Too many big words

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“An intellectual is a man who takes more words than necessary to tell more than he

~ Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890 – 1969)

I’ve written this before, but it’s worth a repeat of sorts. Some days I’m really tired of big words. I have lists filled with words to use to create lesson plans. They’re not allowed to merely “review” anymore. It’s not active enough. They’re not allowed to “learn.” Learning is not specific enough.

They have to classify, generalize, illustrate, paraphrase, summarize, differentiate, discriminate, distinguish, research and demonstrate, among other action verbs. Many administrators want to see these words and I tend to oblige them. These same administrators produce erudite presentations showing their own grasp of multi-syllabic words.

Eduhonesty: Don’t get me wrong. I love big words. I play spelling games for fun. But there is a large difference between seeking the most effective word and showing off to impress the audience. We appear condescending and pretentious when we use too many polysyllabic words in a single sentence. We also appear insecure.

Let me take a stand: There’s nothing wrong with a goal such as “Students will learn the difference between a metaphor and a simile.” We can gussy this sentence up all we want, but the truth is that extra verbiage in a lesson plan won’t help students to learn any faster or better. The extra time we spend on the lesson plan may be taken away from planning actual instruction too.