What Did You Say?

from The Diary of a First Grade Teacher

What did you say? That's a question asked often by my first graders, as well as by me.

For them, it often means they don't understand something ... For me, it usually means "What in the world are you talking about?"

Yes, I LOVE the language my first graders use - as you can tell! But it's my job to teach them the correct way to speak and to write.

But hey! In the meantime, who says I can't enjoy the way they express themselves!


Ben was happy to make an announcement: “My momma’s going on a honeymoon.”

Martin wrinkled his nose, as if something stank. “What’s a honeymoon?”

“I know!” Loegan said. “It‘s when you sit outside in front of a big moon. And the boy might kiss the girl on the bench.”

“Wait a minute,” Martin said, scratching his head.

“He might kiss her on her what?”


In the boys’ bathroom, Tommy slammed the door on his finger ...

And Stevie ran into the hall to tell me. “Ooooooo, Tommy said a ugly word! He said, ‘CRAP!’ "

Tommy stood behind Stevie now and calmly responded. “No, I said, ‘Rap.’ "

Martin, who had been listening, was puzzled and cut in. “Rap? What did you say? RAP? What's that mean?”

Stevie shouted, “It means you from THE WOODS!”

“Huh?” Martin said, but he was asking Tommy.

“Music, man ..."

Martin said, "Oh, I git it! You hurt your hand ... And you yell out 'bout MUSIC."

Poor Martin ...

He nodded and looked as if he continued to nod and think about it, he would finally understand.

Tommy simply rolled his eyes at Martin and gave him one of those looks that actually implied, "Poor Martin."

Show and Tell

For Show and Tell, Weesie had brought a stuffed monkey to show our class.

“This IS a cute monkey,” she offered. But her eyes stared at the floor. She sighed audibly.

Was she trying to convince us or herself?

“Look here, Teacher,” she said, at last. “My monkey’s tail done comed UNSEWED OFF!”

Play Ball?

Clarissa is athletic and competitive. At Recess she grabbed a semi-inflated basketball and tried her best to bounce it. It was impossible to do, of course. And she couldn’t understand it.

"REALLY, Teacher, I can bounce a HARD ball. But not this SOFT ball!”

What Did You Say?

During Math Joe Joe wasn’t cooperating, so I quietly asked my teacher assistant to set up a conference for me with Joe Joe’s grandfather –who was his legal guardian.

Joe Joe overheard this and burst into tears.

“Don’t call my papa,” he bawled. “Papa said if you call him ONE MORE TIME, he’s gonna send me off to medical school!”


I talked to Martin privately. “Did you give your parents my note?”

He nodded. “Yes'm, and I told ‘em and told ‘em that they had to read it. But … I don’t thank they never did hear-d me.

Return from What Did You Say to What about This?

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