Vista Hieghts Middle School: Literacy

I subbed for this teacher twice last year and at one point I almost picked up a long term assignment for her while she was having her baby, but the principal does not like subs that do not have teacher-credentials. I understand and I’ve known the teacher for years from college and Wal-Mart, so no big deal. Today, we worked on some reading drills and guided reading. We also focused on the word “initiative.”

“Initiative” came up in a story about a pile of dog poop on a soccer pitch and how no one would pick it up. The story was twenty four pages long, in rhyming iambic couplets and made the kids laugh. All the kids were seventh graders and so that was easy. The pages were water color with ink and I think I could have done a better job. Well, illustration wise. If I wrote a story about dog poop on a soccer pitch and how no one was picking it up, I would have written something inappropriate for middle-schoolers and not nearly as didactic.

The point of the word, though, was to start to show big words are not scary. For kids in a literacy class, big words are intimidating. Kids in a mainstream language arts class should not find words like this surprising. At least I hope not. Most of the kids were actually good readers, just a few grades behind. Some of the kids were ESL students, like the three Korean kids in seventh period and the many Hispanic kids. None of them had accented English, so just getting comfortable with books and complicated language is more of the goal of the class.

I always worry that if these programs existed when I was a kid, I would have ended up in them because of my abysmal spelling. I always read above grade level and I could always churn out stories, poems, essays and research papers. I just couldn’t spell anything right. Even though you can not see my screen, I have several words underlined in red, so the spelling problem never went away. Computers and spell check saved me. When I took spelling tests, even if I studied, I would only get one or two right if I were lucky. I failed many middle-school and high-school English classes and almost failed my freshman English class at BYU except the professor noted how well I wrote otherwise. My high-school English classes always had to be completed by packet where they only tested vocabulary, grammar and reading comprehension–easy areas for me. One of the nice things about schools nowadays though is the teachers typically do not publicly humiliate you if you suck at spelling like they did back in the day (“Still can’t spell cat, can you Aaron?”). They test to see if you are dyslexic or if you might have a learning disability. At the very least, they recognize spelling software is going to save you later in life, so it is not that big a deal even if cat still occasionally appears with a K or two-Ts or both.

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