Reflection: Developing a Conceptual Understanding Defining Motifs - Section 1: Latin Roots Study: Liter, Lumin


In the public schools, there is a constant and ongoing debate about the usefulness of teaching vocabulary.  To my mind, there is nothing to debate.  Kids need words to enjoy the process of reading and to be successful in their reading tasks and they need them to describe and discuss their world, their opinions and their visions for the future.

Children with wealthier and more educated parents have more exposure to books, experiences and, yes, vocabulary.  This is the "dinner table" advantage -- students who have conversations with adults at dinner (or at other "family" times) hear more words and know more about the wider world, generally speaking.  These kids can connect new words to ones that they have heard before, but not studied explicitly.  That is the organic way that a vocabulary can be fostered.

That method doesn't work for kids who don't have books or educated parents.  There is no dinner table advantage for the student whose parents work opposite schedules or multiple jobs. So, assuming that all students get "enough" words from conversation or just being in the world is just silly.

Most of my students are fairly privileged, when compared to the average American child.  But they aren't all readers.  And they don't all have intact, educated families that foster their learning and growth.  But all students deserve access to knowledge and they all should get the fairest crack at the standardized tests that loom large in the future.

So, before we decide that we shouldn't teach vocabulary explicitly to kids or that word lists and memorization are bad, bad, bad, we might want to take a step back.

To paraphrase a 70's radio staple, if teaching words is wrong...I don't want to be right.




  The Vocabulary Debate
  Developing a Conceptual Understanding: The Vocabulary Debate
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Defining Motifs

Unit 2: Romeo and Juliet
Lesson 8 of 12

Objective: SWBAT understand and find evidence for some major motifs in Romeo and Juliet.

Big Idea: Symbols --> Motif -->Theme -->Author’s Purpose

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whiteboard photo symbols and
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