SOL 12 – a closer look at words


Screen Shot 2017-03-11 at 9.58.46 PM
On Friday a talented fellow slicer wrote about the word failure after being inspired by yet another slicer. It managed to get me intrigued with the word failure as I responded to her post below…
Screen Shot 2017-03-11 at 9.07.50 PM

My intrigue with this word reminded my of a wonderful Shakespeare class in college where Screen Shot 2017-03-11 at 10.39.44 PMwe had to pick just one word that was mentioned several times from the play we were reading at the time (one of the histories). We then had to go look up the meaning of that word in the grand old Oxford English Dictionary. I picked the word favor. The idea was for us to explore the multiple meanings of the word and how Shakespeare used the same words in different ways. Often his use of a specific word could be taken in multiple ways at the same time. I do not think I am doing justice in explaining the assignment, but I do know I found it all fascinating. It really opened my eyes to see how brilliant Shakespeare really was.

Since access to the OED online requires a subscription, I had to make due with a lesser online dictionary and perhaps a little bit of playfulness in my closer look at the word failure above.

When it comes to the failure I think we could all rally a bit in encouraging the celebration of failure. I too see kids who are afraid to take risks. Nobody really wants to lose. However losing can help one look for the good. It often can eventually lead to winning and perhaps the maturity to realize that winning doesn’t really matter much in the big picture of life. My father often said, “it all evens out when you are twenty one.”

How do we encourage ourselves and others to take risks? I think of it as jumping off the high dive for the first time. It is often so scary, but in the end so worth it. I am captivated with the dance that happens with the words failure and risk. I love how words often sound like how they mean. When speaking out loud the word failure, the breath goes up with an effort and then there is an easing down. With the word risk, the breath just goes up – and one holds it for a nanosecond – it could be thrilling or it could be painful.





  1. Thanks for the shoutout and I love that the chain of inspiration has continued. Word study is fascinating. I get pulled in from two angles. One, in trying to understand the original meaning, particularly from a translated piece of writing. Secondly from a teaching standpoint of word study. Your line, “the dance that happens with the words failure and risk” is a fantastic visual and a possible title of a painting: Dance of Failure and Risk.


  2. I used to love this kind of close reading of words in high school! We sometimes had to write entire papers on just one or two sentences, so we definitely learned to appreciate the multiple meanings of words. Your thoughts remind me of a post Tammy wrote earlier this month, where her student told her, “You can only fail if you give up!” I think I would add, “You can only fail if you don’t try!”


  3. This is a wonderful post. It reminds me to celebrate the epic fails. I throw away so much of what I write (well not really throw away–the words are still in a journal). Your post is a call to re–examine those words, to see them in a new light. “He who makes no mistakes, makes nothing.” Thanks, John.


  4. I think your research on “failure” is fantastic. We need to rethink “failure” and allow students to take part in taking risks, and recovering from failures. It may be the only way we can survive.


  5. What you write is so true! I really wish we could start looking at our classrooms as places where it’s fine to fail (or “fall”) at first. We can use our classroom space to find out what we learned with each failed attempt. It’s like a video game really. I remember obsessively playing Mario Brothers as a kid. And I had to fail over and over and over again before I figured out how to succeed at any given level. In fact, the failure motivated me to keep going–to keep attempting.


  6. What a great exercise in word exploration. I’m always trying to do better with teaching vocabulary to my 5th/6th graders. I need to show them this post! I also love your thoughts about failure. Being willing to make mistakes and fail is integral to learning and growth. I love your dad’s wise words. So true!


  7. Such insight to this word that once meant devastation, ruined, over. I often find it difficult to take risks and enjoy failure, but talk to my own daughters and students at school that we will fail and it is our First Attempt In Learning. I know I need to speak more with my actions than just words. Thanks for sharing this slice of thoughtfulness today!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s