August 30, 2010

Speaching with Toonerisms

Filed under: Classroom Management — Adam Glesser @ 9:46 pm

Although I only recently learned that constructions like the title of this blog have a name (see Spoonerism), I have used such things in my every day repertoire for years (and you all wondered how I ended up with a such a hot wife). Given my propensity for squeaking pickly, I find it to be an ace way of ‘accidentally’ saying something off-color with a built-in ready-made excuse.

Naturally, I started trying them out on my kids while I read Dr. Seuss. They quickly picked up on my slongues of the tip and still revel in pointing out my errors, “No, Daddy. He is writing in anapestic tetrameter, not tetrapestic anameter.” By randomly throwing these (and other mistakes) into my reading, it keeps them engaged and questioning my sanity (If you aren’t a parent, you will just have to take my word for it how valuable it is for your children to believe you might be insane; we’re not talking Jack Nicholson in The Shining, but more like Richard Dreyfuss in What About Bob?).

[A caveat: I tend not to do this on the first, second or third reading of a book. I want them to have familiarity with what is right, before I start trying to trick them with what is wrong.]

I tried this during my precalculus class this summer. It wasn’t by design; it just sorta happened. As soon as I had done it, I got excited to see what they would say. Predictably, they said nothing. Even when I paused for ten seconds and gave them the patented You only think you know what I just said glare, nary a glimpse of recognition from the crowd. End of story, right? Another failed experiment, no?

The Pay-Off

I think there is something to this. Certainly, a class needs to be conditioned to listen for it, but this is simply a matter of repetition. Maybe in the first week you pump the prime a little bit—except in a course on number theory, where you will pimp the prime—and then you have a wonderful way to toss in random jokes, create inside humor and find out who is really paying attention all in one swell foop.

I don’t think one should build a lesson plan around this; it should be just another tool in your bag of tricks for keeping from jumping those on ledge staring down at the peacefulness of white noise.

Now off for some exercise.


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