I noticed one major obstacle in the students' ability to identify the main idea: vocabulary. I'm probably hyper-sensitive about vocabulary words after attending a Common Core Learning Standards workshop Tuesday, in which my small group studied (as part of a "jigsaw" activity) "Shift #6" (out of 6) - Academic Vocabulary. The workshop document stated that we should focus on helping students acquire common vocabulary instead of "esoteric literary terms such as onomatopoeia". (Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I mean classroom, my substitute teacher led the poetry review of sound elements like onomatopoeia. Sizzle. Gurgle. Splat.) Raised hackles aside, I fully acknowledge the low level of COMMON vocabulary knowledge such as the following words perceived to be difficult in our poetry review this week:
dreary ("I'm Nobody", Emily Dickinson)
woe ("Sixth of January", David Budbill)
refugee ("Refugee in America", Langston Hughes)
Today a wonderful college student (whom I taught in seventh and eighth grade) now studying English Education was in my classroom to help fulfill her classroom observation requirement. When she saw my lesson materials, she said she learned to spell the word "onomatopoeia" in my class. She also reminded me that she had won the school spelling bee when she was in eighth grade.