Just last week, I was bragging about how my First Grader maxed two dictation tests in a row. When I saw the words on this week’s list, I was pretty sure he would not be able to spell even one of them right.
Electricity, dugout, canoe, vehicle, aircraft, biplane, underground. No points for guessing they are doing ‘The History of Travel’ in Social Studies. One word seemed not to belong to the set – photograph. I checked again. The word was not photograph, it was pantograph. Pantograph? Did my son really know what it meant? I cannot be accused of having either a bad vocabulary or of being weak in general knowledge- if I had not encountered the word before, could my son really know what it was?
Since I was too proud to ask my son, I googled the word. A pantograph is a mechanical linkage device used for copying drawings. Very interesting, but I just couldn’t see the connection between a pantograph and transportation. Swallowing my pride, I asked my son what it meant. Something to do with trains, I gathered. Back to goggle – ‘pantograph’ and ‘ train’ told me that a pantograph was device that collects electric current from overhead lines for electric trains and trams.
I leant something new, but is there any point in the school teaching that to my not yet six year old? Aren’t concepts more important than names? Can’t the time my son spends in learning names of people, places and things that mean next to nothing to him be better utilized in teaching him something more concrete?
I have no issues with the teacher describing a pantograph to the kids, but is there any point in making them learn the word? And in learning to spell it? Wouldn’t it make a little more sense in getting kids to learn words that would help them to start reading independently?
Or maybe I am missing something here?!