As we begin the school year, we also begin word study in our elementary classrooms. We create word walls to help our students with both high frequency words and structural analysis. I also introduce The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds at this time of year to inspire students to collect words on a class bulletin board or in our own Literacy Notebooks.
There are various reasons to add a word to our collection. I might like the sound of the word: kerfuffle and lollygag come to mind. I might like the meaning of the word: peace and solitude, perhaps. I might like a word because of a positive association: malarkey… I can’t hear this word without hearing my Dad say, “Who dealt this malarkey?”
This year I would add an extra element to my word study lessons. Consider all of the words and phrases that have become a part of our daily vernacular. Some that we hadn’t ever used before 2020: COVID, coronavirus, social distancing, flattening the curve. Some that were not used with the frequency that they are now: cohorts, masks, quarantine, pandemic, contact tracing, isolation, synchronous, asynchronous. We could go on.
This situation is a natural opportunity to talk with students about the development and evolution of language. Ask students: What other world events or circumstances may have influenced and changed the English language over time?
Be ready for a fascinating conversation!