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Say Whaaat?! A Guide for Understanding Classroom Slang

Slang word bubbles

Learn what your students’ speak really means to them.

I tried my best to make sense of what was happening. Emotions were running high and the situation, while not dire, was further complicated by classroom slang—aka our language barrier. Reading their body language was fruitless, as it was near impossible to decipher between excitement or anger. Action on my part was inevitable but I hesitated.

Further reading: How to Deal with Kids Vaping    

"I said, 'Get out your bag!'" one yelled.

A bag?!

"Gurl, yassss!" another exclaimed.

Oh, no!

Finally, and with trepidation, I approached as they continued conversing (arguing? plotting?) in their native tongue.

I cleared my throat. "Who has a bag and what is in it?" I hissed.

My sophomore students looked at me, then at each other, then burst into a collective fit of giggles.

"Mrs. J.! 'Get out your bag' is just a way of complimenting someone!"

Nope, I wasn't traversing a foreign land sans a translator; I was simply surrounded by student slang I couldn't understand! It happens every year: the new students bring the new swag (oh, yes I did) and the new slang. While I don't necessarily appreciate the jeans ripped up to mid-thigh, and I cannot believe the Champion brand's massive comeback (my husband and his 1990s sweatshirts are ecstatic!), I do try to get on board with "studentisms" because it's important to, you know, understand what they're saying!

For all my fellow educators out there, this guide to classroom slang is for you.

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Classroom Slang Dictionary

Bruh
(noun)

Shortened version of "bro" that's often used to convey frustration or disbelief and accompanied with a side-eye or eye-roll

"That homework wasn't easy like you said it would be, bruh."

Bread
(noun)

Money

"Who wants double lunch today? I got the bread!"

Dumb, dummy
(adverb)

Very, a lot

"I thought there'd be dumb people here, but this place is empty!"

Dripping, drippin'

(adjective)

A way to describe someone who is well-dressed

Those shoes, that outfit! You be drippin'!"

Extra
(adjective)

A way to describe someone or something that is unnecessarily over the top and excessive for seemingly no reason

"He was being mad extra in class and got detention!"

Fye
(adjective)

A term that's interchangeable with "cool," "very nice," or "awesome"

"Our football team was fye on Friday night!"

Goat
(noun)

An abbreviation for "greatest of all time"

"Mrs. Jankowski is the GOAT!"

In my feelings
(adjective)

A phrase to describe a person who is feeling melancholy, reflective, or both

"Sorry I didn't pay attention in class. I was in my feelings about something that happened last period."

Jelly
(adjective)

A term used to describe impressive athletic prowess, specifically relating to basketball; formally used to describe someone who is jealous

"His layups were so jelly at last night's game!"

Lit
(adjective)

Really good, impressive

"Her New Year's Eve party will be lit!"

Low-key
(adjective)

Of low or modest emotional intensity pertaining to one's desires

"I want to low-key eat this entire bag of chips."

Shipped
(verb)

Dating, in a relationship

"I totally think Lucy and Zach should be shipped—they're adorable together!"

Squad
(noun)

Close friends, confidants; also referred to as "fam"

"Me and my squad have been tight since kindergarten."

Swaggy
(adjective)

Derived from the noun "swag," referring to impressive physical appearance or wealth

"I thought Odysseus's house would be swaggy!"

Tea
(noun)

Gossip, news

"Spill the tea: tell me what's on the test!"

Throwing shade
(verb)

  1. To insult or disrespect another person
  2. To acknowledge disrespectful or insulting nature or behavior

"I don't know why people still hang out with her—all she does is throw shade and start trouble."

Woke
(adjective)

An informed state of profound understanding, specifically regarding matters of social justice

"You wanna talk about white privilege, talk to Mr. B. Dude is so woke about this stuff."

Yeet
(noun)

A sound of celebration, similar to "yay!"

"YEET! School's out for summer!"

Apparently it's really hard to pronounce entire words, so students have taken to abbreviating just about everything. It's like their mouths are bored with all those syllables, so be on the look out for modifications like trynasitch, and pleash. Completely contradicting their refusal to use trying tosituation, and pleasure in their entirety is the fact students will actually say the word "hashtag." Hashtag what?

Further reading: The Nine Key Elements of Classroom Gamification    

Fellow teachers, hear me on this: as crucial as it is to make sense of what comes out of our students' mouths, it is equally essential to make sure it does not come out of ours. Understanding and speaking slang are two completely different things. Don't get it twisted, sis.