My friend Non Talbot Wels tweeted my last post, "They Just Don't Have the Words" and asked, "Solutions, Kristen?"
I can always count on Non to ask good questions.
I've spent over twenty years trying to answer/address the diminishing vocabulary of my students.
The answer I have now is the same answer I started out with: that students gain the power of words, and thus ideas, through stories.
I know a lot of teachers who assign vocabulary lists. I understand this, but lists are of limited use without context. I do believe in the power of Memory. Mnemosyne is, after all, the mother of the muses, but muses need mortar, not just bricks.
Word immersion is better.
Word immersion comes from books, from stories.
And, initially, this immersion must come from a kid's parents and primary caregivers.
I think the Edu-speak term for this is "language-rich environment."
I think immersion in books is best served by keeping a kid unplugged for as long as possible. Listening to books in the car, going to the library, telling stories, having the kid tell stories, illustrate stories, and just playing are all good things.
Toddlers with iPads alarm me.
Babies in front of televisions fill me with dismay.
Teens who are always plugged in without respite or boundaries of any kind are the products of grossly irresponsible parents who have chosen the path of least resistance.
The Path of Least Resistance ends, at best, in mediocrity.
I say these things and people are puzzled. After all, my classroom is a computer lab.
Without the human, I tell parents, technology is dangerous.
I know people get mad at me.
It's okay. I'm not running for Homecoming Queen.
I'm just fighting to give kids real power, the power that creates realities which arise from a glad union of dreams and action.
Dreams and actions that begin with words.