“Common cement,” uttered by a young 7th grade student took my breath away.
We were analyzing words, phrases and sentences from a novel he was reading that had been giving him difficulty in understanding details in the story.
He had been reading a story about a young couple from his hometown set back in the late 1940’s, early 1950’s. He understood most of the plot and setting well enough but some of the details were fuzzy or downright confusing. As he read about this young couple who were going to a “Commencement Dance” he became confused. He thought they were headed to an event of some kind but didn’t know the meaning of the word “commencement”. Once he landed on this word, which he attempted to sound out using syllabication skills taught in previous years, he read it as, [ˈkɑmən sə ˌmɛnt]. He read this in a hurried kinda-way since he was not confident with his pronunciation of the word and he had no idea what common cement and a dance could mean. I was surprised he’d read this word as a phrase but after a moment or so I could see how it was possible for him to come to this conclusion. How devastating for his comprehension of the detail the image in this part of the story is supposed to evoke.