While packing for our most recent move, I uncovered a box filled with momentos from my teaching days in Detroit. Going through the pictures and notes from students, as well as projects and assignments that had some significance for me, I discovered something that I had written for my fifth grade girls (I taught in a girl’s yeshiva) on the next-to-last day of class before the summer break. It was one of those “we are all in school, none of us wants to be here, the grades are all in, so why are we doing this” situations. As a fifth grade teacher, I felt it was important to help the girls develop their vocabulary skills beyond the expected weekly spelling words. Every year one of our daily exercises was vocabulary enhancement, what “fondly” came to be known as “Wild Words.” Each day as the students assembled, hanging up coats and retrieving books or submitting completed homework from the night before, I would write a “new” word on the chalk-board (yes, we were still using chalk at that time) along with a simple definition, the word part, and a sentence illustrating proper usage. (You have no idea how much time I spent every year scouring the dictionary looking for suitable words and definitions!) The girls would copy the information in their writing journals and throughout the day we would use the word as often as possible. This was a popular learning exercise, and I regularly received feedback from parents that the words were being used at home, too, and some families were even making games for the entire family to learn the words. (“Wild Words” was one of my best “stolen” ideas ever!) I found many ways to incorporate “Wild Words” in all our learning activities each day.
On this next-to-the-last day of the school year, in my efforts to keep the girls busy and learning, I decided to have them write a paper with the stipulation that they use as many of the wild words from throughout the year as they possibly could. As you probably surmise, my students grumbled, mumbled, moaned, and one even suggested revolt! (After all, what did they have to lose?) So to appease these angelic revolutionaries, I chose to do the assignment with them. Yes, that mollified the girls. . .somewhat. At any rate, I wrote a little essay in the twenty minutes allotted for this activity, as did each student, and to class’s surprise, every one of my students wrote something that was fun and interesting. Unfortunately I don’t have any of their “spontaneous” stories, but I do have mine. When I uncovered this piece, I immediately knew that it was “blog worthy” material! I don’t know why I think that this is blog-worthy other than the fact that it is fun to read, at least in my humble opinion. I have underlined the wild words in this post (out of over 150 words we learned that year) and just so you know, all words were taken straight from Webster’s Dictionary! Enjoy.
What a daunting task! Initially, the assignment sounded tantalizing. I sincerely thought the girls would be exuberant about writing a story of such exorbitant proportion. But no! The boisterous, cantankerous, persnickety girls almost started a fracas! They thought the assignment was nothing more than blarney—flapdoodle they called it. What naysayers these girls are! Well, I have a proclivity for this sort of thing with the savvy to match. So this zappy yeasayer threw succinct brevity to the wind and started to write. Bibliophile that I am, surely I could deal with this conundrum with equanimity and poise. I noticed that the more I wrote, the cacophony of yammering girls began to subside.
Zowie, this may be ludicrous, however there are a plethora of ideas percolating in my head as I write. Maybe I should throw in some onomatopoeia to make my story interesting: Bang! POW! Clang! Clomp! Ring! BOP! Clap! BAM! Zing! Bling!—I hope I’m not being superfluous. I would be chagrined to think that I failed to exude the attribute of modesty in this assignment. That would be downright audacious!
The more I contemplated this writing exercise, I began to chortle about issuing such an ambitious task on this penultimate day of the school year. Hopefully though, this quaint little reflection of a paper will be riveting enough to arouse the vacillating interest of my dubious students.
The lesson learned here is not in what we wrote that day, but in the surprises we discover, the tasks we master, and the accomplishments we achieve when we push through our resistance and allow ourselves to create.