when I remember to say, “Please, insert your phalanges into this athletic footwear so that we can proceed to the lower level of our dwelling.”
I point this out because I think that we need to be aware of a time and place to introduce/use higher level vocabulary with our students. While I love the concept of using books with higher level vocabulary, if we don’t take the time to explain the words to students so they will understand them, I think it is similar to us using a foreign language. They may pick up on the ‘gist’ over time, but they may not gain a true understanding of the word.
However, if we choose a book that has so many words that are unrecognizable, the meaning of the text may be lost since we will have to spend so much time explaining vocabulary that the students will be using their brain power to remember word meaning.
I am wavering on the book Stardines by Jack Prelutsky. I still can’t decide whether I love it or hate it.
The poems in it are filled with great higher level vocabulary (fourth grade and above. However, reading some of the poems is like wading through a mud pit. The poems are filled with such big words, it can be hard to slog through. But, for the most part, this book is filled with interesting gems that capture the reader and make it a delight to teach interesting vocabulary.

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