My reading class is comprised of second language learners who are all 5th graders currently reading at a 3rd grade level. It is my job to bring them up to speed as quickly as possible. To do that I facilitate small group and whole group vocabulary discussions.
This week we’ve been reading a story about a Russian immigrant. At the word chuzpah all reading came to a screeching halt. Twenty hands flew into the air. As a group we reread the paragraph and talked about what was happening, how the characters felt, and what kind of words we might use to describe someone who had just done something similar.
The kids used words like brave, courageous, daring, dangerous, and even silly. I told them that the word chuzpah pretty much covered all those things, at which point Rico, excited, piped up with, “Oh! I get it! Cajones!”
There was a collective gasp. Rico froze, his mouth and eyes open wide. Briza slapped both hands over her mouth, her eyes even wider than Rico’s as she fell from her chair laughing. Except for Rico, the rest of the class followed suit.
I stared at Rico. He stared at me. Slowly, I nodded my head. I said, “I think cajones just about covers it, Kid.” Then Rico fell out laughing, too. I may have even grinned a bit myself. It’s a sure bet they are never going to forget the meaning of the word chuzpah.