Vocabulary Resources

102 Top Pick for homeschool curriculumIndicates that the item is a Top Pick. The full review is available in 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.

ABeCeDarian levels C and D teach word study skills while levels A and B are a solid phonics/reading program. These levels are so different that I am reviewing them separately. Levels C and D can be used as a totally separate program, independent of the first two levels of ABeCeDarian.

Author Michael Bend describes the first two levels of ABeCeDarian as focused on the phoneme level of reading and spelling while levels C and D teach morphemes—prefixes, suffixes, and root words. In the lessons, morphemes are mixed and matched to create hundreds of different words. The idea is that if students know many morphemes, they automatically have the information to understand the meanings of many new words that they might not have previously encountered.

Unlike the first two levels, the same resources are used for both classroom and homeschool instruction. These two courses assume a classroom environment with a teacher presenting the lesson. Level C is recommended for students reading at third or fourth grade level while level D is for students at fifth or sixth grade reading level. Parents will need to work with students through both books, but students should be able to work through some of the activities on their own in D.

Level C presents both English and Latin prefixes, suffixes, and root words. There are ten units with from nine to thirteen activities per unit. Author Michael Bend recommends that 20 to 40 minutes be spent on each session, which generally will mean completing at least two or three activities per session. You might be able to complete C in as few as ten to twelve weeks depending upon the pace and frequency of your sessions.

There are a variety of activities in each unit, with most of the activities being repeated again with different groups of morphemes in the rest of the units.

I don’t have space to describe all of the activities, but they have students work with the morphemes in many different ways to develop skills in decoding, spelling, syllabication, pronunciation, and vocabulary.

While some other books that teach word roots gloss over changes in pronunciation even when words share similar elements such as the words  execute  and  executive, ABeCeDarian  teaches about syllables and accents as well as strategies for determining the correct pronunciation. One type of activity even uses multi-syllable nonsense words for practice. Some activities direct the teacher to mispronounce a word and have students correct the teacher’s error.

ABeCeDarian also addresses the various spellings of prefixes that change depending on the root that follows—prefixes such as “in” changing to “im” for import and “ex” changing to “e” for emerge.

In some activities, student workbooks have a chart with sets of prefixes, roots, and suffixes at the top from which they will construct a number of real words. Another type of exercise gives students partial sentences to complete, but they have to incorporate a vocabulary word in the second part of the sentence. Yet another activity has students sort words under their correct original prefix—e.g., sorting words such as suggest, suffer, and success under the prefix “sub” on page 89.

Some activities direct students to interact with each other and the teacher, but most of these can be adapted for use with a single student.

For level C there is a student workbook and a teacher manual. This teacher manual is even easier to use than those for levels A and B because it reproduces each student page on the right page with answers overprinted, and it also provides all of the instructional information including a script for lesson presentation on the left page

Level D continues with word study, although it presents words with Greek roots rather than Latin. Like level C, it has ten units with nine or ten activities per unit. A page near the beginning includes some helpful instruction on Greek spelling that helps students understand how English acquired words with a /k/ sound spelled “ch.”

Unlike level C, D is not scripted for the teacher. There is one book, and it has brief instructions included on student pages. Some activities required interaction with a teacher but many do not. Activities are very similar in style to those in level C, so students who have completed level C should find most of the exercises familiar. I think that homeschooling parents will generally do best starting with level C to become thoroughly familiar with the style of activities in these books where everything is fully explained. However, some explanation is provided at the beginning of level D for those who want to jump in at this level. Answers are at the back of the book.

These courses, especially level C, both require more teacher involvement than do other courses that are popular among homeschoolers that teach morphemes. However, the trade off is that the variety of activities; work on syllables, accents, and pronunciation; plus the helpful explanations are likely to produce higher levels of learning than takes place with other resources that students work through on their own.

See the complete review in 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.

In English From the Roots Up, Greek and Latin words are the foundation for vocabulary study in the broader sense of word derivations. Children are unlikely to find the majority of the vocabulary words they learn here in their everyday reading, but they will be well prepared for new vocabulary they’ll encounter in high school and college. Even more important than the actual vocabulary words they learn is the skill children develop in analyzing new words they encounter and being able to figure out their meanings.

Each lesson begins with one Greek or Latin word, teaches its meaning, then gives children a list of from three to ten English words derived from the root word. For example, lesson ten introduces the Greek word kinesis meaning movement. The lesson then teaches five words derived from kinesis: kinetic, kinesiology, kinescope, cinema, and cinematographer. The words photos (light) and graph (write or draw) were introduced in the first two lessons, so children are connecting the last word to two Greek words they have already learned. This can create a picture in students’ minds of someone who can “draw” with “moving light,” making it easier for children to understand that a big word like cinematographer refers to the person who decides how to compose the scenes that he wants a movie camera to capture. Children each need a set of 100 cards, one for each lesson. Each card has the Greek or Latin word with a border of green for Greek words and red for Latin words. On the reverse are the derived words and their meanings. You can purchase sets of pre-made cards or make them along with your students....

This program requires teacher presentation and interaction. There is no workbook....

Actual teaching information provided is brief but loaded with activity suggestions. The teacher is on his or her own to implement the ideas. Here are some examples of activity ideas: for the root graph, a number of related words are presented with accompanying ideas: “Telegraph—Let someone present a research report on Thomas Edison’s early days as a telegrapher. Let someone do a report on Morse code and give a demonstration of it.” “Lithograph—Discuss the process of lithography and talk about Currier and Ives. Their lithographs are still used every year as Christmas cards. Make potato or linoleum block prints.” These activity ideas could be turned into great unit studies. This resource is especially suited to the creative teacher who prefers general guidelines rather than detailed lesson plans.

A second volume is also available. It targets a slightly older audience, so it makes a good follow-up to the first volume. It teaches an additional 100 Greek and Latin root words with new activities and teaching notes.

Marie’s Words: Picture Words—In a Flash!® is a set of 550 flash cards, each 2.5” x 3.5.” These cards were created by a high school junior preparing for the SAT® test to help study for the vocabulary portion. Words are selected from those commonly used in the SAT as well as those appearing frequently in literature. Marie's Words are ideal for junior and senior high students, but younger children might also use them.

Marie's Words: cards with full color illustrationsCards feature full-color illustrations on one side, then on the reverse are a phonetic pronunciation, definition and part of speech, the word used in a sentence, synonyms, and antonyms. Note that knowledge of synonyms and antonyms is extremely helpful for the SAT.

Cards arrive in alphabetical order and they are numbered so that you can more easily reorganize them if need be. Cards also have a hole punched in the top left corner so you can put a group on a ring for easier handling or portability.

The hand-drawn pictures on the cards are intended to illustrate the word in a way that helps the learner recall the meaning more easily. For example, the words abate begins large and gradually diminishes in size. Pervasive is illustrated by what looks like a map of the U.S. showing airline hubs and routes that cover the country. Scrupulous is illustrated by a man cleaning a toilet with brush the size of a toothbrush, and the word has a b inserted in small type in parentheses to help make the connection to scrubbing: SCRU(B)PULOUS.

Illustrations are often quite creative, some are silly, and some take a bit of imagination to figure out. The publisher’s website says that many of the illustrations “use historical, geographical, scientific, cultural and generational references as a mnemonic tool for easy learning.” So I might be missing some of the generational references! Whatever the case, for a visual learner, the illustrations should be a big help in mastering the meanings of these words.

A few more sample cards may be viewed on the publisher’s website. Cards may be purchased as a boxed set or as apps for the iPad, iPhone, or Android phones.

Jensen's Vocabulary combines what were originally three separate books: Latin I, Latin II and Greek. These are now three parts of the combined book that teaches vocabulary based on Latin and Greek roots.

In the first two parts, vocabulary lessons are based on Latin roots, suffixes, and prefixes. Knowledge of those word elements enables students to define an enormous number of words beyond those with which they are already familiar. In some ways, it is like understanding the phonics code for knowing how to pronounce words; this is the vocabulary code that helps us decode meanings for a significant part of the English language that has been derived from Latin. The third part, Greek, follows the same format, but uses Greek roots, suffixes, and prefixes.

Jensen's Vocabulary was written by a Christian teacher and designed to work in either homeschool or regular school settings. It targets students in junior and senior high school levels.

The book is entirely self-contained—instructions, tests, and answer keys are all included as is appropriate in each case. It can be used as a consumable workbook, or students can write answers in notebooks to preserve the book for another student.

A chart in the front of each section lists the roots, suffixes, and prefixes to be covered within that section along with their meanings. Each lesson has four parts, one to be assigned for each day. All four parts work with the same group of words, but attacking them in a different manner each time so students absorb the meanings of the parts.

These lessons are challenging, requiring students to work from the list of meanings, while searching for shades and relations of meaning. However the books are designed so that students can do most of their work independently.

Teacher involvement is required for weekly testing and might be required if students find lessons too difficult to complete on their own. After completing each lesson, the teacher gives a quiz on the week's words as well as a few review words. A sample test (covering lessons 1-9) is included at the back of each section. An answer key at the end of each section will help with exercises, but the tests are up to us.

It is vital that parents first read through "Hints and Tips" and "Notes to the Teacher," then work through the first lesson (all four parts) with their student to make sure they understand how to do them.

Fans of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis might love this unusual approach to vocabulary study since it uses example sentences that refer to The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. While those familiar with those works will easily imagine what the word prosaic means in the example sentence on page 50, “Bilbo longed to break free from his prosaic hometown where nothing interesting or exciting happened,” others can certainly discern the meaning without that background.

Well-read students as young as fifth grade might be ready for Operation Lexicon, and it can be used up through high school.

This workbook can be used over 26 weeks, three days a week. Students learn four new words each week, with the letters of the alphabet (even the letter X) as the source of each week’s words. Week 1 starts with acquiesce, aesthetic, alchemy, and anon; Week 2 teaches bigot, bombast, brusque, and burgeon; and so on.

In the first two lessons for each week, students study two of the new words per lesson following the same sequence of activities. Each word is presented with a definition. Students copy these onto lines provided. An example sentence illustrates the meaning of the word. Students copy that sentence onto the lines provided. Next, they craft a sentence of their own using the new word. Students should also look up each of the words online or on a computer to learn each word’s pronunciation, and they should also look them up in a printed dictionary to explore the definitions further. This might be a weak link in the course since it doesn’t remind students to do this additional research for each word. I think these are important aspects of mastering the vocabulary, so parents or teachers will need to ensure that these steps take place.

On the third lesson day of each week students choose one of the four words that they find most interesting and write an explanation of why that word intrigues them. Then they write a very short story using one of the 26 story starters on page 3 and incorporating as many of the week’s words as possible.

Because of the choice to use alphabetical words, some words are common, a few are a bit archaic, and some are rarely used. (The publisher’s website says, “Words are specific, precise, and worthy of collection.”) For example, for the letter F, fervor, flaunt, and flippant are words students are likely to encounter and should learn, while forsooth is probably helpful only if they are reading archaic literature (which I hope they will be doing). While this is an unusual way to teach vocabulary, it does help students develop a literary vocabulary more so than do some other vocabulary resources.

Operation Lexicon is designed for independent work. Parents or teachers will need to review student work to check that students reflect an accurate grasp of each word’s meaning as they use words in their sentences and stories.

Operation Lexicon requires more writing than do most vocabulary courses, so you might think of it as providing part of a student’s composition work—after all they are writing a mini-story each week. While the course introduces only a few new vocabulary words each week, students are more likely to master the meanings and proper usage of those words as they use them in their own composition work.

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