one thing they recognize is the notion of roots, of the growth of language and the multifaceted ways that words change
I don’t begin with ice breakers. The extroverts have already shattered the ice and blended it into their own slushies and the introverts want the ice to melt slowly. I don’t start with the procedures, either. We’ll get to it, but not yet. I want to see how they create their own rituals as a community.
Instead, the students analyze the quote, “Learn to live well,” and follow this up with the prologue from Barefoot Heart. When I ask them what a prologue means, they stare at me blankly. So, I launch into a quick explanation of logos and why the word had such rich meaning in the Greek. We talk about prefixes and suffixes and end up generating a list of words.
“What does ecology mean?”
“Technically words about home,” I explain.
It’s an impromptu lesson on language. As we move into I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the students pay close attention to specific words. One boy points out, “I see where you are going with all of this. Learn to live well. Knowing language will help you get a job and do well in college. But it’s more than that. The main character is understanding that language helps you make sense out of life.”
During the math lesson, another student points out, “We saw irrational in the reading. What’s that word mean in the reading world?”
“Pick it apart. Take off the prefix, right?”
“So what’s rational?”
“Use the dictionary.”
“It says ‘logical.’ Does that have the same root word of logos?”
I never would have guessed that the class would be this excited about language. I hoped to hook them with the themes of literature and the deep multi-millennial conversations of classic philosophy. Instead, they are excited about the structure of the words, the roots of where they derive and the layers of meaning that a word adds to a new context.
One of the best parts of is that my students won’t ever say, “It’s just semantics.” They know better.
Photo Credit – Martin LaBar’s Photostream on Flickr Creative Commons