Inferring Vocabulary

Kids can latch on to words in the most incredible ways. And second language learners really keep a teacher thinking.  As an English speaker, I give almost no thought to words and phrases we use every day that have multiple – and often unrelated connections – to meaning.  As a teacher of ELLs, however, that becomes part of the plan for each lesson. And as a teacher of a classroom made up of nearly three-quarters English Language Learners, it is a way of life.

This week, as we explored inferring unfamiliar words, that last point was brought to the fore with the following exchange:

Did China people eat off special plates on the Titanic?

This question did make me stop and wonder for several seconds – what in the world was this kid referring to? We had just finished looking for text clue to help infer the meaning of demitasse found in an article we were exploring from Harvey and GoudvisComprehension Toolkit Source Book entitled  “Titanic’s Legacy“. Where was this question coming from?

As it turns out, the question was not so out-of-left-field as I thought at first. One of the other illustrations found on the page we were studying was of a “China Serving Plate”. Which led us to a whole tangential discussion of the word “china”.

Never underestimate the power of words. Or the challenge of vocabulary.


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