August 26:  Abecedarian Day

On this date 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. In fact, instead of kindergartner 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 need only learn less 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 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)

Quotation of the Day: Of all the achievements of the human mind, the birth of the alphabet is the most momentous. -Frederic Goudy

 

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