Monday, July 20, 2015

Cough, Though, and Rough -- There's a Reason

We've all heard rants on the confusing irregularities of our English language:  "Why doesn't cough rhyme with though?"  "If the plural of goose is geese, why isn't the plural of moose meese?" Most of us have even seen this image floating about the internet when some woe-is-me English student is especially distraught:

Richard Lederer has a point -- our language can seem confusing.  This is why on the very first day of British Literature class, before we've even taken out our notebooks and pencils, and before we have opened our literature books,  I show my students the image above and tell my class, "English is a crazy language."  I then show them the fictional word ghoti, and inevitably one of the kids sitting near the back will call out, "I saw that on the internet!  It's fish!" The studious kiddos (who are reaching for their notepads already) cast nervous glances around the classroom as I affirm the internet-meme savant's observation.  If you take the gh from laugh, the o from women, and the ti from lotion, these sounds do sound out the word fish.  It's true.  Our language is messed-up, awkward, and seemingly random, but I emphasize that the English language is not arbitrary.  These incongruous spellings, awkward pronunciations, and frustrating usage rules have a rich history that begins with soldiers who painted themselves blue like smurfs and refused to bathe.  (Finally, each student has begun to take down notes, and the real "lesson" has begun.)

This fun attention-grabber is my favorite way to start the year!  What tricks do you use to hook your students' attention for a semester of English class?  Comment below!

Also, check out my fellow ELA bloggers' ideas through the link-up below.  Happy Back-to-School season!


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20 comments:

  1. This is a fun one, love it!

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    1. Thanks, Ashley! I do enjoy this lesson quite a bit. :)

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  2. That's a fun mini-lesson to do with students!

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    1. We do have a lot of fun with this. :) Thank you so much for hosting this helpful discussion! I have loved seeing everyone's ideas!

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  3. I like how you do this the first day of school. Most of my students are ELLs, and I think this is something that can help reassure them that learning to be literate in a second language, let alone English, is challenging.

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    1. I agree! I can't even imagine learning English at this stage of my life. It's so complicated as it is!

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  4. I love the image! What a great idea to start the first day of school with it.

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    1. I was so excited when I found it! I'm thinking of hanging it up in my room after the first lesson is over this year.

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  5. We have a lot of ELL's at our school--this would be a great exercise to start with! Thanks!

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    1. That's wonderful to hear! I'm glad the idea is useful. :)

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  6. This would make a great Bellringer on the first day! Thanks for sharing!

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  7. Wow - this is the perfect fun way to help students move from confusing to fun and challenging in ways that benefit them! love it! Ellen

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    1. Thanks, Ellen! It definitely gets their attention. :)

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  8. I often show a video about the history of English. It is short an fast. Warning: It is probably PG13 with some of the vocabulary so watch it first BEFORE you show it to your class.http://eslcarissa.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-history-of-english.html

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    1. Oh, I LOVE that video! I did show my kids the part of that video (not the whole thing), and as I showed it to my class, I heard one kid say to another, "Why isn't all of school like this?" Thanks for the reminder to use it again!

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  9. I love that! Hilarious.

    I build compassion with my students too. So often they'll say, "this makes no sense!" I'm like, "I know!"

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  10. This is awesome!! my 6th graders will eat this up :) Thanks for sharing!!

    Emily
    http://www.comfortablyclassic.blogspot.com

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