I was thinking back on the post I wrote about the one vocabulary word from high school that I still remember (“virtually“), when I realized that that wasn’t the only memorable vocabulary experience I had in school.
In elementary school I was fortunate enough to be placed in a 5th/6th grade combo class as a 5th grader. I loved it. We separated out for English, but the rest of the topics were all of us together, and I could keep up academically with those a year ahead of me. It was a source of great pride for me.
Although I wasn’t in the 6th grade English class, I knew about their regular assignment: vocabulary sentences. Each week they had a list of words, and they had to use each word in a sentence.
I knew I was going to be in that class again the following school year, so about a month before the end of school, I started copying the sixth graders’ word lists and bringing them home. That summer I wrote out all the sentences for the first twenty lists. It gave me something to do, and I always hated trying to get that tedious project done along with my other assignments. I was all set.
I was all but gloating as I readied myself for our first English unit in the sixth grade. Our teacher started off with, “We are going to be doing something different this year.” Nearly all the kids cheered – we all hated those sentences. I would have been with them in their enthusiasm if I didn’t have a fat stash of that completed work at home.
At that point in my life, I wasn’t concerned with learning. That didn’t happen until grad school – second attempt. I only cared about grades, teacher praise, and having free time. Some would say that those hours spent working on those sentences wasn’t lost. They would be wrong. I’d already forgotten most of the words by the first day of school.
Had it been later in my life I would have asked for extra credit for those vocabulary lists. Obviously I hadn’t perfected my teacher’s pet skills at that age.
Have you ever done a project in advance only to find out it was a wasted effort? or How did you spend your childhood summer vacations?