August 26:  Abecedarian Day

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On this day in 1873, the first public school kindergarten in the United States was established by the St. Louis, Missouri, board of education. The word kindergarten can be traced back to Germany, where Friedrick Froebel opened a preschool in 1840. Froebel invented the term Kinder-Garten (‘children’s garden’) to describe the experience of cultivating young minds through creativity and play (1).

Some say that we learn everything we need to know in kindergarten, but there is certainly one lesson that is vital to every kindergartner (See October 30: All I Really Need to Know I Learned From Day).  In fact, instead of kindergartners, we might call these children abecedarians. An abecedarian is a ‘student of the alphabet.’ The word comes from the letters A B C D.

After we have mastered the ABCs and learned to read, we take the alphabet for granted. What we don’t realize, however, is how fundamental it is to our literacy. We also sometimes forget that the alphabet, reading, and writing are all human inventions.

We don’t know who the inventor was, but we do know that around 2000 BC the idea of using letters instead of pictures to represent sounds and words began to take root. As a result, communication in writing became much more efficient and easier to learn. Instead of learning hundreds of symbols, the student now needs only learn fewer than thirty letters. Today kindergartners, or abecedarians, who learn the 26 letters of the alphabet have a foundation to begin mastering the language for reading and writing. The word alphabet is from the first two letters of the Greek alphabet: Alpha and Beta. The Greeks didn’t invent the alphabet, but they did perfect it; one of their most important adaptations was the addition of vowels.

You’ve probably mastered the alphabet by now, but there are other ways of returning to your abecedarian roots. Below is a list of 26 vocabulary words spanning all 26 letters of the alphabet. How many do you know? How many familiar roots do you recognize? Pick up a good dictionary and look up any unfamiliar words:

antecedent, bellicose, circumscribe, dyslexia, euphemism, factotum, gregarious, hyperbole, infinitesimal, jovial, kudos, lethargic, malediction, neologism, orthography, pandemonium, quintessence, resonance, sophomoric, theocracy, unilateral, verbose, wanderlust, xenophobia, yeoman, zephyr

Today’s Challenge: Advanced Abecedarian

Can you generate a list of 26 challenging and interesting words, one for each of the 26 letters of the alphabet?  Create your own unique abecedarian collection of words.  Use a dictionary as a resource.  Share your list with others, and be prepared to define the words on the list and explain what you find interesting about each one. (Common Core Language 3 – Knowledge of Language)

1 – Metcalf, Allan. The World in So Many Words. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999.

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