“Wow”, I thought to myself as I moved between the students who were working individually on their reading comprehension tasks, “this student’s error is a classic mistake! Here is a great opportunity to remind the class of the dangers of ignoring parts of speech and the importance of using the dictionary wisely”.
So I called everyone’s attention to the board. In my 12th grade class of Deaf and hard of hearing students, all comments for the whole class must be made while standing by the board where everyone can see me, and I can write-up the words and sentences as needed. The students are used to me pointing out errors in this manner. They know I absolutely never ever make fun of a student. I also thank the student for giving us this opportunity to pay attention to some point. Since this happens once with one student’s error and then with another, the students are all well aware that they are all “in the same boat”.
The source of the problem was the word “felt.” One word led to multiple errors.
“I felt certain that my second attempt would be successful”.
The student had forgotten the meaning of this irregular verb so he looked up the translation in his electronic dictionary.
However, he did not pay attention to the fact that he was looking for a verb and that the electronic dictionary first presents translations that are nouns.
The student wrote down the noun meaning of the word “felt” (as in a type of cloth) which in Hebrew is a three-letter word “leved”.
The electronic dictionary does not use diacritics and the student understood those same three letters to mean a totally different word in Hebrew, “levad”, which means “alone”.
Therefore, the student could not understand the sentence in the text.
A textbook error to be presented to class, right?
Or, as it turned out, an excellent example of how explaining too much can totally confuse students and introduce other mistakes!
I should have just reminded the students of how to pay attention to the syntax and look up the word “felt” as a verb and left it at that.
When we looked at the meaning of “felt” as a noun it turned out that not a single one of those students knew what the material felt was. I didn’t have anything made of the material felt in the room to show them and none of the students were wearing anything made of felt (it’s a hot country, you know!). I started trying to explain. The only example I could think of at the moment was a “felt jacket”. I’m sure if they had touched the material it would have been familiar but they simply did not have a word for it in any language they used.
The fact that I had also been trying to explain how the first student had made an error with the meaning of the noun as well, confused the students even more.
No, there were no “felt jackets” mentioned in the sentence.
Yes, yes, I agree, jackets, made of felt or any other material cannot be lonely, so it is ridiculous to use the word lonely in the context of a jacket except that aren’t any jackets in the sentence.
Sometimes less actually is more – explain less!
The sentence remained on the board when the next class came in.
I simply pointed to the word “felt” and reminded the students how they could (and should!) know the word is a verb even if they forget it’s meaning.
No “lonely felt jackets” were allowed into the room!