FEBRUARY is all about ADJECTIVES… words that DESCRIBE.
“Who cares about words, anyway?”
This question was posed to me by a student many, many years ago when I was just beginning my semester as a student teacher. I was studying to be a high school English teacher, and this young man was in my first class on my first day. I must say that the question stopped me in my tracks. At that moment, my vocabulary lesson that went along with my first lesson plan went right out the window of that big city high school. I really didn’t know how to answer that question. I had always cared about words… knowing words, reading words, speaking words, writing words, using words.
But that question is the one that challenged me to rethink everything I knew and loved about learning, and to begin my journey of sharing a love of learning, a love of words and a love of literature with young people who didn’t think they cared.
I did get through that first class, and all of that first day… but I knew that I had to have an answer for this young man the very next day. I thought about it. I talked to some fellow student teachers about it. I thought about it from the depths of my heart. This was my answer, the answer I shared the next day with that young man, that class, and with every one of the many reluctant students I had over the next 30 years: You don’t care about words because no-one has ever threatened to take them away from you. Words are gifts. But what if someone took the gifts away. Imagine how you would feel if someone denied you the opportunity to learn words. Use words. Read words. Write words. Learn new words. I set up a little experiment, of sorts. I divided the class right down the middle. Group A would participate, read, learn, share. Group B was not allowed to take notes, participate, read, communicate or share. Group B could not participate in any way. A few students, including the young man who had asked the original question, were all for this new arrangement. They relished being in Group B…
… for only a couple of days. Words came to mean a little more to them when they were denied the opportunity to learn words and use words. That young man went on to become one of my most memorable students. I later told him that had he not challenged me with his words, I don’t think I would have loved teaching as much as I did.
LITERACY is all about the WORDS. Children love new words. Children love the opportunity to use new words. Words give children great confidence in their reading, speaking and writing. FEBRUARY is all about ADJECTIVES in my 365 Days of Literacy for Kids, so here are the next 2 Adjectives:
1. bitter – a) sharp, unpleasant taste; b) causing discomfort to the body or mind; c) marked by disappointment. What to love about this word? It’s easy to tell children that bitter is the opposite of sweet. bitter tastes bad and feels bad. bitter is such a wonderfully descriptive word, a word that children will easily grasp. Explain to your children that even words themselves can be bitter… sharp, cutting or severe enough to make someone suffer. I’m sure that bitter words have been used, sadly, on every playground at one time or another. Ask your children if they’ve ever been hurt by, or heard, bitter words. Remind your children that on Day 27 of 365 Days of Literacy for Kids, we bumped into the word bitter in the poem I Cry, written by Tupak Shakur: The tears I cry are bitter and warm. The tears both tasted unpleasant and were unpleasant to the poet’s body and mind. bitter. A word to know. A word to use.
2. blithe – happy, kind, friendly, gentle. What to love about this word? What is there not to love about the word blithe? blithe is used to describe people, and even such things as animals, birds, music. Anything with outward gladness or joy, or bringing gladness or joy, can be described as blithe. Example: The children swam with silver dolphins, so blithe and so free. Ask your children if they’d like to be described as blithe. Be on the look-out for blithe people… teachers, cashiers, grandparents, librarians, coaches (well, coaches when they’re not being tough and unrelenting… but are blithe deep down inside!). Use the word blithe just for the pure happiness of it.
bitter. blithe. Meet these opposites. Introduce your children to them. Use them. Have fun with them. LITERACY is all about Words and words are gifts!