T’was the first day back from a two-week vay-cay. All the punkin’ heads were reading their books. Ms. M. notices A. leafing a little too quickly through his and questions his actions. A. replies, “I’m looking for a hyphenated modifier.” And he was!
It’s a good day when one of your little turtle doves learns something you taught them, remembers it, and then uses it later, yes?
Hyphenated Modifiers are one of the “Smiley Face Tricks” presented by MaryEllen Ledbetter in her books, activities, and trainings. I have used Smiley Face Tricks in my classroom, in my teaching of writing, and in my teaching of writing about reading for many years. They make language accessible to students and give us a common language we can use to discuss our reading and writing.
Hyphenated Modifiers, or hyphenated compound words, are often a class favorite. It’s a fancy-pants word (see what I did there?) that reminds them of the kinds of things teachers say all the time. It is more true than we like to believe that students hear their teachers much like Charlie Brown hears his: “wah-wah wah-wah-wah wah.” The students I teach have often decided that all of that “teacher talk” is garbage and is fully designed to make them feel foolish. By the time I get them, any academic vocabulary I might use sends their brains in to la-la land, and I may as well be reading from a college-level physics text. Seriously–even words like verb, noun, period, apostrophe, indent. You’d be shocked.
By teaching them the “trick” of the hyphenated modifier, I can give them some of their power back. Learning a five-star word (see what I did there?) like “HYPHENATED MODIFIER” is kind of like opening the door on the rest of those words they never took the time to understand. It’s a word they’ve probably never heard, their parents may not have heard, and they have almost never been abused with on a test. Once they catch on, they feel like they know something special. Then I sneak in some others–figurative language, adjective, compound word, syllable.
So today was a big win. A. used the term on his own to describe a word he was looking for. He’s ready for the big stuff now, right? As long as I can keep him from climbing under the table, I think I’ll start on complete sentences tomorrow!