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From left, Pleasant Hill Elementary School first-graders Maddie Russell and Marley Moore are dressed up with their vocabulary words for the parade around the school on Thursday, Nov. 21.

The dictionary has several definitions for the word “parade,” including “an informal, public procession, or to exhibit ostentatiously.” 

Now with that enhanced knowledge, feel free to start your own parade. And, that’s what the students of Pleasant Hill Elementary School recently did, thanks to the encouragement of one Rachel Barrett.

Barrett is a fifth-grade teacher at the Olive Branch elementary school who has been working to achieve her National Board Certification through a program at the University of Mississippi.

During her teaching work and her work toward her certification, Barrett recognized some problems were developing with her students’ ability to understand vocabulary.

“In order to make sure that my students accomplished and did better, I started really focusing on my vocabulary instruction and how I could further that and make that better for all of my students,” Barrett said.

An idea that could work in one classroom could also work school-wide, so Barrett shared her ideas about placing more emphasis on words to her fellow classmates.

“I wanted to ’go big or go home,’” Barrett said about the whole school involvement. “I wanted the whole school involved and I wanted the whole community involved. I had a presentation I did with all of the teachers and I went over all of the data that I learned about test scores.”

The recent parade of all of the students, more than 1,100 of them, was putting the concept into something fun to do.

“It makes me really excited to be a teacher,” Barrett explained. “I want every student to have that chance to have fun in learning and to be excited about learning. One way we can do that is this. It’s simple, easy and it’s something they can take home with them. It’s a very powerful tool.”

Depending on their grade and what they were studying, the students were given a word and they responded by dressing up in something to reflect that word. Then, each class and grade proceeded outside on what was a sunny day in front of a gathering of parents and friends to parade around the school building.

First-graders were wearing words about the outdoors or about gardening, second-graders were into collective nouns, and third-graders took on the representation of idioms. For kindergarteners, it was all about sight words, and for fourth and fifth-graders, they displayed words about math, science and reading.

Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of DeSoto Times-Tribune.