That’s So NOT The Same Thing

Today in class my students were making dictionaries for their new academic vocabulary words for this term. I’m talking riveting stuff like textual evidence, theme, thesis statement and topic sentence

The students had to walk around the room, find various definitions posted on the wall, record them on their paper then head back to their desks. In their desks, they worked on using each word in a sentence and drawing a symbol to represent each word.

As I make my way around the room a student looks up to me and says:

Student: Miss Lewis, these words are much easier to use in sentences. I feel like I actually know some of these words.

Me: Well that’s good. You have a head start then.

Student: Yah, we did something like this in Mr. C’s class but I don’ think I used some of the words right.

Me: Oh really?

Student: I just couldn’t think of a good sentence for the word tranny.

Me: Well that’s probably because it was social studies class and your word was probably tyranny.

Student: Oh, that sounds right. Whatever. Same thing.

Me: Um… so not the same thing. Tyranny, tyranny… make sure you use the word tyranny.

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>Holy American Classic Novelist Batman!

>Today I introduced the vocabulary words for our next short story, taken from Mark Twain’s memoir, “Roughing It.” I explained how Mark Twain was a famous American author who wrote classic novels including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. I reminded students that Mark Twain lived before television and internet, and how in those days, people had to read the newspaper to learn about what was going on in the world.

We proceeded to use our vocabulary words to complete the following sentences about Mark Twain:

As a young man, Mark Twain held a wide array of jobs.

Twain claims to have taken news stories and made them more sensational.

Twain preferred to earn his livelihood as a writer that as a miner.

It was more tolerable to write about hay than to work in a coal mine.

…At this point a student raises his hand…

Student: “So did Mark Twain do all of this before he decided to be Batman?”

Me: “Like I said, Mark Twain was a writer. You’re thinking of Bruce Wayne.”

>Full Moon Madness

>

Me: “You guys have all gone crazy! It is beyond sad when I can tell it is a full moon based on the fact that all of you are acting like lunatics!”

Student: “It’s not a full moon.”

Me: “It has to be. I can’t think of any other reason why I’m seeing this kind of behavior.”

Student: (taking out his iPod to show me his lunar cycle app) “See?”
(We both look at it and sure enough… full moon.)

Here’s a recap of some of today’s events:
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>In search of the perfect word

>
This week in class we are working on identifying and analyzing setting and mood. Today I showed the class several photographs and asked my students to write words or phrases that described the setting and mood of each picture.

First I showed them a picture of city in ruins, much like a scene from I Am Legend. Next, we looked at Norman Rockwell’s Thanksgiving painting. Then I showed them a photograph of hysterical Beatles fans, which took much cajoling (one of this week’s vocabulary words) for the class to be convinced that the girls wearing 60’s clothing were not lined up to see Justin Bieber.

Lastly, we looked at a picture of a spooky house and the following conversation took place:

Me: “Take a look at this picture. What words or phrases would you use to describe the mood or setting in this picture?”

Pencils instantly hit the paper, with the exception of one student who sat on the edge of her seat.

Student: “Agh. What’s that word? I can’t think of the word.”

Other students instantly jumped to her aid: “house, haunted, spooky, creepy, swamp, dangerous…” Clearly none of these words were the one she had in mind.

Student: “No. It’s like when you go camping… where you stay.”

Class: “A tent?”

Student: “No.”

Class: “A cabin?”

Student: “No.”

Me: “Does the word you are looking for have to do with actually going on a camping trip, like journey, adventure, vacation, destination… or does it have to do with the place where you would actually camp?

Student: “Yah. Like where you go camping.”

The entire class was now determined to help her out: “park, field, pasture, meadow, forest, the woods…”

Student: “Yes. That’s the word. Woods.”

Another student: “What? All that for the woods? Seriously?… You’re stupid.”

In her defense, this was the same student who forgot how to spell her own name last week.

>A Vocabulary Review

>Today we had a quick vocabulary review. This is how it went.

Me: Before we begin our story, let’s take a few minutes to review our vocabulary words that we learned yesterday. Our first word is “ajar.” Raise your hand if you can tell me what ajar means? (I wait a few seconds while hands slowly start to go up) Ajar, What does ajar mean?

Student: slightly open.

Me: That’s exactly right. When something is ajar, it is slightly open, or open just a little bit. Raise your hand if you can think of something that can become ajar.

Students: a door, an actual jar if it’s not closed right, that lantern in that one story we read was ajar so only a little light came out, a refrigerator door… (I am amazed at how well this is going)

Student: your legs… (And there it is).
……
Me: How about “tremor”? Who can give me an example of how we would use tremor?

Students: an earthquake, someone who’s nervous, an old person, a Chihuahua, a junkie needing a quick fix…
……
Me: When might someone beckon another?

Students: a principal might beckon you to the office, a friend could beckon you over to their table, a stranger with candy would beckon the lonely school children into his car and or tell them he’s lost his puppy…

Me: True. Safety First, then Team Work. We can never be too careful when it comes to stranger danger.

Student: And that soccer movie.

Me: Nope. That was Beckham.

Student: Oh, I know an example for beckon: an old lady. There was this old lady in my neighborhood that used to stand at her front door with a bowl full of candy, and she would beckon the kids into her house. She would say, “Come here little kids and get some of this candy.” Then when I went into her house, there was a hole in the middle of the floor and she had a giant whale.

Me: A Whale? Do you mean a well?

Student: That’s what I said. A whale (or at least that’s how he pronounced it).

Me: Was her house made out of gingerbread and gum drops? Did she try to push you into a giant oven so she could cook you up and eat you? You’re a weirdo.