So, have you ever tried to discuss books with a class of urban four year olds, and found that the only emotion words they know are sad, mad, and happy?
We read Farmer Duck today for the second time, and so this time I wanted to ask what the secondary characters were thinking and feeling. “How did the other animals feel, when they saw Duck was ‘sleepy and weepy and tired?'” I asked.
“Sad,” they all said. No one could say much more than that. I had to do some modeling of a think-aloud: “Well, I’m thinking that they must be pretty upset. They love the duck, and they probably think it isn’t fair for the farmer to stay all day in bed. They could be feeling frustrated with this terrible situation.”
Then when I asked them, “What is the farmer thinking right now?!” on the page where he wakes up to find the cow, hens, and sheep under his bed, bouncing it around, and making loud noises.
“Sad,” they all said. WHAT?! I couldn’t get more than that out of them, so finally I told them, “You know, if I woke up all of a sudden and my bed was bouncing and there were farm animals in my room and they were yelling at me, I’d be really CONFUSED.”
I have decided that we will start studying vocabulary in a more intentional way, and that we will start with emotion words: upset, angry, proud, excited, worried, embarrassed, confused. Definitely confused. I’m going to pick books that deal explicitly with moods and feelings, and pick three words each week to highlight and post on the Word Wizard poster I just made this morning. We’ll write the words on the poster, refer to it daily, and record each time we hear someone using one of the words, or we ourselves use one in conversation.
Maybe in a few weeks our book discussions can go a little deeper.