• Gene Tavernetti, Ed.D.

Cracking the Code: Lack of Shared Vocab Not Nearly Working

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean neither more nor less.”

It is not only Mr. Dumpty who is using words that I used to understand. It seems the new standards have caused some words to have new meanings for some educators. Below are two words that I used to believe I knew what they meant – old meaning. And how some educators are now using the word – new meaning.


Old Meaning:

Working together to achieve a defined goal.

There are three reasons to collaborate:

To produce a better result than could have been reached individually.

To use specialized talents of individuals.

To reach consensus.

New Meaning:

Anytime two or more students are near each other engaged in some activity including talking or chatting. Putting students in a group do to any sort of work is now collaborating.

Synonyms include group projects, group work, cooperative learning

If you have you ever had the opportunity to create something meaningful with another person, or group of people you know it is nearly magical. True collaboration is so rare it is celebrated and even mythologized in our culture. Jobs and Wozniak. Rogers and Hammerstein. Lennon and McCartney.

On the other hand, have you ever found yourself in a group that was less than magical?

During a classroom walkthrough by an administrator, the administrator noted to the teacher, “I see by your seating arrangement the students are engaged in collaboration and group work.”

“They are sitting near each other. We don’t call it group work just because they are sitting near each other. We call it near work. They are near each other and they are nearly working,” replied the teacher.

Close Reading

Old meaning:

Reading a selection multiple times with the goal of realizing a deeper meaning with each read. Deeper meaning being defined as comprehending based on literacy and content standards. For example:

Reading round 1: Main idea and details - author’s claim

Reading round 2: Craft and Structure - how does the author say it

Reading round 3: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas – what does it mean

Reading round 4: Product – so what

New meaning:

Read a selection multiple times using an annotation strategy. Answer questions

assigned by the teacher. The questions may be created by the teacher or come from the text about the main idea and details.

Close reading, like the new standards, is designed to provide a more rigorous and deeper understanding of text and the disciplined-based content within the text.

broken egg_edited.jpg

Does it really make a difference that educators use words differently than one another? Can’t we just all be Humpty Dumpty? On the one hand yes, use words any way you want. On the other one hand, naming something “Collaboration” or “Close Reading” does not mean the students have accomplished, or learned, anything commensurate with the time devoted to the activity.

But then, we all know what happened to Humpty.

This blog was enhanced by collaboration with Pat Brennand.

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