Saturday, November 17, 2012

David Martin - Playing with Language

On November 3rd we were lucky to have Amy Cunningham, Grace Greene, Leda Schubert and David Martin all come to speak at Bear Pond Books as we kicked off National Picture Book Month. General materials from the day are here and a virtual display of recommended books is here (you can order online). These posts look more closely at what each speaker had to say, with a focus on the Common Core State Standards.

David Martin points out what probably should be obvious ". . . a young child's job is to play, and they'll play with whatever is available. . . toys, water, food . .  .give them something that makes noise, like their mouths, and they'll play with that too."

He uses this fact to justify getting a lot of nursery rhyme songs stuck in our heads. But of course there's a lot of playing with language in nursery rhymes, here is an example he wrote out for us:

My favorite Mother Goose rhyme for using in classrooms is:
To market, to market
To buy a fat pig.
Home again, home again
Jiggety, jig

To market, to market
To buy a fat hog.
Home again, home again
Jiggety jog.

I like it because expands so easily and can get so silly.
To market, to market
To buy a fat cow.
Home again, home again
Jiggety jow.

To market, to market
To buy a fat alligator.
Home again, home again
Jiggety jaligator.

I’ve done big class books where every student got to do two pages.  On page one they wrote the first verse and illustrated it with that animal, e.g. a fat alligator, and on the second page they wrote the second verse and drew a fat jaligator – whatever that looks like.  I’ve seen jeetahs and jakes and jelephants.  And if using the word fat is a problem, use big instead.  Or colors - a blue pig, a green ant...

David likes to start books as songs, you'll see a lot song based books from David in the November 3rd read aloud recommendations (here).

Simple songs have all the components of encouraging language play for young children: repetition, rhythm, rhyme, and anticipation. Anticipation lets kids think ahead and, as David puts it, that's empowering. Here's an example of an anticipation game he plays based on The Hungry Thing, a book about how a little boy sees through grown ups' silly ideas (and silly words) to figure out what the Hungry Thing wants to eat:

It’s easy to continue this in a kindergarten classroom with a brown bag lunch.  Pack a lunch, maybe a sandwich, an apple and juice.  Show the bag to the class, reach into it, feel around for the sandwich and say something like, “Oh, I think I have a bamwich for lunch today.  Then let the kids show how much smarter they are than you.  That’s not a bamwich.  It’s a sandwich, Mrs. Gremmelsbacher.  Then pull out the sandwich so they can see that they were right.  Next go for the mapple and the goose.  Kids showing us how much smarter they are than us is one of their favorite things to do, and it’s important.  Full disclosure:  I did not invent this game.  I borrowed the idea.
It's all very ridiculous but there's something serious here, too. Below are links to recent articles David recommends on the importance of early education:

Check out David's website at: and Facebook page:
David Martin takes notes on what Grace Greene is saying. . . .

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