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Are Your Kids Learning "vocabulary words" in their Elementary Schools ?

I just finished writing a comment on someone's post, and used both the word "scurrilous" and the word "invective" in writing that comment.  After noticing that I used those two words... I then wrote the following:

Wow... there are two words that go all the way back to when I was teaching vocabulary in the Seventh Grade at St Euphemia Catholic Elementary School up in Ohio.  Just think... thanks to me... your's truly... there are at least nine years worth of two classes each of 44 students... that comes out to 792 of my former students... who are walking around this country with decent vocabularies.  Now that just makes a teacher and a mother... proud !

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So now... I pose the following question:  Are today's elementary schools still teaching vocabulary ?

Way back when I taught junior high school... in the Catholic elementary schools... one of my classes was entitled "enrichment reading."  It was as it implies... it was reading above and beyond what was normally taught in the seventh grade back then. 

In addition to that... I also taught my own brand of vocabulary.  Monday through Friday... Five New Words A Day !  It is funny, but I still remember the first word of the first day of the first week of the school year.  Abject:  very low in spirit or hope: miserable; wretched.

Each day... five more words.  Each day... memorize them for the next day.  Everybody... every day !  At the end of each week there was a test.  ALL twenty-five words.  Now, some might think that I would print out the definition, and have my "kids" write in from memory the "vocabulary word" that went along with that particular definition.  Noper... not this teach. 

I handed out the test paper... with each of that week's vocabulary words... numbered One through Twenty Five.  Just the word.  And then... several blank lines... for them to write in... from memory... the exact definition of that word.  And by "exact"... I mean... e x a c t !   Word for word.

Oohhhh... they hated it at first.  Lots of grumbling.  But, when they took their test papers home to get them signed by their parents... boy, yikes, and wow !  Did the parents love them ?  Yes they did !

There are some who remember the teaching of ESL... English as a Second Language.  Unfortunately there are many youngsters "out there" (all immigrants aside) who have trouble speaking English as a First Language.

So... just for fun... those of you with seventh graders in school.  Are your kids learning vocabulary words like I used to teach ?  Share your thoughts on this... if you would be so kind...

Comment balloon 25 commentsKaren Anne Stone • March 06 2008 01:32PM

Comments

You're a tough teacher Karen Anne!  My daughter's only in 4th, but I don't think they learn enough at school.  I'm just grateful she's a reader like me.  I think that will help a lot.  They do vocabulary, but I think it's 5 words a week, not 5 words a day.

www.stagingwebsites.com

Posted by Chris Fisher (Your Virtual Assistant) almost 11 years ago

Chris:  This was seventh grade, and it was the "enrichment" bunch... which was the "better half" of the 88 students that made up the two seventh grades in my school.  So it already was a group of kids who had decent vocabularies to begin with.  I don't think that would have worked in the less-able half of the kids in the seventh grade.  It might have been too tough for them.... kind of like setting them up for failure.  But, who knows.  It might have challenged some of them, and if they enjoyed being challenged like that... it might have put some "fun" back into their school day.  I found that most kids liked being challenged.  But... the challenge had to be "do-able."

Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) almost 11 years ago

I agree, they do like the challenge if it's not overwhelming.  Rhiannon's in the gate program & I'm not sure that even means anything.  Although she does come home with harder homework than her friend. And she got to do a science center at an animal/wildlife place locally, that was fun.  We got to "borrow" a gecko for the night.

www.stagingwebsites.com

Posted by Chris Fisher (Your Virtual Assistant) almost 11 years ago

Karen Anne, my husband teaches in high school, he gives the kids 5 vocab words a day. He does them all on power-point and they go along with the chapter he is teaching in history and social studies.

 

Posted by Missy Caulk, Savvy Realtor - Ann Arbor Real Estate (Missy Caulk TEAM) almost 11 years ago

Vocabulary would only be interesting to kids who could learn the short hand to TEXT IT.  As a Journalism Major in college, this new world seems a bit, well, dumbed down.

Posted by Chris Ann Cleland, Associate Broker, Bristow, VA (Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA) almost 11 years ago
Karen, My kids are older now and went to one of the best school districts in our area (95%+ go to college).  But did they learn vocabulary?  Not really.  Both my kids are better at languages including english than I am(I was a math type) but their vocabular is still pretty simple.  Large class rooms, respect, etc make it very hard for teachers to teach or kids that want to learn, learn. AJ
Posted by Alan 'AJ' Nisen California Contra Costa Mortgage Officer (A Large Bank in America) almost 11 years ago
Chris:  That is great that Rhiannon actually gets "challenged" in school.  But, we both do agree that the challenge cannot be overwhelming, that it has to be do-able.  A gecko for the night.  Did it look anything like that obnoxious little thing on the Geiko commercials ?
Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) almost 11 years ago
Missy:  That is great.  He's going outside his subject area... kinda sorta... and everyone benefits.  I personally give him a "round of applause" for that.  Way to go hubby-teacher-person !
Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) almost 11 years ago
Chris Ann:  That is because it probably is dumbed down.  Every child deserves the right to be taught by a teacher who cares.  But, the other side of that must be that the child cares, too.
Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) almost 11 years ago
AJ:  I am not sure what exactly you call "large class rooms..." but both of the classes I spoke of above had 44 students in them.  In some of todays school districts... my 44 students would be enough for two classes... and two teachers.  I must admit, though, that the parents of my students... almost every one of them... backed up all of their kids teachers... especially ones like myself who demanded more from them.  It surely was a different time.  Unfortunately, I think much of the difference today lies with the parents, and not with the children.
Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) almost 11 years ago
No - it was looked like a leopard print skin.  And luckily, didn't talk.  His name is Parmesan.
Posted by Chris Fisher (Your Virtual Assistant) almost 11 years ago
Hi Chris:  You and Rhiannon have been blessed by the gods and goddesses.  A non-talking gecko.  The only one of those commercials that I remember liking was the one where the otter was swimming in the pond/pool when the gecko was talking to him.
Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) almost 11 years ago
Karen Anne, My children are now young adults so I'm here to see the answers.  My children had the first part of their elementary years in a private Christian school and are well grounded in vocabulary because of it.  That and the fact that I read to them from the womb.  At the age or 22 and 26 they are huge readers; which excites me that I was able to share my love of reading with them.  We like many of the same books so now we are constantly exchanging books, I LOVE IT!!
Posted by Marchel Peterson, Spring TX Real Estate E-Pro (Results Realty) almost 11 years ago
Marchel:  I am not sure how well your little sweeties could hear you reading when the were inside your womb, but I am totally sure they could feel the love.  You are so fortunate to have children who are such great readers... but then again... it appears that neither luck nor fortune had anything to do with it.  You sound like such a great MOM !
Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) almost 11 years ago

Karen Anne,

When I was a child my mother and grandmother were very strict about learning to read well, speak properly and write well.  If I used any kind of slang around the dinner table it would result in stern "dressing down" and a reminder that if I wanted to be understood and taken seriously in this world that I had better be able to communicate well.

As a result of their persistence I enjoyed learning all the aspects of spelling, grammar, punctuation, composition and comprehension.  I always read at a level higher than my grade, and always (yes - always) got an "A" in English.

I cringe when I hear young people today.  It makes my ears hurt!  

Posted by Carol Smith (Casmi Photography) almost 11 years ago
My oldest (9 years old) is learning vocabulary.  The problem I have is that she is also learning life cycles on the surface of volcanos, the constant flow of water cycles, and learning how to bet on the Iditarod (sp?).  However, when you ask her what a vowel and what is a consonant, she has no idea.  How can this be okay in today's school systems?
Posted by Cheryl over 10 years ago
Cheryl:  All the learning in the world won't help much if our children do not learn to communicate.  Perhaps that part of learning will become more important to her when she gets into junior high.
Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) over 10 years ago
Carol:  I know exactly what you mean by it making your ears hurt.  They must truly be stinging when you read some of the posts here on Active Rain.  Congratulations on all those "A's."
Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) over 10 years ago

I have to admit that one of my favorite games is still 'merriam webster'spell jam.............one other hidden I is I had a dictionar and thesaurus under my bed..........although when i'm online I do use online versions.

For a bed time treat I would memorize on page out of the dictionary each week..........um yes  well personally it was facscinating...and still is when I don't want to watch tv, or read, or use my computer.........I've always like playing with words...........Now I can there are a lot of 'educated' people that can't spell (typos aside)....but why?  Even worse perhaps is using a word you don't know the meaning of.........Perhaps because English was a 2nd language to me (Croatian being my first) all this had such a fascination for me..............and yes........spell bee's loved them...........and so did my kids............:-)hmm i wonder why?  smile

Posted by Liz Moras Migic, Chilliwack, British Columbia - Realtor over 10 years ago
Karen Anne My 30 year old has a good vocabularly - he went to private school in the early years - I am cocerned for the future of kids today with their lack of vocabulary - every sentence is peppered with "like" and "you know" - not very descriptive terms,  Karen
Posted by Karen Kruschka, - "My Experience Isn't Expensive - It's PRICELESS" (RE/MAX Executives) over 10 years ago

Liz:   Towards the end of my nine years of teaching, it always tickled me when some of my former students would drop by my eighth-grade classroom, or send me a note thanking me for stressing teaching vocabulary to them when they were in my classroom.

Many of them found... as they went through high school, and then into college or out into the vast abyss of life... many of them found just how useful having a great vocabulary can be.  Of course, I was thrilled to hear that.  Many of those same "kids" just "fumed" when they were in my class and had to absolutely commit to memory those nasty twenty-five vocabulary words each week.  It was music to my ears.

Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) over 10 years ago

Karen:  I very much share your concern for today's kids as they grow up with their limited vocabularies.  Unfortunately for the last eight years they have not had a very good English-use role-model in their current President.  Hopefully that will change.

I agree... all of these "like" and "ya know" kids... but much of that has been almost accepted since the "valley girls" came into bloom about thirty years ago.  This silliness has been brewng for that long... wow.  I am sure your well-spoken son is very thankful that you provided him with such a great education.  Take care... and thanks for commenting.

Posted by Karen Anne Stone, Fort Worth Real Estate (New Home Hunters of Fort Worth and Tarrant County) over 10 years ago

Karen Anne - I was just assaulted with one of my pet peeves & thought of this post.  Love to know what you think of "Lite and Brite".   UUUGGGHHHHH.  Even when my realtors want me to type it that way on their flyers or websites, I flat out refuse.

Posted by Chris Fisher (Your Virtual Assistant) over 10 years ago

Ouch... I've never seen "lite and brite" spelled that way on flyers or websites.

I wish we could clone you Karen Anne! I also went to a catholic school, all the way through college. Totally different than the education my children now receive in public school. However, we do have small class sizes - 22 or 23 to a teacher. All classes have 25 spelling words per week, even the kindergarden classes the second half of the school year. If they score a 100% on the "pre-test" they do not have to take the final test on Friday. They spend that time reading.

Posted by Debbie DiFonzo, Lebanon MO and Buffalo Missouri Real Estate (Debbie DiFonzo - United Country VIP Realty, SW Missouri) over 10 years ago
Oh my gosh!  I just read my comment to you last night..........3:25 am my time - I thought I couldn't sleep - How ironic! lol.......here the topic is vocabulary, spelling and the like.........and its like I was writing to you in a state of sleep apnia dyslexia! Too funny.......I'm going to hope you could read through that muddle......grin
Posted by Liz Moras Migic, Chilliwack, British Columbia - Realtor over 10 years ago

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