Said is Dead: Why We Should Stop Saying This NOW

Let's think of new ways to teach "said is dead" to our students. Some students understand "dead" differently than others and we must honor that.

Said is dead. A simple phrase to encourage writing.

So, here’s the thing: I had a great family and a great childhood. Things that I thought were crises, we just teen angst with girlfriends and boyfriends and school dances. I went to a great school and made good grades. I didn’t really have to work for it, except in math. My friends had similar lives and from what I knew, the people I went to school with must have had the same life I had because I never knew anything different. My parents made an honest living, both as pubic servants (my dad worked for the city and my mom was a teacher assistant first, then a teacher). I grew up surrounded by grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and more cousins. I went on to college, mostly paid for by my parents, and my first few years of teaching were in a middle class school with supportive parents. I transferred to a school in our district that was very different…and my world was changed forever. I used to tell my family, “I drive 12 miles to the other side of the world.”

Butter Sandwich

I had a student come in to school the day after her birthday excited she had a “real Food Lion birthday cake” for her birthday. She described the icing and the cake and how exciting it had been because this was her first “real” cake. She then proceeded to tell me, “We have to eat butter sandwiches the rest of the week, but that’s ok. I got a cake.” When I told that story at dinner that night my sons were shocked and “butter sandwich” became a conversation starter and ender if the boys seemed to be acting spoiled. My point is: our reality isn’t their reality. One isn’t right or wrong. It’s just different.

said is dead: Why does this matter?

We all don’t come with the same background. Think of these scenarios: This week alone there have been 8 murders in a neighboring town. An article in the newspaper this morning described a grandmother telling her 8-year-old granddaughter her father had been shot and killed the night before. A first grader in our school lost his mother to a brain tumor in April. A kindergarten student in a friend’s class had her newborn brother pass away in the crib from SIDS. A fourth grader at a school in a neighboring district lost his grandmother and grandfather in a car crash. I could go on and on, but it’s just too much. Too much to process. Too much to rationalize. Too much to understand. But, “dead” is a word that matters to these students. I understand the concept of “said is dead” and I completely agree with purpose. Let’s make sure we are teaching a skill, not minimizing their experiences.

Text Gradients

Let's think of new ways to teach "said is dead" to our students. Some students understand "dead" differently than others and we must honor that.

Let’s think about the skill and take away the “said is dead.” Text gradients are one of my favorite things to discuss with students. I have included text gradients in my vocabulary presentation at conferences and workshops across the US. Here are a few ideas for Text Gradients that teach with purpose.

childhood Trauma: Anchor Charts

Using the same concept as “said is dead,” using a mentor text like, “My Lucky Day” to find all of the different words for said is an easy way to post options for writing. Putting the anchor charts on a vocabulary board or up on the wall can provide students ideas for replacing “said” in their sentences. It’s also fun to have them role play using another gradient of “said.” They can whisper, shout, sigh, and so on.

Paint Chips

Cause I ain't got a pencil COLLIER

I can’t help it…I love it. One way to use the paint chips is to put library pockets behind words such a “said,” “big,” “little,” and “hot.”

When a student wants to use the said, they take the paint chips out of the pocket, choose a different word.

Class or Small Group Activities

Giving the students a list of gradients and asking them to order the words can make for a fun and insightful activity.

You’ll get to see how much the students know about the word. Opening their mind to a new word for “said” can shift their writing.

Build A Gradient Garden

There has to be a better way to say, “Said is dead.” Or whatever you want to name it. Why not build flowers with gradients and post the “garden” for student use. Don’t want flowers? How about ice cream cones? Rainbows? Trains?

I have seen this meme more than once on Facebook with way too many posting it to give credit, but the author says it all.

This wasn’t my life, but it is his and it is the reality for some or all of our students.

I’m not making any judgments, just starting a conversation.

When we know the students we serve and we honor their experiences, we can change a life.

We can create a classroom, a learning environment, a safe place, a hollowed ground for learner.

Cathy Collier
Let's think of new ways to teach "said is dead" to our students. Some students understand "dead" differently than others and we must honor that.

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