Decades ago, my mentor teacher Chris referred to them as “Golden Words”. Not the same as Magic Words which include Thank You, Please and May I. And not like the first words that beginning readers need to memorize such as it, the, and in. No, these words were different. Chris assured me that my class would benefit from keeping a running list of them and she explained the process. Get a piece of butcher paper, title it as such, and post it at the front of the classroom with a magic marker at the ready. Their purpose was threefold. First, they would expand my students’ vocabulary. Second, they would allow students to express their feelings better and third, they would make writing and reading more fun! Worthwhile goals for any teacher and I was set to start. You could say I was excited, thrilled, and enthusiastic to begin!
Golden words also known as synonyms make the reading, writing, and speaking world go round! I love, adore, and admire words and phrases that have similar meanings! Not long after I got my first hefty Webster, I learned it had a companion named Roget, a bit more slender but just as intelligent, wise, and smart. And I couldn’t wait to be introduced! At the time I thought nothing could be more engaging, entertaining, and gratifying than reading…yes, reading a dictionary. I mean Webster delighted me with pages upon pages of words, terms, and entries stretching my mind with every new definition. But then Roget came along enticing me with more…more choices, more options, and more opportunities to say what I wanted to say. Wow! Quite heady for a ten-year old.
Throughout my school years, I faithfully called upon Roget to aid me in writing my essays, reports, and speeches. I could always count on it to help me choose just the right word or phrase to convey my feelings, opinions, and thoughts. My experience led me to believe that Chris’ idea would be right, and right she was. Teaching students about synonyms and recording useful ones really did make them more proficient writers, as well as readers. Their comprehension improved, as well as self-expression leading them to find their voices, if you will. For me, the monotony of word repetition was curtailed making it more pleasurable to read and hear students share their work. Parents were also pleased when they asked their child a question like, “How was school today?” and received a response like, “Our class was so garrulous that Mrs. B. asked us to refrain from babbling for the balance of the afternoon!” Such articulate second graders I had!
From my journal: October 14, 2013, Newbury Park, California
“It is now called the “Instead of Nice” list – ha! The title has changed, but not its use…”
At some point our “Golden Words” list became our “Instead of Nice” list, and I had to smile at its new name. It made sense. When you think about it, kids say nice all the time. What is your friend like? He’s nice! What do you think of the principal? She’s nice! What’s great about your favorite superhero? They’re nice! Over time, good, kind, and friendly were some of the replacements kids chose for nice. By year’s end they selected slightly more descriptive substitutes like pleasant, funny, and silly. Nice!
Golden words, words that mean nearly the same, or good old synonyms, these expressions enrich of our language in a myriad of ways. They embellish, enhance, and elevate the written and spoken word. They add to our overall enjoyment of our daily communication with one another. For that I am overjoyed, jubilant, and just simply elated!