So often students don’t speak up and let us know when they don’t understand a piece of vocabulary. Why? Embarrassment. Awkwardness. Indifference. But there are those other times, where there is a word in a sentence that they do not understand the meaning of, but they don’t speak up because they don’t realise themselves.
‘We build our houses squat’
The opening line of Heaney’s ‘Storm on the Island’ and one we have analysed in detail. I always assumed they understood squat. I may have even breezily defined it on our very first reading, but never checking in that their understanding of the word was the correct one.
When I used the vocabulary check list for the poems, it quickly became apparent that not one of my students understood the meaning of that word. Their definitions varied from ‘strong’ to ‘sturdy’ to ‘many’. It wasn’t until I explicitly pulled the word out that I realised they didn’t understand.
To start the page is stuck over two pages in their books, leaving lots of space to annotate. I instruct the students to highlight all of the words they don’t feel sure about. They have their anthologies so they can check it in the context of the poem to help. Then we go through every single word and I define even the ones they think they know.
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