Teaching Grammar With Whimsy
What is it about some sounds that make the words they create, well, funny? Amusing, comical, whimsical. Most of the time this is entirely accidental and has little to nothing to do with the actual definition of the word. Nevertheless, some words are more fun to say. And fun combined with anything to do with learning is a good thing. A very good thing.
Double consonant words can be particularly intriguing—and amusing. Funny is powerful. Grammar is not a fun subject. Language Arts gets more of a pass because it deals with things like reading and writing and reading some more, which means there is at least some chance of gaining student interest with well-written prose. The thing about the grammar part of Language Arts is that is has such an unfortunate reputation. The thing that can be forgotten in the so much to learn, so little time in the hustle and bustle of the English classroom is that all of it, the literature, the grammar, punctuation, parts of speech, rhetoric, all of it comes down to the simplest and most basic aspect: words. Words hold not only meaning but sound, texture, concepts, memories, weight. Words are powerful. Command of words is power.
And words are fun. If you can instill that thought, that idea in students, you open a whole world that, if you’re lucky, will never be forgotten.
This time I’m looking at double G’s. Think Piggly Wiggly. Okay, there is no such word as Piggly, but there should be, what a great adjective. But seriously, jiggle, wiggle, gaggle, waggle, haggle, niggle, wriggle, hugger, mugger, nugget, giggle. You get the idea. Not only are these words fun to say, but many of them are fun words in and of themselves. Better still, these make great out-loud words, another great tool to instill the love of words, to own words, and the beginning of another powerful tool: diction.
Okay, I’ve given you the (first list of) my favorite sounding words, I challenge you to try this with your students. Put the double consonant of your choice on the board. G’s are good because there aren’t a ton of them. Then challenge your kids to put those letters into words, as many as they can think of. Push for really cool words like juggernaut, as well as the simpler ones. Make sure students volunteer the words loudly and enthusiastically. Diction! Clarity! Words!