Talking to Learn New Words

What if it's possible to discover new words by talking about a word that everyone knows in the group? One thought could lead to another and the result could be the discovery of new words. Sounds like a treasure hunt?

Role of conversations in learning: There is a long history between talking, thinking and the role of language in learning. Socrates believed that his role as a teacher was to move students towards understanding through conversation. He considered it his job to promote thinking rather forcing his opinions on the students. Subsequently, Constructivism, a pedagogical theory came about. This approach sees learning as a discovery and encourages hands on activities to enable exploration, questioning, framing hypothesis and instilling a sense of wonder in children. Extending this approach to learning new words in a group enables children to not only have fun but gain a better understanding of the meaning of the word and its usage.

At the Young Readers' Club: A conversation based on a single word led to a very interesting exploration.

We were trying to place a set of words that had more than one application in appropriate categories. The word "earthquake" led to a very invigorating discussion.

"Can earthquake be considered a science? Doesn't it fall under social sciences, specifically geography?"

"But aren't there scientists who study earthquakes? Wait a minute those who study earthquakes are scientists right?"

The facilitator: "True, the scientific study of earthquakes is called seismology and the people study earthquakes are called seismologists."

"" that is a tough one to pronounce."

"Earthquakes can be very bad. People get killed you know. Roads break."

"They are impossible to predict."

"Before, predicting natural disasters like cyclones/tsunamis was difficult, but today it is possible. Perhaps in the future it will become possible to predict earthquakes too."

"But it is possible to measure how bad they are right? I forget what that is called.."

The facilitator: "That's right. It is possible to measure the intensity of an earthquake, using the richter scale."

"It is nature. It just happens. No one can create an earthquake."

"I saw in a T.V serial that it is possible. Someone created an actual earthquake!"

"It was a T.V serial. How did they create one? What did they use?"

"It was true. I saw it! I don't remember exactly how they did it. I watched it a long time ago."

Silence fell as everyone pondered over that possibility...after awhile...

"Earthquake is the result of tectonic plates moving. It is not possible for a human being to recreate that."

"It is a process leading to utter destruction. There must be something that causes it to happen."


That last contribution left the group debating about how it can be called a process. The result was a full fledged exploration of earthquakes!


Note: All sessions at Talking Circles are held online. Picture used is for representational purpose only.

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