Tuesday, November 07, 2006

For the Love of Language

I like big words...and I cannot lie...you other teachers can't deny...! Okay, I got carried away, sorry. Two years ago, as I began my first year of teaching Pre-College English, I realized that many of my future college students lacked the word choice necessary to convey ideas through any other words than the vernacular. And because I had sat through countless sessions of the Bergen Evans Vocabulary Series (Bergie Words) in high schools, I figured it wouldn't hurt my students to improve their own vocabulary ken.
Despite my undertaking having roots in what I recall as pleasant times, my students found the sessions trite after only a few weeks. I was cognizant of this potential pitfall, yet believed the exercise to have value. I acquiesced to the grousing of my students and scrapped the idea.
This year, after avoiding the issue last year, I ardently returned to my goal of improving student language.
I believe my Power Point presentations are improved. But ultimately, what made this year different, was my initial overture to determine the purpose of the assignment. We discussed how an undeveloped vocabulary can often obfuscate what is intended, both in writing and speech. Additionally, I admitted to the lugubrious and arduos nature of developing one's personal lexicon.
The sessions began auspiciously, and have continued facilely. And when different students from different periods inform me that they recognized words from my Words You Should Know series, it causes me to become twitterpated about this wonderful language we speak. As the author Frederick Buechner, in remembering his days at Lawrenceville, says "...words not only convey something, but are something; that words have color, depth, texture, of their own, and the power to evoke vastly more than they mean; that words can be used not merely to make things clear, make things vivid, make things interesting and wahtever else, but to make things happen inside the one who reas them or hears them" (The Sacred Journey).


At 6:44 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading your post because I vividly remember in high school hating big words and even more when teacher's assinged texts I felt I could never read because of the language barrier created by the vocabulary. I am now working on my degree for teaching in English and I hope to one day help students love big words too! I still find it hard for me to look up words in the dictionary because it seems so time consuming!!!

At 4:17 PM , Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

I too decry the lack of verbal acumen evinced by my budding scholars. Hence, we have at least one word of the day with which to augment our lexicon. Imagine how chuffed I was when they recounted to me that they had seen --and known-- several of our terms on the PSAT!

Persevere, chum!

At 6:41 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wasn't it Twain that said: The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug?

At 4:53 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have never talked down to students, I expect them to learn vocabulary in any way, shape of form that I can get them to learn.

I tell them a good vocabulary allows me to say exactly what I mean. It's worth it. One year I had a student who would "translate" my words to the rest of the class!


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