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.

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

The Vocabu-Lit series begins each lesson with an excerpt from a book, story, essay, poem, or speech. Within each literary piece, ten vocabulary words in bold become the focus of each lesson as students encounter the words in a number of ways to develop a nuanced understanding of each word's meaning. After the literary piece, the layout in the first four books (B through E for grades two through five) differs from that of the rest of the series (Books F through K for grades six through eleven).

In Books B through D (not including Book E), students first copy definitions for each word from the dictionary in the back of their books. The next exercise focuses on context clues as students fill in the blanks with the correct words; in books for grades three and four students also circle the context clue within the sentence. Students identify synonyms and antonyms and work with word relationships in the next two sections. There are still two more activities for each lesson! One of them uses a graphic organizer to work with words....The final activity is a puzzle of some sort that uses the words from that week's list.

'Grade two exercises differ from those in the other two lower-level books. They are simpler with students doing such things as circling yes/no answers or selecting one of two answers by checking a box. They skip the graphic organizers, but they do include puzzles and some composition activities.

vocabu lit upperBook E steps up the level of difficulty with more lessons and some activities more similar to those in Books F through K....

Books F through K for grades six and up have been rewritten for better alignment with the Common Core State Standards. The improvements should appeal even to those who oppose the Common Core. Students begin by reading an excerpt from fiction, non-fiction, speeches, and primary sources—both classic and contemporary.

In the first two exercises for each week's lesson, students work with context clues and prior knowledge to try to write definitions of the ten master words in that lesson. This serves as sort of a pre-test. Students then look up and write the definitions from a dictionary, comparing these with their own definitions. The third exercise has students work with the words in different contexts as well as with antonyms and synonyms in a variety of ways....The next exercise seems easier as students fill in the blanks of ten sentences with the correct word. The fifth and sixth exercises vary from week to week....Each week's lesson concludes with an interesting writing assignment. Each assignment is different, reflecting many different modes of writing. Some students will need assistance with composition skills for some assignments. The writing assignments are worth using as a substantial part of a student's composition work.

There are six review lessons, with one after every five lessons, and each review is followed by an assessment....Assessments include questions in the same formats that students will encounter on both the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium exams—new exams tied to the Common Core. In addition, assessments always include a written assignment....Note that previous editions of the upper level books used to conclude with puzzles and games rather than the writing assignments at the end. In my opinion, the new exercises are much more substantial and worthwhile in the new editions.

For all levels, teacher editions are the same as student workbooks but with overprinted answers.

You can easily skip the teacher edition for second grade, but you will probably want them for other levels to save you time even if you can easily figure out the answers yourself. Separate text booklets are available for grades five and up, but you shouldn't need them.

I particularly like this series for a number of reasons: the use of literary excerpts, the variety of activities, the selection of words (challenging yet more practical than in some other resources), and reasonable cost.

Sample pages are available at the publishe's website.

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

General vocabulary study makes sense for the younger grades, but the type of more specialized study with Greek and Latin roots we find in Vocabulary from Classical Roots becomes more useful for older children since they have already built up a foundational vocabulary and can start to make connections with prefixes, suffixes, and roots. The publisher recommends this vocabulary series of Books A through E for grades seven through eleven, although the letter designations make them easily adaptable to students above and below the recommended levels.

The series draws upon both Greek and Latin roots simultaneously to expand students' English vocabulary. For example, the second lesson in Book A begins by introducing the Greek word tri and the Latin word tres, both meaning three. It goes on to a study of the words trilogy, trisect, and triumvirate. Greek and Latin words are not always this similar. Lesson four introduces the Greek word pan and the Latin word omnis, both meaning all....

Each book is written at an increasingly difficult level. Words with similar roots are grouped thematically for ease of study. A variety of exercises, including work with synonyms, antonyms, analogies, and sentence completion, helps students develop full understanding. Two unusual extras are included: literary, historical, and geographic references help develop cultural literacy; and suggestions for extended writing activities help students to apply new vocabulary. Books D and E add exercises for testing vocabulary within the context of short articles....

While students can work independently through most of the lessons, group or teacher discussion really helps most students.

A teachers guide and answer key for each level has teaching suggestions, exercise answers, and glossaries of some of the literary and historical references.

Vocabulary Vine directs students through a one-year study of Latin and Greek roots. While it has goals similar to resources such as English from the Roots Up and Vocabulary from Classical Roots, its methods are different.

The author stresses three distinctives of Vocabulary Vine. First, the words taught and used as examples are familiar rather than simply chosen because they fit. For example, "thermometer" is used rather than "diathermy" as examples for "thermo." Second, the program uses a spiral approach to some extent. Words introduced as example words with the root being studied that day, usually include another root that will be studied within the next few days. This helps students to review and make connections. Finally, example words are selected so that their meaning fairly obviously helps reinforce the definition of the root.

The structure of the program is very simple. The book contains a "Main List" of 108 "Study Roots." Each Study Root is followed by three or more example words. Definitions are provided for the Study Roots and sometimes for the example words. Students are to create a 3 x 5 card for each Study Root. On each card they list the source language and meaning of the root, three example words and definitions that emphasize the roots, and a few additional example words without definitions.

Cards are filed in a box alphabetically for easy review. After the first week of creating cards and studying the words, students can begin to play some of the twelve games described in Vocabulary Vine. (Some can be played alone, but most will need at least the parent, but preferably another student, to play.) This actually provides both review and a form of assessment for parents, although the games are optional.

Nancy Hasseler has also created Bingo & Game Tile Set (suggested price $6.50), an inexpensive bingo style game with roots to be matched with definitions. The tiles (printed on cardstock) can also be used with some of the other games described in the book.

(You might also be interested in Science Roots by the same author. Science Roots is a companion for high school biology, and is keyed explicitly to Apologia's Exploring Creation with Biology.)

Levels A through F in the BJU Press Vocabulary series are for grades 7 through 12. You will need both the worktext and teacher's edition for answers. There are only 15 fairly brief lessons per book, so little time is required compared to books like Wordly Wise. Saving time means that students receive minimal practice actually working with the vocabulary words.

According to the BJU Press catalog, new words are taught "...primarily through context. Students learn about word parts (prefixes, roots, and suffixes), word families, synonyms, antonyms, homonyms, and methods of word formation. The study of word parts helps students learn spelling as well as meaning. Some lessons also contain helpful spelling principles.

Books A through C concentrate on Latin word parts along with more common vocabulary topics. Book D teaches Greek word parts; Book E covers words originating from French along with some Greek and Latin words; and, Book F broadens to cover words from many languages.

Many lessons are designed around one or more word parts (with all vocabulary words derived from them), while others might center around topics such as synonyms, antonyms, a particular subject, or a literary selection. Lessons sometimes crossover to include grammar and writing skills.

The format is more interesting than that of many vocabulary workbooks because of the background information and applications in the lessons. Christian content is another plus.

You might also use the words in each lesson as spelling words rather than using a separate spelling program.

Levels A through C are suggested for grades 7 through 9. Levels A and B can be interchanged. Level D should be used after Level C, generally for 10th grade. Levels E and F are suggested for grades 11 and 12 and might interchanged. Students might complete either one or two of these books per school year.

Vocabulary.com is a free website that is great for vocabulary development and practice. I think it should be especially helpful for practicing for taking standardized tests because of the unusual connections it sometimes makes between words. For example, learners are challenged to choose the best meaning for the word "mold" for among "wrest, synthesize, regulate," and "endow." "Regulate" is the correct choice. After answering (or missing the correct answer), the screen shows that "Mold is a verb that means to shape or influence; give direction to."

Learners can use the system without creating an account or signing in, but signing in (at no cost) allows you to customize your account and lists of words to study. It also allows the program to maintain your account, track your progress, and continually adapt to suit the needs of the learner.

Words are presented with four multiple choice answers. Learners might be asked to simply choose the word closest in meaning. They might be asked to identify a word that means the opposite, or they might be asked what a word means as used in the sentence provided on the screen. They might need to fill in a blank with the best word choice.

If a learner misses the correct answers, he or she is given additional chances to select the correct word even though these are still marked as incorrect responses. Incorrect responses elicit a pop-up on the side that explains the word's meaning and usage after the correct answer has finally been selected. This helps students learn the meanings of missed words or clarify why they missed the correct answer.

If learners select the "Challenge" option, the system tracks words that a student misses and adds them to a working list until they are mastered. There are also some word lists that others have already created that can be selected, or you can create your own list.

It seems to me that even the easiest questions use subject matter that is beyond students in the younger grades. While I didn't try this myself, it seems like it should be possible to create your own list that is suitable for younger students. If you want to use the system as it, I would recommend it for students in about fifth grade and above. It's great for adults too!

One caution: I did find a number of instances where I thought the correct answers questionable. For example, the opposite of "purge" is "given as "convict" rather than "obtain, liberate," or "retrieve." Both "obtain" and "retrieve" should seem like more accurate choices to me.

The system is speedy, so it's a fairly efficient way to practice vocabulary, especially if you've customized a list. The system scores learners so it feels more like a game rather than boring drill.

Page 2 of 2
Get a FREE subscription to Cathy's E-Newsletter Sign Up today!

Note: Publishers, authors, and service providers never pay to be reviewed. They do provide free review copies or online access to programs for review purposes.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services that believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 "Guidelines Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."