The Little Words

I got these excellent observations from Naomi:
Dear Ben,
On the ACTFL listserv someone listed this today as an interesting article on the “little words” – pronouns, articles, etc. – which, it ends up, are first of all ignored by the brain in establishing meaning, and very revealing of the personality of the speaker … feel like this article is a key to understanding how some kids seem to pick up on the little words better than others – it is a social function.  I feel like this article helps understand why the little words, even after thousands of CI examples over several years of instruction are not well utilized by students (trained to focus on meaning, the brain is skipping over those words) … I sometimes get frustrated and try to teach them explicitly (du means de + le), but that kind of grammar instruction, as we know, is not what kids will absorb. I just think that the connections between language use and psychology are fascinating, and I also think they have to do with the three modes that you are playing with in terms of a basis for standards based grading, maybe something like:
– Interpretive mode: students are not tuned in to the little words, just looking for meaning
– Interpersonal mode: students begin to use little words
– Presentational mode: students must control usage of little words in order to present effectively
Anyway, thought you might like to read the article.



5 thoughts on “The Little Words”

    1. And now our blog community can move forward after a hiatus from being in touch with the wonderful, the fantastic, the multi-talented trumpeter and language teacher Thomas Young. We are so glad you’re back with us Thomas!

  1. Great link!
    The Grow Story Grow site author sent me an article a while ago about how at least 50% of French is composed of only 12 words. Those are what she tries to use in her stories to help children learn French faster. She convinced me to start a word wall.
    Welcome back Thomas!!

  2. Hi Thomas,
    I can’t find the article, but I did find a note about the information on the website at this url:
    And it seems that I was off (so I should be careful about my memory!!) — it was English she was mentioning, and 25%, not 50%.
    I think you could write to Val Thornbur and ask her for her article. E-mail: — I love the site’s idea–it combines using those little words over and over with embedded stories. They’re not compelling enough for a daily diet for my kids, but they’re cute.

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