Tuesday, March 28, 2006
I write the following sentence on the board: Millard Fillmore was a know nothing. I ask students to tell me what the sentence means.
“Well…..somebody isn’t too smart,” a student volunteers.
Another comment is added. “That guy, Mil-, Mil-. That Mil- guy doesn’t know nothing.” I ignore the grammatical error. At this point it will just confuse them.
I try to turn students in another direction. “What are nouns?”
Someone regurgitates “Words that name people, places, ideas, and things.”
I counter with, “What’s our strategy to find nouns?” Several seconds go by. I hold up my board marker and point to it. Several hands go up.
“We look for noun markers like the words a, an, and the.”
“Good, take a look at the sentence again. What do you see?”
“Know nothing is a noun. It has an “a” in front of it.”
“Yes. So is Millard Fillmore stupid?”
“No, somebody is calling him a name.”
“What else do you notice about the words “Know” and “Nothing”?
After several tries someone tells me that the words are capitalized. I counter with a “So what?”
A show of hands. I choose someone. “Know-Nothing is a name for something.”
“Yes, but a name for what?”
I end our little language arts episode by telling students that Millard Fillmore was our 13th president and he was a member of a group called the Know-Nothings. I tell students their goal during the lesson is to determine how Fillmore became a Know-Nothing and what the group represented.
Would you like to find out what we learned? Head on over to the American Presidents blog where I posted the rest of the story. You’ll have to scroll down past the part you’ve already read.