What Wordle Taught Me about Teaching

The importance of rich vocabulary education.
Chalkboard Media, Kinnett
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I fought the Worlde fad for months. I was trying to curb the time spent on my phone, but after the urging from my young adult children, I did it. I joined the craze. Since so many of my family members play, it has become something of a challenge and daily check-in with them. It is fun to compare scores with my husband, mother, and my son’s girlfriend — even when we aren’t in the same city. 

Today, my son’s girlfriend and I both got the word after a lucky guess. It got me thinking about the immense wordbank that many adults have, thanks to childhoods rich in language, a good education, and a lifelong love of reading. For me, this wordbank is a helpful tool when I am playing a silly game on my phone, but it is invaluable when I need to express my thoughts, opinions, or concerns clearly and articulately to others.

Thinking about this reaffirmed my belief that we are depriving students of wealth when schools fail to adequately teach literacy skills, lower standards for written expression, and present them with poorly-written graphic novels, rather than challenge them to read long, difficult works of literature that delve into topics outside of their interests, cultures, and understandings. 

Rather than filling their word banks and “cultural accounts,” schools are taking what students bring with them and telling them it’s “enough to get by” for life. It may indeed be enough to get by, but schools should be equipping students to thrive, not just get by. It’s like depositing money into a savings account that doesn’t accrue interest. It’s safe but it won’t grow.

Admittedly, classical education is not for everyone. However, just a quick glance at the K-12 Literature curriculum from Hillsdale demonstrates what a strong investment in literacy skills and the written word looks like. There are testimonies from graduates of schools with similar curriculum that affirm the importance of this element. Even those who adamantly oppose this type of education should be willing to examine the success these schools have with enriching their student’s word banks, developing a cultural understanding, and providing them with the means to express themselves clearly. Good investments in K-12 literacy will pay great dividends throughout life. 

I enjoy the challenge of Wordle and I am glad I have the skills to be decent at such a simple game. Life is not a game and I am disheartened that students graduating from public schools in the United States of America are ill-equipped to play a simple word game, let alone thrive in the reality of adulthood.

It is time for schools to stop gambling with the future of millions of students through failed literacy programs and instead make wise investments using research-based programs proven to succeed.

Beanie Geoghegan
Beanie Geoghegan is the Chapter Lead for No Left Turn in Education KY. She is a former teacher and reading interventionist and is the mother of four grown readers, writers, and independent thinkers.