Kindergarten Talk and Why I Would Never Use “Fishy Lips”

Kindergarten Talk and Why I Don't Use "Fishy Lips"with Decoding Strategies Cathy Collier

Kindergarten talk is the language we use with our kindergarten students. We have to be careful to talk on their level, but not talk down to them.

So, I have to confess…brace yourself…get ready… every time I’m on Pinterest or TPT, I cringe when I see reading strategies with “fishy lips” and “flippy dolphin.” I just don’t think we need to teach these strategies in sing-songy silly phrases. Oh my, the gasping is audible. Let me explain.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE teaching kindergarten. It’s my passion, as I’m sure you’ve discovered if you’ve read any of my posts or met me in person. I think kindergartners are A.Maze.Ing. and should not be underestimated. As a matter of fact, I think we should give kindergartners tools not excuses to create successful readers and lifelong lovers of literacy.

BUT, I don’t think we need to make everything “cute” for kindergartners.  I don’t mean the classroom, but I mean every time we use “kindergarten talk.” I think when we give them alternative vocabulary we are not only creating the need to eventually give them the “big words” but we are insulting them.  Honestly, some things drive me a little crazy…here are 3.

1.  Kindergarten talk: Let’s Use Editing Tape

Kindergarten Talk and Why I Would Never Use "Fishy Lips"

If we are striving to create independent writers, we shouldn’t be afraid of mistakes. The first thing I tell me students about writing is there are no mistakes in writing, because every mistake can be fixed.

I don’t want my students to be afraid of writing so I’m not sure why I would call it “boo boo” tape.

Boo boos make us cry.

I would never want students to associate writing with crying. Another argument against “boo boo” tape is wanting my kindergartners to know they are editing their work when they fix mistakes. Using this language will make them stronger writers – or at least more willing writers.

2. Kindergarten talk: Let’s walk down the hallway quietly…

Kindergarten Talk and Why I Don't Use "Fishy Lips"with Decoding Strategies

You know what I’m talking about.

Here’s my take on this:  when you tell students to “put a bubble in your mouth,” you are taking control of their behavior.  

You are telling them…you can’t be trusted to walk in the hallway quietly, so I’m going to make it impossible for your to do so.

That’s kindergarten talk.

BUT, what if we let them know our expectations and the reasons why we have those expectations.  Before walking in the hallway, I remind my students we will walk quietly in the hallway.  I ask the students why we should walk quietly.  Some responses might be, “So we don’t disturb other classes,” “So we don’t ruin someone else’s chances at learning,” “We are respectful of others who are learning,” or maybe even “Because we are responsible.”

This dialog with students seems to empower them, not try and take their power. I’m pretty sure as adults if we walked in to a museum, a library or a movie and some said, “Make sure you don’t talk and disturb others, please put a bubble in your mouth.” we would NEVER and I mean, NEVER, do it.  (On a side note, they look really silly walking in the hallway with a “bubble in their mouth.)

3Kindergarten talk: Let’s Get our Mouth Ready

When I was first learning about fix-it strategies, I was taught with the language “get your mouth ready” and “flip the vowel.”  I actually hadn’t heard of “fishy lips” or “eagle eye” until a first grade teacher came to me.  It was at the beginning of year and she was surprised.  “I’m surprised your students don’t know their fix-it strategies.” I was shocked.

What do you mean?  I teach all the fix-its, we practice the strategies, and I know THEY know the strategies.  She proceeded to tell me when she told my students to “use their fishy lips” they didn’t know what to do.  So I asked a painfully obvious question, “What does “use their fishy lips” mean?”

It was her turn to be shocked. “It means say the beginning sound.”  So, continuing this question filled conversation, “Well, why don’t you just say “get your mouth ready?”  That’s kindergarten talk.

After our conversation, I was stunned.  She was right, my students didn’t know about fishy lips, eagle eyes, or stretchy snakes.  I had taught them “get your mouth ready” and “stretch and blend.”

Once she explained to them the strategies I had taught them were the same fix-its she was using, they understood what she was asking.  My theory…and it’s only my theory…is students will use fix-its beyond the “cute” terms.  I do recommend a common language in a school…if everyone uses the same language, no matter the class, the strategies are the same.

Kindergarten Talk and Why I Would Never Use "Fishy Lips"

Kindergarten Talk Needs to Honor Them

We can take things down to a kindergarten level without making it insulting.

Kids are smart. Kids can handle it. So, what are your thoughts.  

I know I’m in the minority…because the majority of fix-it strategies on TPT, Pinterest, or google searches contain these “cute” titles.  I’m not saying one is right and the other is wrong, just sharing my opinion.

Cathy Collier

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