dancing direct objects

May 22, 2007

this post is slightly outdated now, as I’ve been traveling and without internet for the past week: lusaka, ndola, and lusaka again at the moment . . . but here is is, outdatedness and all :-)
At dinner the other night I asked Eva if she had told Mom and Dad about her goofy direct object lesson that day. When she said she hadn’t, I asked why not, to which this sensitive youngster replied that she didn’t want to make fun of her teacher. My encouragement did not seem to persuade her so I finally informed her that I would then make fun of her teacher . . .
You see, we happened upon a rather unusual, but quite effective, method for learning the difficult lesson of how to identify the direct object of a sentence. As we wrestled that day with how to distinguish between nouns and predicates, subject nouns and common nouns, and, of course, direct objects, I had a bit of a teacher’s “Aha!” moment.
As I began to explain how to decipher the direct object, I discovered a little trick: a simple way to locate it is to read the sentence once and then reread it, eliminating the end and replacing it with the question “what?” For instance, “My dog ate a large bone. My dog ate a large what? A bone!” And so you have discovered the direct object—“bone,” in this case.
I believe this is a relatively standard method for teaching direct objects. What I realized that day, however, is that when you start going through a series of sentences, a bit of a rhythm develops. So as I illustrated this method, I began to lapse into a rhythm, which morphed into a bit of a rap, which led to the obvious next step of dancing as I rapped. When I recovered from the losing-myself-in-the-moment syndrome and glanced at my pupil, I found her wide-eyed with delight. So I continued. She quickly caught on when I paused after the sentences to allow her to insert the “what” of the direct objects. And so we rapped through a page of her work.
Until one of her answers made me stop—I realized she had given an incorrect reply, so I stopped to correct her. And stopping the rhythm of course interrupted the routine. When Eva commented that I had stopped dancing, I replied that her goal was “to keep teacher dancing.” By this point, both girls were getting into the game, and we laughed our way through the entire lesson for Eva’s English that day. In the process, I believe we also managed to give Ellen a head start, as I suspect she will remember our little trick once she reaches the same point in her grammar lessons.
Sometimes it behooves a teacher to be willing to be a bit of a goofball.


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