|"So much to say, so much to say, so much to say." D|
It happened tonight. I read with Carson Ann and stumbled upon a word I'd never in my life (nearly 40 years of it) encountered. It was in a children's book- a book about horses. She's become quite interested in horses these days and so we checked out a few books, a few fiction stories, on horses to read at home. So, at bedtime she began to read from one of them and came upon the word "forelock". Even with the complete sentence, coupled with the context of the words and sentences before and after it, in addition to the illustration...we still had to infer its meaning. I relied upon my understanding of the prefix "fore" (meaning before) and my schema for my "forehead" and my previous experience with the word "lock" related to "locks of hair" (Thanks, Goldilocks.) to come to the understanding that maybe it related to the hair on the front of the horse's head. And even with those ideas in my mind, I was still not 100% certain I knew the meaning. You might already have guessed that my experiences and schema for horses is very limited- even being a born and bred Kentucky girl.
Regardless of the exact meaning, we did our best to infer and moved along. The mental image in our minds worked and the story continued. A few minutes later we ended that chapter and switched books so I could read the more complex text to her and she began to fall asleep. I bet we made it three pages into the story before the word "forelock" popped up, again. This time the author offered more descriptive and explanatory sentences, and a more detailed illustration so that we did confirm our original thinking about the "forelock" being the patch or tuft of hair on or just above a horse's forehead--or as Carson Ann called them 'bangs'. Our new horse-related vocabulary word immediately became part of our new schema and a permanent mental image stuck.
It was at that point that synthesis occurred for me related to the KCAS. Aha! I get it. I now understand the need for the standard related to the understanding and use of general and domain or content specific and vocabulary, along with Greek and Latin roots and affixes! How many of us (and our kids) would have just skipped over that word- figuring it didn't matter and banking on the fact they'd never see it again...only to encounter it again and again as they studied or read about a particular subject or topic? How many are "okay" with a general or basic understanding of a words and phrases and don't search for multiple or deeper meanings (as explained below in the Literacyhead example)? What value do specific words have?
Believe it or not, words convey more than meaning. They convey the author's perspective, tone, and even subtle suggestions. Just as you determine and select specific words to use (for different purposes, audiences, and topics) so do authors; and it's worth our time and effort to support our students in STOPPING to make meaning of those words, or deepen their understanding of a possible single-dimension understanding. Why? Because we all seek deeper understanding. Why else? Because when we stretch our schema as readers and thinkers, we also extend ourselves as effective communicators and writers.
Who knows how many books I'll be reading about horses in the next few months. If it is as many as I read when my son was on his "squid kick", I am sure that I'll be banking some new vocabulary words and phrases, thus growing in a field I never thought I would. I say, "Bring it on!" because when it comes time to transfer my learning through reading, oral communication, or writing, I'll surely have "So much to say, so much to say, so much to say."
Check out these sites below for more insight into the power of intentional vocabulary work.
Choice Literacy: http://www.choiceliteracy.com/articles-detail-view.php?id=1506
Though it's a podcast, it's totally worth listening to or reading the transcript. He talks about everything from the need to purposefully teach vocabulary (and refers to the three tiers) to the including of small group work based on assessments.