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Thursday, March 20, 2008

What’s a Crapper?…

Because I substitute in all grades from Kinder to 6th, I rarely notice repetition in worksheets of a specific lesson from one year to the next.

There is one, though that seems to come up every spring with 5th graders. It’s the reading comprehension worksheet that is a companion to the book “Bud, Not Buddy” by Christopher Paul Curtis.

This book seems to be a popular one for many of the 5th grades in the district. The main character is a kid named Bud (not “Buddy”) a 10-year-old orphan on the run from abusive foster homes and Hoovervilles in 1930s Michigan. The authentic Mid-American 30’s era dialog is laced with colloquialisms and slang that most of the 5th graders haven’t heard before.

The planned reading lesson is to have the kids read aloud the next couple of chapters in the book and then work on that section of the worksheet. The kids are supposed to look up and write the definitions of various words found in those chapters. The only reason I recognize this particular worksheet it that I get asked the same identical question several times each time this particular worksheet is used.

“What’s a “crapper”? It isn’t in the dictionary!”

They are right. The sanitized classroom dictionaries do not list rude, vulgar, or potentially “bad words” for young minds to dwell over. A mistake in my opinion but what the hell, I’m just a substitute teacher.

The first time this situation came up a couple years ago, I simply told them the answer: “It’s American slang for toilet”.

Last year I entertained the thought of having them look up definitions on classroom computers but previous experience, especially with the word “crapper”, suggested this might not be the best idea. I surely didn’t need the distraction of seeing something like “Uncle Bogger’s Bumper Dumper” on the computer screens when the school principal might pop in at any moment.

So last Friday afternoon, I responded to question by asking the class:

Me: This word is not in the class dictionaries because it is a slang term for something. How many syllables are there in the word “CRAPPER”?
Class: Two!

Me: …and what is the first syllable?
Class: (mostly silence and a lot a giggling”)

Me: That’s right. It’s where is that stuff is supposed to “GO”! Now where is that?
Kid near the back row: A toilet?

Me: You got it! Crapper is slang for “a toilet”

This way I don’t have to answer the usual follow up question: Why does Bud call it a “crapper”?


3 comments:

sickofbeingpoor said...

In my tutoring club, we're reading the Boxcar Children and that book repeatedly uses the word queer. I finally got sick of them saying "you're queer" and "that's queer." I made them look up the word in the dictionary. They had no idea that queer actually meant strange or odd, not necessarily gay.

Ms. Longhorn said...

It's amazing the lingo that they do know in place of something as general as "crapper"...

Sladed said...

Brilliant! Killing two birds with one stone. And you made them work and think to get the answer(s)!