Monday, February 06, 2006

The F-Word

For my students, the f-word is allowed only during a scripted lesson. Shurley Grammar uses it in it paragraph writing examples. It’s not that the word “feel” is a bad word; it is that I desire my students to learn to write substantively from the start. So I simply remove it from them for a while until they learn to use the English language more competently.

Shurley Grammar teaches paragraph writing according to form. The Two-Point Expository paragraph is taught in the First and Second Grade, and then expanded upon in the Third and Fourth Grades with the Three- Point Expository and the Persuasive paragraphs. The First and Second Grade examples both include lines that read something like this: “In conclusion, I like yellow because it makes me feel cheerful.” Not a bad line, I suppose, but it’s still rather squishy.

My older students have already been “broken” of using the f-word. The first year I taught paragraphs I used the two-point expository as the format for book reports. My First and Second Graders had one due a week during the second semester. That’s a lot of reading and writing, but doable. After two reports in which students wrote “This book made me feel happy/sad/goofy,” the current “no f-word” policy was established. I instructed them to find something in particular that was the reason for why the book made them feel that way, then write a sentence without the f-word. Sentences began changing. “This is a happy/sad/goofy book/part because…” Now they rarely use the f-word in speech, and not at all in writing unless for descriptive purposes.

Now I am again teaching paragraphs to a set of students who have not written them before. They will encounter the example from Shurley Grammar, and want to copy it. Imitation is the best route to an A, is it not? However, as I told the students today, the example is the last time they are permitted to use the f-word in my classroom or on a writing assignment.

They may describe

  • how it is to feel ill and what makes them feel that way

  • how it is to feel well and what makes them feel that way

  • how something feels to the senses

Tucker sat in rapt attention, said position being a relative term. He’s a wiggly kid. He looks like it from the get-go. He’s all arms and legs, ears sticking out at angles. He can’t ever seem to sit still. He even falls out of his chair. Today he lost his chair because he was just too squiggly to sit in it, so it was just best to remove it completely.

Sometimes I play with the kids with quick come-backs. One in particular stuck with them. Now and again they are amazed that I’ll just happen to know something they don’t know (imagine that!) “Hey! How’d you know that?” they asked.

“Awww… that’s cuz you happen to be merely smart and I happen to be brilliant,” I said.

They rolled in laughter.

On one particular morning they amazed me. So much so that I quipped, “Well, lookie here… some one just about kissed the foot of brilliance with that answer.”

After the laughter settled down Tucker said, “I want to do that- kiss the foot of brilliance.”

The “kiss the foot of brilliance” line stayed with the students so well they asked me to hang feet and kisses from the ceiling. So I did. Walking down the hallway to my classroom it looks like some bizarre message is being displayed: Stomping the Rolling Stones.

Today Tucker did kiss the foot of brilliance.

After explaining the f-word and why it wasn’t to be used, Tucker said, “Oh, I get it. You want us to be specific.”

I had to shake that Firstie’s hand!


Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

After that halftime performance, stomping the Rolling Stones may not be a bad message either. :)

Anonymous said...

St. Emily I'm so proud of you. I am hereby claiming credit for dubbing the "f" word, the "f" word, and thereby making it memorable and great teaching aid. However, you have raised my little mnemonic to an art form in your teaching.

Dcs. Emily Carder said...

Some half time are better spent reading than other half times. :) My husband watched the Stones and opined that had they sounded back then as they do now they'd not have had the half time slot at all.

Anonymous-Z, due credit is yours for dubbing the f-word the f-word!