Sunday, March 3, 2013

Catch Phrases

Once when I was visiting my sister, it fell on me to put together lunch for my four-year-old nephew. I knew what he liked, and so I created a little sampler plate with hummus, olives, grape tomatoes, string cheese, and pita chips. "Well," he said when I presented it to him, "isn't that a healthy lunch?"

Even though it was years ago, his comment stays with us as short hand. When I told Heidi what we were having for dinner tonight, she nodded and said, "Well... isn't that a healthy menu?"

Fortunately, they both meant it as a compliment. The same cannot be said for another of our family's common assessment terms. When my nephew Treat was very young, he did not hesitate to tell us when something was not pleasing to him. At three he had a vocabulary and register mature enough to say that the spinach on his plate was "disgusting" in such a way that might have insulted a cook less confident than his father.

Fortunately, those same verbal qualities made him very open to re-phrasing. We gave him a few other options for politely expressing his dislike, and the one he chose is still a standard for the rest of us. "I don't love this," is what we say whenever something displeases us.

Today as I was reading through my students' replies to their peers' writing I saw the same principle in effect. They are using my comments as models for their own.

Well... isn't that a healthy development?


  1. I'm a Young 5's teacher and it always makes me laugh to watch my students play teacher and use my words, and some of my physical gestures.

  2. I feel privileged to be able to hear the voices of both of the people you describe saying their catch phrase! Really, though, it's your writing that brings their voices so clear to the reader.