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Signs Of Life

Columns by Pamela Majteles

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Star Words

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Posted by pam on July 2, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Originally published on June 10, 2011

Reprinted with permission from Bay Area News Group — East Bay

It’s hard to put into words everything I learned in kindergarten.

But as my son finishes kindergarten, I can say that we’ve both mastered the star words taught this year.  Star words are high frequency words, such as “the”, “at”, “on”, that are prevalent in reading and writing.  Educators believe by focusing on these words, children get a jump-start when first learning to read and write.

To try and make it fun, I came up with a game of constructing sentences using only star words. My son and I would scatter cards with the star words onto a table and try making sentences out of them.  It was plenty challenging because, with words like “in”, “to”, “is” “am”, “do”, “yes” and “no”, something always seemed to be missing.

What was missing was a person, place or thing. Trying to put together a sentence without one of those is like trying to play dodge ball without a ball (or without other kids).  Luckily, as the year progressed, we started accumulating personal pronouns, so we were rolling with “I like you” and “He can do it”.

But still, something was missing.  I concluded it was interest or excitement, because these were some pretty boring sentences.  The game picked up when we got verbs with a little more action, and we were able to make “Come with me” and “Look at this” and “Go and see”.

The game really hit a peak when “play” and “love” showed up.  Those two words can spice up anything.  My son’s all-time favorite sentence using star words has got to be “I love to play.”

What I’ve learned from the game is how to be succinct. I sometimes find myself talking in star words even when I’m not playing. I’ve been amazed to discover how much I can convey with so little.  When my daughter is preparing to go out, wearing the shortest shorts I’ve ever seen, I’ve got it covered with “No can do.”

Those times I start speaking in star words can be confusing to others, because I’m known for my tendency to run on. When my husband asks me to read and comment on something he has written for a business project, I say, “I like it.”  By the way he stands waiting, I can tell he’s expecting more.

Having accomplished so much this year, my son and I can hardly wait for what comes next.  If our early reader books at home are any indication, we soon could be moving on to colors and animals.

It’s exciting to think about what we could do with a “dog” and a “cat”.  To be honest, I’d even be thrilled with a “rat”.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.


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