For the love of words

“No, no you need to go to the dinosaur story – just wait she will leave!”

As a writer I love listening into others conversation and today I had the perfect set up. I was school (think big city, mainly Hispanic, African American and Somali children) getting ready to start the state tests. There was a stack of test tickets that I needed to cut and sort so I am standing with my back to the computer lab cutting away.

As I am working I hear two girls typing in their username and opening up apps for story telling. A reserve teacher is kindly helping these two kindergarten students and pointing them in the direction of easy readers and “helping them with vocabulary.” She is pointing to the little puppy. “See it says puppy right there.”imgres-1

I can’t see the faces of the girls but I am thinking “oh, so sweet!”

That is when I hear this whisper  -“No, no you need to go to the dinosaur story – just wait she will leave!”  I turned slightly to watch and sure enough the reserve teacher moved on to students in another row of computers.

I was fascinated! What were they going to read and why were they waiting for the lady to leave?

imgresThey opened up the dinosaur app and began the story. Here is the new conversation

  • “See there are the carnivores!”
  • “How do you know?”
  • “Well, that is easy see their big teeth? They are for grinding and mashing they eat meat like me. I am a carnivore. Are you?  Besides it says carnivore at the top of the page. Duh”
  • “I like these guys they are herbivores – see all the plants around them.”
  • “What is that guy?”
  • “I am not sure but he could be a velociraptor we should read what it say about his habitat and what he eats. That will help us know who he is?”

All I could do was smile – little folks and dinosaurs and little folks with the love of big words! They went on discussing dinosaurs with names I had no idea existed.

Here was this sweet lady leading the girls to a book with low vocabulary and cute little pictures. The girls sitting quietly waiting for her to leave before they dove into the more “meaty” subject of dinosaurs and reading with a much high vocabulary.

We forget sometime that kids love words. They like new and interesting words and garb hold of all kinds of vocabulary if we let them.

So lesson learned – once again – do not teach down but teach up! Reach high and include those wonderful big words, the rich content and fabulous stories of the world around us. Our kids are waiting to soak it all in!

Don’t you just love kindergarteners!  They were loud, wonderful and in command of the computers in front of them! They were being big word hounds today! images


About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, care for my Grandson and write. Life is good!
This entry was posted in Reading, Teaching and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to For the love of words

  1. Rita K. says:

    What a concrete example of remembering that kids often can handle far more than we offer.

  2. arjeha says:

    What a great example of kids being able to do more than we think. Just think of the conversations that could be had if those girls had be asked what they wanted to read instead of being pointed in a direction someone thought they would like.

    • Joanne Toft says:

      I so agree – although they were pretty good at keeping themselves going. I must say there was also the little one on the other side of the room who just kept singing happy birthday to herself – she was a bit stuck. These little ones are all over the place in their learning and motivation!

  3. elsie says:

    Eavesdropping on kindergarteners is the best! I love this conversation!

  4. newtreemom says:

    I can hardly say how much I loved the unfolding of this story! Wow!

  5. Linda Baie says:

    Love that you heard this, Joanne. And you are so, so right. I can apply this to my middle schoolers too. People just don’t realize how much they are capable of!

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