Monday, May 21, 2012

Nonsense Words & Rhyming: ¿Tiene sentido usar palabras SIN sentido?

When I hear the word "nonsense" in English, my first thought is silliness.  I live with a two-year-old and four-year-old so a high percentage of my daily vocabulary is composed of nonsense words.  I just looked up the Spanish definition for "nonsense" and the given synonyms are tonterías and estupideces.  Is it just me or do those words convey a completely different (way more negative) meaning?

There are lots of opinions about whether nonsense words should be used for assessing literacy.  While I can see the reason to not use them for assessment, I don't think they should be off limits for word play.  I found this activity on Pinterest when looking for rhyming activities and was super excited to discover that There's a Wocket in My Pocket is also available in Spanish with the title ¡Hay un molillo en mi bolsillo!
This is the perfect book for introducing the concept of nonsense words to your students.  Like I mentioned in a previous post about rhyming in Spanish, the research says that nonsense words may be used as long as students understand their purpose.  This was good news to me because, if you have ever tried to rhyme in Spanish, you know that you can quickly run out of options!  However, when you manipulate a syllable or two (another important PA skill!), you can create a infinite number of fun rhyming words.

In case you haven't read the Spanish or English version of this Dr. Seuss book, there is a little boy that walks through his house spying silly nonsensical creatures hanging about (la RESA sobre la MESA, ese ÑOFÁ en el SOFÁ, un NEGADERO flotando en el FREGADERO, etc.).  I typed up the rhyming pairs and attached a few to the pockets on the chart above.  Students can read and match the rhyming words that go with the words on the pockets.  Simple and fun!

And a little bonus to familiarizing your students (especially English language learners) with the notion of nonsense words:  In the upper grades, math and science assessments often use nonsense words to describe sets of examples and nonexamples.  A fourth grade bilingual teacher at my training last week thought she might use this book to help her students understand why these tests use crazy words to describe these sets!  I love the opportunity to be with such smart teachers! :)

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