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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

WORDS, WONDERFUL WORDS at Cartoogechaye Elementary School




On January 29, I spent a lively evening outside Franklin, NC, at Cartoogechaye Elementary School, Home of the Bears! I didn't see any bears that night, but I did see young students and parents engaged in Macon County Schools' efforts to encourage literacy and a love of reading. Diane Cotton, the county literacy director, understands that literacy is a family affair. Students whose parents are involved in their education learn faster and stay engaged in their studies, particularly reading, as they mature.

Diane Cotton had left a comment on one of my blogposts about this event, and after exchanging emails, she invited me to attend. Tip to teachers: I love receiving comments from you and your students, and I will do my best to respond in ways that I hope will be useful.

I arrived at the school early enough to help set up the snack table at the entrance to the lunchroom where the Readers' Theater was to perform. Words are wonderful, but so are cookies and Juicy-juice on a cold winter night.



After a welcome by Carol Bowen, I read my "Piece of Cake" Laureate poem and talked about how good words can taste. Around the room I could see students holding placards with words on them. One little boy stood close by, a shock of blond hair falling over his forehead. He held the word IRATE. "Are you irate?" I asked him. He grinned. He definitely was NOT irate.

All these words scattered around the lunchroom! What was happening? The Words walked to the front of the room, searching for their proper places, and the Readers' Theater, under the direction of Nancy Reeder, a local educator and storyteller, began. The title of the production? "Big Words for Little People," written by Jamie Lee Curtis, with both students and parents performing.



(Nancy Reeder introduces the production.)

Here's the text of the presentation:

BIG WORDS
for Little People
Written by Jamie Lee Curtis
Illustrated by Laura Cornell

I know some Big Words. I’ll teach them to you.
Although you are small, you can use Big Words too.

BIG WORDS aren’t scary. They’re big fun to learn.
I was taught once and now it’s your turn.

If you need some time to just be alone, for doing weird dancing,
to sit still as a stone, if someone is there and you need to pee,
then say loud and clear:

“Hey I need PRIVACY!

When Mommy can’t fasten the brand-new car seat,
and the twins don’t like what they got to eat---
“This is IMPOSSIBLE Mom says to us. “Please!”
We can’t leave for school till you help find the keys.”

If you answer right when you spell a Big Word,
your teacher might shout,
“STUPENDOUS! SUPERB!”
And then you can CELEBRATE---laugh and have fun---
‘cause you’ve worked really hard to get the job done.

When you are at school and you get into trouble for chewing your gum,
then exploding a bubble, and you stay inside when your friends get to play,
your CONSEQUENCE is no recess that day.

When Dad takes us shopping to buy new shoes,
and all of us shout, “This one I choose!”
and the salesman looks angry—he’s pretty IRATE---
Dad wants us to behave and COOPERATE.

When something is perfectly right for your age,
like TV and music, toys are the rage,
when a G-rated movie’s the one that you seek,
APPROPRIATE is the word Mom will speak.
But many things are too old for you
that lots of your friends may still get to do.
INAPPROPRIATE is the word our mom picks
if you want to watch PG-13 when you’re six.



When you wait and you wait for your chance at a turn
and your feet are both hot and are starting to burn
and there’s still a long way to the front of the line,
PATIENCE is the word you must try to find.

Mixing stuff up from the kitchen to drink
that looks really gross and has a big stink,
as our green-snotted brother’s nose starts to get picked--- “DISGUSTING!”
you’d cry. (It means yucky and ick!)

To understand means you know when we say,
“A street is for cars! It’s not safe to play!”
You understand cows make milk and not juice,
that you don’t run on “Duck” but you do run on “Goose.”




INCONSIDERATE is the word Dad would pick if you woke up Mom when she’s feeling sick. But if you brought her a flower and tea a CONSIDERATE person is what he would see.
I’m RESPONSIBLE,” you’d say when you pick up your toys
and walk our dog, Leo, and try not to make noise.
Responsible people try not to forget to water Mom’s bonsai
or the table to set.

PERSEVERE is to try and to try, even though you might want to give up and cry. When doing a puzzle that puzzles your mind,
you persevere till the right piece you find.

DIFFERENT means nobody’s ever the same.
All bodies are different and so are all brains.
Different is what makes this world so great.
Different is never something you hate.

But not all Big Words are as long as the rest. There are three--- though short---- that I love the best. FAMILY is where we all belong, keeping us safe, making us strong. Family is yours, no matter—whatever!--- we care about you forever and ever.
RESPECT is the way we all treat each other—mother to father, father to mother, brother to sister, sister to brother, and brother and sister and sister and sister and brother…



Love is the biggest BIG word of all. Four little letters that help you walk tall. Love is your family, your siblings, your friends. Love is your ocean without any end.

See Big Words are easy. How well you’ve done!
Now go off and have some really great fun.
And next time a grown-up thinks you don’t have sense,
show them with Big Words your INTELLIGENCE!







After the production, Nancy attached all the "big words" to the wall, after which parents and students chose two break-out sessions to attend. I chose "The Boy Who Loved Words," read by Katharine Brown. The main character Selig collects words, because his mission is to bestow his word wealth on others. Ms. Brown introduced us to several strategies for vocabulary comprehension. She was an expressive reader, and I found mysel hanging on every WORD.



My second session revolved around computer graphics to encourage learning. Here's the jist of it: Donovan has a word jar that's filled to overflowing, and he doesn't know what to do with his special words. The audience heard the story, then was treated to activites to do with words on the internet. Afterward, the students chose their own word jars to take home and fill with favorite words.





(Parents and children listen to "Donovan's Wordjar" and teacher advice for encouraging literacy.)





At the evening's end, students were able to choose a free book and goodie bags for each family. Family Literacy Night is a great idea, drawing together teachers, librarians, parents, and students. I hope all schools will begin scheduling these events. Yes, they require planning and a lot of volunteer work, but they serve a crucial purpose for our children. And, even better, they can be fun!

2 comments:

Diane Cotton said...

Thank you so much for your contribution to your successful evening. Our teachers/presenters were pleased to receive your signed posters.

I really appreciate you rolling up your sleeves and pitching in where we needed help! You looked right at home with the PTO mothers at the snack table.

We would love to have you come to visit anytime.

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Hi Diane, And I'd love to come back anytime. Just let me know!