Friday, September 14, 2012

Thoughts On Vocabulary

Anyone who knows my kids will be able to say they have great vocabularies. At 6, 4 and almost 2, they have all been read to nearly everyday their whole lives. The Dark One and I don't actually make much time to read ourselves though and in fact I feel quite stupid at times as my friends ask me, "have you read... " hoping for an intellectual conversation. Truth is I've gotten out of the habit and become lazy about reading. Resolutions aside, we enjoy reading to our kids a lot, maybe as much as they enjoy being read to and we both hold fond memories of this nightly ritual as children. We hope of course to pass this to our own. Anyways, it's absolutely clear that the benefits from this simple act are what you might expect- children hear words and use them thereby not just memorizing but learning in the purest sense, ABSORBING as Maria Montessori would say, integrating.

So I know, have read, have observed how important vocabulary is to learning and increasing knowledge and ability to learn. Btw- I'm self conscious about my own vocabulary- see above (not a reader so don't judge!) I do understand the idea of choosing "age appropriate" vocabulary lists but let's stop again for a second and think about that- age appropriate. Having had the opportunity to observe children before they entered school and I don't mean pre- school aged children, I mean children who are school aged but have not entered school. I find nearly every one of these children, especially those who are read quality literature, to be quite interested in words. "Mommy, what is recover mean?" R asked most recently. She is four. Quite interested in words. And the best words are the big complicated words she doesn't hear everyday, right? I can tell you one way to suck that interest right out of this child! Yes, make a list. A boring list, ask the child to memorize these words, context or not and then test her on it. Now it's a task. Now it is something her teacher and her parents are going to make her do every week whether she really wants to or not and perhaps some children do just fine this way. Most do I suppose. I know my daughter and know the struggle this would become so I am really loving the Montessori approach to vocabulary. As everything in the method is integrated, vocabulary is learned as the natural course of things. As we learned the systems of the body this week T and R heard and saw brand new interesting sounding words- pelvis, epiglottis, sternum, digestion, phalanges, spinal cord, and many, many more. We talked about many of these words, we took turns saying them and listening to them, we looked at the curious spelling of many of them, we noticed a new compound word!- ribcage! (that was exciting) and they then generated their own work. By working with blank and labeled control diagrams T labeled each of the systems. This is rote I'll admit but while doing so he is thinking about the words that struck his fancy. He is generating connections with some of these words in the quiet of his own mind which I am not privy to but that I trust immensely more than a vocabulary test. Is he learning ALL of these words? Is he committing each word to memory equally? Absolutely not. But the words that he connected with the most have been absorbed. They are there for life. He also now has this diagram that he generated himself that will have more meaning to him and only him each time he looks at it. Because the curriculum is cyclical he will do the same work next year. And maybe next year is the year he will learn to spell phalanges. It is not a new word anymore after all and it will be as age appropriate as ribcage is this year. It was age appropriate because it interested him enough to absorb it. 

1 comment:

Jeri said...

Your kids really do absorb information. Reading to them every night makes a big difference in their vocabulary and understanding of the spoken word. I never really Understood what Montessori was about, but it seems perfect for teaching children to live and work in the real world. If they are actually absorbing information for use in the real world, instead of just memorizing they will do well. Love reading about your lessons and how the kids are doing.