So I’m sitting in my usual Friday morning lesson with six-year-old *Lanae. I’m reading Lanae’s phonic sounds for her to write on the whiteboard (honestly, this is the boring ‘check up’ part of the lesson before we do the interesting things.) Then the following conversation begins:
Me: Ok Lanae, the next sound is ‘p.’
L: [silently writes down the sound, with her tongue sticking out between her front teeth…Lanae’s normal “thinking” look.]
Me: Good! Now, can you write down all the ‘k’ sounds? You know those.
L: I do know those! [Writes a ‘c’ and a ‘k’ and a ‘kc’]
Me: Hold on Lanae. Look at that sneaky letter c at the end! It’s trying to budge in line and get in front of the letter k in ‘ck.’
L: Sneaky letter c. Wait your turn! [raises her voice and shakes her index finger at the alphabetical delinquent, commencing to rub out the ‘kc’ and rewrite it as ‘ck’]
Me: Great focus, Lanae. Can you write the ‘th’ sound for…
L: Why do I come to Springboard?
Me: Sorry, what?
L: Emily, why do I come to Springboard?
Me: Well, because you need practice reading and writing.
L: But I KNOW how to read and write! See? Look at all the sounds I wrote! ‘a’ and ‘qu’ and ‘th’ [writes ‘th’ for me to see.]
Me: Yes, of course you know those, but…
L: And I know the really tricky ones like ‘igh’ and ‘ear’ and ‘air.’ I practice those!
Me: Oh Lanae, I am so proud of you! You have worked really hard this year. Just think of all the sounds you got better at since we first started hanging out and reading together.
L: Emily, I have learned a lot.
Me: Yes, you have, Lanae! But you’re here because there are still more sounds to learn.
L: REALLY?! More sounds?
Me: Yes, we’ve got even more sounds to learn, and there are always more words to learn, too. You see [I lean in to whisper for dramatic emphasis] some words break the rules and say different sounds than the ones we practice.
L: [gasp] WHAT?? Words break the rules? Naughty words!
Me: Yeah they do! No one really knows why. It’s up to us to learn which words are the naughty ones so we can surprise them by saying them right! But don’t worry, it’s not like all your new words will break the rules. Some words follow a lot of the rules, but they’re really long and take more time to learn. I’m a grownup, and I read and write a lot…but I still get to learn new words every day because there are so many!
L: You mean long, grownup words like ‘because?’
Me: Oh, even longer Lanae.
L: Like what?! [Lanae is beaming ear to ear at this point]
M: Hmmm. [trying to think of a complex word that could capture the attention of this curious little person] Have you ever heard of the word ‘defenestration?’
L: [gapes at me for a moment] Def…en…shuh?
Me : De-fen-e-stra-tion. This is how you spell it. [I write ‘defenestration’ on the whiteboard] How many letters are in ‘defenestration?’
L: [Lanae counts the letters one by one with her index finger] Fourteen!
Me: Lanae, that word has more letters than half the alphabet. ‘Defenestration’ is a long word, and there are a lot of grownups who haven’t even heard of it or know what it means. Do you know what it means?
L: No. What?
Me: ‘Defenestration’ means to throw something out a window. Not through a door, or over a tree. Out a window. So if I took this rubber [rubber is the British word for eraser, so all you Americans can get the giggles out now and change your mental image 😉 ] and that window right in front of us was open, I could throw the rubber out the window. I could defenestrate the rubber.
L: [Lanae stares at me, mouth wide open. Her eyes meet mine, then they flit to the rubber, back to my eyes, back to the rubber. Then her hand reaches and snatches the rubber out of my hand, safely enfolding it in her palm. She uses her other hand to wag a finger at me.] That’s naughty, Emily! Don’t defenestrate the rubber! You could hit someone on the head!
Me: Okay Lanae, I promise never to defenestrate the rubber. Promise. Now, what sound were we at? Oh that’s right, you just wrote the ‘th’ sound for me. Lovely – now show me the ‘sh’ sound…
To all of you concerned adults…I promise I teach your children more than the technical terms for injury causes among unsuspecting pedestrians. However, the children may or may not be able to say some of these terms correctly in full sentences AND teach ethics lessons to an adult. Happy Friday to you, too.
May you only defenestrate things with great love…and probably some caution!
*names have been changed to protect the privacy of the students