Volunteered in the kid’s classroom today. I have to say, I’ll be very pleased when his cohort moves past the stage where literacy activities require them to identify words from pictures.

One kid called me over–“I figured out the puzzle, but what does ‘dih’ mean?” It took two adults a non-trivial amount of time to figure out that the picture clues were an alligator (not a dinosaur or a crocodile or a lizard), an igloo, and a rooster (not a chicken or a hen or a bird). The word was “air.”

Since there are vanishingly few three-letter words ending with “h” or “c” in English, I had a hint to the problem right away, but that’s exactly the kind of knowledge kids are trying to boot-strap themselves into at this stage. It was a fine, engaging activity, and for the most part the kids did well with it; the pictures just needed to be vetted for ambiguity a bit better.

At least it’s better than the speech-therapy intern who worked with the kid on his pronoun errors a few years back. The kid was using gendered pronouns pretty much randomly (a phonologically based confusion? Still not sure, and still not entirely sorted out), and since pronominal gender does carry an informational load in English, the intern made a nice set of cards for him to practice with. She was careful to use bright, cheerful illustrations. Modern illustrations. Non-gender-normative illustrations. It pretty much made the whole thing pointless–I wasn’t getting them right at anywhere near 100%, either.