Language Acquisition

One thing I love about teaching in summertime is that we offer a number of courses we don’t during term-time. As a result, I get to play around with lesson planning and I get a chance to build in pre-reading strategies and extension lessons to what the kids are reading.

For one thing, it makes me feel like they’re getting a better lesson than the usual reading program. For another, it lets me flex my actual teaching muscles, and I do like that.

Today, my biography class was studying Jane Goodall. Now, while they generally show me that human DNA is certainly 95% the same as chimpanzee DNA, letting them act like chimps for a half-hour wasn’t going to be instructive, as such.

We started talking about communication, and how it happens. They I had them work together on a list of  non-linguistic messages  (meaning, using no actual words), including things like “HELP!”, “water”,  “food”, “shelter”, “This is mine”, “Look at me”, “I’m hungry”,  and other basic-for-survival-in-a-group communication needs.

They really surprised me. At first, they kept looking to me for confirmation, so I buried my nose in a book, effectively excluding myself from the conversation. But when I was no longer in the equation, they had involved discussions on the difference between “water”and “drink”, and how to say “I” versus “mine”.

Of course, they also discussed how to say “make-up”,  “make me a sandwich”, and “you suck”, because they are my 10-and-11-year-old human primates, and language is, first of all,  about what one needs most.

2 Comments to “Language Acquisition”

  1. By Beth, August 9, 2009 @ 10:11 am

    I have been thinking of some very colourful ways of saying “you suck”. That would be the fun one.

  2. By Liz, August 10, 2009 @ 6:41 pm

    It’s a lot less fun when your teacher is sitting right there. I bet they had a lot of trouble getting one past Old Ms Censor over here.

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