It’s the vocabulary, stupid

Well, not just the vocabulary, but for my urban kids, that surely is a major factor.  This week, our writing focus – visualizing a text – was driven by a poem written by Carmen Lagos Signes:

Pumpkins in the cornfields,

Gold among the brown,

Leaves of rust and scarlet,

Trembling slowly down;

Birds that travel southward,

Lovely time to play;

Nothing is as pleasant

As an Autumn Day!

Such a seemingly bucolic text loaded with typical fall scenery. So what vocabulary did my third graders find to be a challenge? Scarlet, rust (multiple meanings get them every single time!), pleasant, Autumn and…. cornfield.  Without explicit instruction – defining, finding synonyms, antonyms, using the words in sentences – visualizing this text would have turned into a meaningless regurgitation of the author’s words.

A simple text, one with which my students would have some familiarity and experience, and the task of writing what the mind saw during the reading, so impacted by challenging vocabulary, challenging especially for second language learners. I am humbled.

2 thoughts on “It’s the vocabulary, stupid

  1. Can I just say, every time I get an email with your blog updates, I am thrilled? It’s obvious how much you care about your job. You are realistic about its challenges and its great rewards, and you celebrate the victories and reason out the difficulties.

    As someone staring down the barrel of the MTEL and GRE, hoping to GOD some school hires me, and worrying and praying that – after all this work to get here – I’ll be a good teacher… I deeply appreciate getting to read your updates, and seeing someone in action who truly loves what they do! You remind me that cultivating the art of teaching is a process that never ends.

    1. Thank you thank you thank you for your kind comment! This journey is, as you have already figured out, a complicated and never-ending one, but I cannot imagine a career – a vocation really – that could ever be more satisfying.

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