We have a new literacy curriculum this year that is teaching reading from a refreshingly new perspective. It gives the students the knowledge (and therefore the power) to figure out words for themselves (imagine being a first grader stuck on the word "bicycle" and having a teacher say, "sound it out!") I work with small groups of at-risk students as well as filling in for a couple of teachers while they are out on maternity leave (since their subs aren't trained in the new curriculum, I get to fill in - which I love!)
It was during my half hour with the first grade class that it happened. I had given them ten spelling words so I could see just how much they have absorbed and what aspects we still need to review and practice. A particularly challenging task for this age is to understand why some words have double letters in them, something this class is getting very good at explaning (which I could not have done well six months ago!)
I had collected their papers and we were going through the words on the board one by one when I reached such a word. "Alex? Do you want to try to spell 'tennis'?" Alex was eager to give it a try and I was so delighted when he told me "t-e-n-n-i-s". I followed-up by asking Alex how he knew that "tennis" needed to have two n's in the middle.
(I have to interject here for those of you who, like me earlier this year, don't know why tennis has two n's. Doubling letters is how the designers of our language (and other languages) created a way for us to ensure that a reader of a word would know we meant the 'e' to be a short 'e' and not a long 'e'. Think of the difference between something like 'tigger' and 'tiger' for example. )
Alex, confident of his perfect answer replies, "Because if it didn't have two n's, it would say, 'tenis'!"
Which of course, created an eruption of giggles in the classroom - a word far too similar to 'penis'.
We all recovered nicely and moved right along to "simple" without much of a glitch. Maybe the little giggle over 'tenis' will help them all to remember the rule for double letters!