A few days ago I was reading Tom Sawyer to my 8 year old son. I have recently moved into the train of though commensurate with the ideas expressed by Micheal Clay Thompson. I have started to focus on reading classics to my children. These classics are designed to increase their vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure naturally. How? I guess it goes back to the garbage in – garbage out concept. If I put high quality sentences into their little heads than high quality sentences are more likely to come out. That said, I don’t neglect direct teaching on things like vocabulary and grammar. I like to utilize natural ways to learn in order to reinforce what is taught directly. Take a quick look at Michael Clay Thompson and his views on vocabulary.
Back to Tom Sawyer….anyway, I was reading Tom Sawyer to him the other day and I ran across the word cogitating. We had encountered that word earlier in the book and stopped briefly to discuss what it meant before continuing with the story. So when we ran into cogitating again our conversation went something like this:
Mom: Cogitating – do you know what that means?
Son: I remember that one.
Mom: What does it mean?
Son: (pauses for a moment) Thinking
Mom: You were cogitating on cogitating?
Son: (pauses then smiles) Yes.
So you can see I am sold on reading the classics now. This isn’t the first time my son has learned new words just from reading. While familiar with some of Mark Twain’s writing I have never read Tom Sawyer. I was surprised at the richness of vocabulary. Just one page of Tom Sawyer contains words like: perplexed, infernal, impudence, ostentatiously, haggard, pathetic, vanquished, and serene. Now my son often needs me to stop and explain what is going on. He doesn’t get every word or every idea expressed, but that is okay. Challenge is a good thing.