Although the students I teach are gifted, they have, for the most part, led sheltered lives. They can read difficult texts, but sometimes lack the maturity or life experience to understand everything. It is a challenge to be a gifted 6th grade reader.
As a result, students occasionally come across words in their reading that they don’t know. Some of them skip the words, some of them look them up, and a few come to ask me. I almost never decline. I want them to know they can ask me anything. I will occasionally give a quick definition coupled with encouragement to get more details from a parent, but I will always tell them something.
The best one came today. We read Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder” which contains the lines
From his loins would have sprung ten sons. From their loins one hundred sons, and thus onward to a civilization.
As students were annotating the text, a boy asked me what “loins” meant. I might have used the term “downstairs” and mentioned the body between the belly button and knees. He nodded and understood.
Another student sitting nearby overheard our conversation. I saw the color drain from his face as he said, “Like pork loin?”
I could imagine what he was thinking, so I said, “That comes from a pig’s side.” I wasn’t sure that was true, but I didn’t want to ruin pork loin for him forever.