Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Taking Words Away

It is the ninth week of school in my Kindergarten, and we have been Doing Words for four of them.  We seem to be getting a new Word three days a week, tracing the letters with me, reading the Word to a partner, and reading them to the class in Word circle on those days, keeping them all in a pocket.

Each child is reading them all to me on a fourth day.  As always, I hold the cards and the child reads.  If he doesn’t know it right off, I put it under the others; nine times out of ten the child will remember it when it comes back around. 
Sometimes the child doesn’t remember it, and I give one clue.  (Because all these Words are captions for someone or something or some time that has power for the child, which we discussed when she got the Word, I know what the clues are.)  If the clue works, the child will shout out the Word.  Then I put the date on the back of the card and let her keep it in her Word pocket.  If the clue doesn’t work, I take the card away, saying, “I guess that Word isn’t important after all” in my most unemotional voice.  The next time that child reads all his Words to me he may remember it, which is fine; if he doesn’t, I take it away in the same “Oh, well” voice.
 For my twenty-three children, these four weeks have produced about a dozen Words each, or about 300 Words altogether.  I have taken away eleven.  As is almost always the case when a child doesn’t remember his or her Word, it is most likely that I have not asked the right question.
 Of these eleven Words, four are copycat Words, that is, a Word that one child at the table was getting so the second child said it too.  These were “princess,” “house,” “transformer,” and butterfly.”  Four are Words for generic things in the classroom:  “pencil,” “paper,” “puzzle,” “writing.”  Three are Julia’s:  Julia is the youngest child in the class and exists only to play:  “princess,” “Jessie,” and “Tasha.”  (It is very unusual that children forget names.  Forgetting “princess” surprised me more, because she is one.)
 The children in this class are not readers, and all but two of them don’t particularly want to be.  Doing Words is another routine for them, in which each one gets to focus on himself or herself, for a moment, and  have the undivided attention of the teacher for another moment.  This last is a gift to both of them, worth way more than rubies.
 And who knows?  Maybe some will learn to read books, too!