Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Power of Precise Language

It's DigiLit Sunday at Reflections on the Teche!
Check out all the digital literacy posts for this week.

As we wrap up our final research/nonfiction writing project, it's fun to see that my students are much more savvy about Internet searches than they were even a couple of months ago when they were satisfied to pose the exact question I'd given them to Mr. Google and fumble around with whatever information he decided to give them.

After their Evil Teacher forced them to use an encyclopedia repeatedly to gather information, my poor benighted students are much more willing to browse an online article (or even, heaven forbid, a book) for basic information before heading to more specialized sites. (Resisting the urge to say, "Told you so...")

And they are learning the power of precise language both in their Internet searches, as well as in their spoken language. My favorite example of the first is the girl who got lists of celebrities when searching "famous science people from Texas." She got what she wanted when I suggested she switch to "famous scientists from Texas." One precise word makes a huge difference. My favorite examples of the second include the boy who told me, "There were lots of presidents in my state." When I expressed confusion about how that could be, he reworded his statement to say, "There were a lot of presidents born in my state." Another student complained, "There's nothing about history in this book!" When I located an entire section about history in the table of contents, he reworded his statement, "There's nothing about the history of the native people of Florida in this book." Much better. Much clearer.


  1. Precise language indeed. And the Evil Teacher who makes you use it is only looking out for your own good, not trying to make you work hard as the little people may think.
    Thanks for posting today and linking up.

  2. Thanks, Mary Lee, for sharing this piece. It affirms my thoughts, as I worked with my fifth graders my last 2 years of teaching at the sentence level to improve their overall writing. I believe if we write with precise language and understand the power of our careful, intentional choice and placement/order of our words, that this directly influences our ability to read critically--attending to how others have used language and ordered words.


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