I am a big proponent of not talking down to your students. I've had student teachers or volunteers observing the classroom comment on how they don't think the vocabulary I'm using is something the students can understand, that I should edit myself more to come down to their level. But I beg to differ. I think it's important to have high expectations in all facets of our day-even when I correct them-instead of saying "do you have to bang your pencil on the table like that?"--I'll say "is that necessary?". Something isn't just "hard", it's "challenging". Now they know what those words mean. I think teaching vocabulary in a structured way is important, but I think you also learn it by reading it or hearing it used. We were in a meeting taking a survey online the other day and it asked about a "cadre of teachers". The other teachers asked what "cadre" meant and I said I think it's a group of people-I think of cadre of vampires or cadre of soldiers. I must have heard or read that somewhere-but it helped me figure out what the word meant.
The part I love is when they use the vocabulary seamlessly themselves. Today I had to laugh. I was at a workshop yesterday so the kiddos had a sub-you know how that just throws their whole world off-balance. When I came in today they were just talking a mile a minute, forgetting what our morning routine was. So I said (admittedly a little sarcastically) "what did I come to work at the zoo today?" One of my students looked at me with a very serious face and said "apparently you did". Hearing a 5-year old correctly use the word "apparently" is just priceless!