BeakSpeak Book

Fencing and Listing Specific Vocabulary

After the coop with its extension was built, the front of the property needed some wooden fencing to protect the buildings; the pen and shoot on the right side of the barn needed clearing and repairing; and the barbed wire fencing around the property and hay field needed some shoring up.

I had a couple of friends help me surround the house and workman’s quarters with wooden posts and boards. We used an old tractor that came with the place I called the Poppin’ Jenny and an auger we borrowed from a teacher friend in Belmont. The person at the helm drove tractors since childhood, so I left that job to her. A friend who taught at New Braunfels made sure the auger was straight going into the ground.

My job was simply putting the post in afterwards, making sure it was level, then tamping it in until is was secure,.

It took us several days, but we finally had the building protected and a simple metal gate installed to allow for access to and from the buildings.

This would enable the stock to arrive just as soon as my fence builder secured the barbwire fencing.

He also had to clear off and repair the pen and chute for the cattle to be medicated and the calves to be shipped to the auction house. That was always a very sad day, but I couldn’t afford the place without it.

While all this was taking place at home, at school I would be working to improve student spelling and grow their vocabulary for writing. They needed a wealth of “show” words to replace the common “tell” words that came naturally to them. To do this I liked to give them ten new words a week, then write my own paragraph quizzes from the content of the literature we were studying. With my freshman class I did just this at the end of The Odyssey. I would call out the specific words they would have to spell out in alphabetical order, then they would have to put the corresponding number of the word (1-10) in the proper blank of the paragraph. They may even have to change the word form, such as strike to struck, to make it fit the sense of the sentence. I gave them no clue what those forms would be beyond the text itself. Here’s a sample:

  1. bake
  2. chunk
  3. connoisseur
  4. delicious
  5. edible
  6. famish
  7. gnaw
  8. lackluster
  9. putrid
  10. quaff

Disguised as a beggar, Odysseus entered his home for the first time in twenty years. He pretended to be __6__ for food, raising his tin bowl in desperate, begging fashion. He could hear the raucous laughter of drunken men throughout this great hall, and he could smell the __9__ odor of spilled alcohol. Odysseus spied Antinous across the room __10__ down a goblet of his best port wine. Odysseus himself, once a __3__ of the finest grapes and wine this side of Greece, could hardly stand the stench of the rank drink today. Someone suddenly tossed a __2__ of bread his way. Odysseus caught it and nodded in thanks, then turned his back to them all as he pretended to __7__ the hardened crust. It was so stale it was barely __5__. Still, it was his bread, from his very own wheat fields, so, from the very first bite, it was __4__ just the same; in fact he closed his eyes and savored its crumbs. It didn’t take a __1__ genius to make the kind of bread for which Odysseus’ fields were known.. The recipe was so simple and plain that the bread’s taste was often described as __8__. It suited Odysseus, though, and for years, evidently suited the uninvited suitors as well.

Knowing the answers now, it should be obvious that bake needed an r’s, famish an ed, and quaff an ing for the paragraph to make sense. We could use the same method with elementary students if you give them much simpler words and paragraph quizzes. You could put the specific “show” words at the top of your quiz paragraph then have them replace the common word you write in that paragraph that is the “tell” word. In my quiz, for example, instead of just giving my students blanks in the sentences, I could have said Odysseus was hungry __6__; he could smell the bad __9__ odor; Antinous was drinking __10__; Odysseus was once an expert __3__ of the finest grapes; someone tossed a piece __2__ of bread; and so on.

Another thing you can do that expresses denouncing bullies like my BeakSpeak is show the movie Babe. I’m not going to give you a long synopsis of the pig book by Dick King-Smith, but suffice it say Mr. Hogget, a farmer, won a pig in a lottery. He was going to fatten her for Christmas dinner. All the barnyard animals told Babe pigs were stupid and meant to be eaten. After much heartache, and being bullied by Rex the male sheep dog, Babe’s kindness won the friendship of the female sheep dog and the ewes. When Rex became sick, she politely talked the ewes into completing an obstacle course at the county ewe contest and won Mr. Hogget a perfect score, defying the warning the others gave her to mind her place on the bottom rung of the farm’s hierarchy. Babe wouldn’t believe that “that’s just the way things are” (King-Smith’s version of a Nothing-New Sue phrase). She believed all animals were equals, and she believed you can change things. She did, and she even won over Rex.

Let’s look at a couple of “tell” – to – “show” sentences I can extract from this movie. Asking the proper question is key:

The farmer got the pig at the fair. After watching the movie the students can answer WHO is the farmer? HOW did he get the pig? HOW BIG is the pig? WHAT KIND of fair? The answers should be: Mr. Hogget won the piglet at the county fair.

Let’s try another one:

The farmer didn’t raise pigs, but took her home anyway. WHO is the farmer? HOW did he take her home? WHERE is home? WHY did he take her home if he didn’t raise pigs? The answers should be: Mr. Hogget drove her to his farm in his buggy to fatten her up for Christmas dinner.

Essentially the moral of the fable is kindness wins in the end. There is nothing in Babe, as a fable, that isn’t in BeakSpeak, and the teacher, or parent, can work out methods in Babe to evoke specific, “show” language like BeakSpeak does. The difference is, you don’t have to in BeakSpeak. I’ve already done it for you.


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