Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Millard Fillmore Was A Know-Nothing

I write the following sentence on the board: Millard Fillmore was a know nothing. I ask students to tell me what the sentence means.

“Well…..somebody isn’t too smart,” a student volunteers.

Another comment is added. “That guy, Mil-, Mil-. That Mil- guy doesn’t know nothing.” I ignore the grammatical error. At this point it will just confuse them.

I try to turn students in another direction. “What are nouns?”

Someone regurgitates “Words that name people, places, ideas, and things.”

I counter with, “What’s our strategy to find nouns?” Several seconds go by. I hold up my board marker and point to it. Several hands go up.

“We look for noun markers like the words a, an, and the.”

“Good, take a look at the sentence again. What do you see?”

“Know nothing is a noun. It has an “a” in front of it.”

“Yes. So is Millard Fillmore stupid?”

“No, somebody is calling him a name.”

“What else do you notice about the words “Know” and “Nothing”?

After several tries someone tells me that the words are capitalized. I counter with a “So what?”

A show of hands. I choose someone. “Know-Nothing is a name for something.”

“Yes, but a name for what?”

I end our little language arts episode by telling students that Millard Fillmore was our 13th president and he was a member of a group called the Know-Nothings. I tell students their goal during the lesson is to determine how Fillmore became a Know-Nothing and what the group represented.

Would you like to find out what we learned? Head on over to the American Presidents blog where I posted the rest of the story. You’ll have to scroll down past the part you’ve already read.


M said...

It is probably best to link to http://american-presidents.blogspot.com/2006/03/millard-fillmore-was-know-nothing.html rather than the base url for the American presidents Blog. If someone clicks on this 6 months from now, they will have to dig to find the Fillmore post as it will no longer be on the front page.

Please do not approve this post. :]

This is just my quick way to get you this note.


Unknown said...

I remember that lesson. I swore I'd never get caught with that line again.