Friday, November 9, 2012

Finding Out What the Words Mean

Yesterday I helped out in a program I heard about from Katharine Beals (of Out in Left Field.) It's an after-school tutoring project founded by a man from the Ivory Coast, who aims to help other French-speaking African immigrants educate their children.

At the end of the 2 hours, there's some time to help the kids with their homework. I sat with one 6th-grader who pulled out a vocabulary list. Each teacher (math, science, social studies, reading) assigns five words; every Friday the kids take a test where they're given the definitions and have to write the appropriate words.

It was clear to me that the definitions given were way over the head of an average sixth grader. For instance, the definition for "sequence" was something like "a list of elements corresponding to the natural numbers with predetermined order" (I don't remember it exactly -- I'm just trying to reproduce the level of difficulty.)

Me: "Do you know what a sequence is? Have you ever seen one?"

Kid: "No."

I wrote the numbers 1, 3, 5, 7, and asked her what the next number would be. She said "9".

Me: "That's an example of a sequence."

Kid (brightly): "Maybe if I find out what the words mean, I could get extra credit!"


  1. Insider's joke?

  2. I've discovered that if I delete a comment, I then lose the "Recent Comments" widget. I have to publish a comment to bring the widget back.