Vocabulary Resources

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and answer key for each level has teaching suggestions, exercise answers, and glossaries of some of the literary and historical references.

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.

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.)

The Word Roots series teaches vocabulary based on Latin and Greek roots in a manner somewhat similar to Vocabulary from Classical Roots from EPS/School Specialty. The series is being revised and expanded. New editions are available for three levels: Beginning, Level 1 and Level 2. Levels B1 and B2 are still in the first edition. Software versions of the original Levels A1, A2, and B1 will run on either Windows or Mac systems.

Both print and software versions allow students to work independently through the lessons. Lessons in the new editions will take a little more time to complete. Each of the books includes a pre-test, post-test, and answer key along with the lessons.

The Beginning level for grades 3 and 4 introduces six new words in each week’s lesson with the exception of three weeks that are dedicated to review. Each lesson has four-parts. In the first activity students identify roots, prefixes, and suffixes, and then match up each word with its correct definition. In the next two activities, students select the correct word to complete a sentence. The fourth activity requires students to write their own sentences using each of the new words.

Levels 1 and 2, both for grades five through twelve, have been expanded from the original versions with four activities per week and review lessons after every two weeks of lessons. Each of the regular lessons introduces ten new vocabulary words and about ten word parts—prefixes, roots, and suffixes. The four activities in the regular lesson are matching words with their definitions, selecting one of three words to fill in the blank with the word used in context, writing definitions of words (choosing from definitions supplied in a box), and writing complete sentences for each word to show the meaning of the word by the context of the sentence. Each activity is on a separate page.

Review lessons also have four parts: matching word parts to their definitions, matching words and definitions, unscrambling vocabulary words to write the correct word with each definition, and selecting the correct word (from three options) to complete a sentence. Since students work with twice as many words in review lesson activities, they are not required to write complete sentences for the reviews.

For both lesson and reviews, students work with the same definitions and word parts repeatedly. Constructing their own sentences is the most challenging activity in terms of critical thinking. The unscrambling activity in the reviews will probably be challenging—maybe frustratingly so for some students, but students can flip back to previous lessons to figure out what word they are looking for then look for an assemblage of letters that makes that word.

The original Levels B1 and B2 are for students in grade seven through twelve. There are three activities per lesson: learning word parts by either dividing or assembling words from roots, prefixes, and suffixes; matching words to their definitions by recognizing the meaning of the word elements; and using words in context. All three parts of each lesson are on a single page.

While Level 1 teaches words based entirely upon Latin, all other levels teach word parts and words from both Latin and Greek and, occasionally, from Old English. All of the books and software have glossaries with definitions of word parts. However, one important feature is missing from the glossaries and the lessons—identification of which language is the source for each word part or word. While this information isn't needed to complete the lessons, I think it would be helpful in the long run.

Software

The original Word Roots software programs are installed on your computer and track students work. Parents or students can print out scores for record keeping. Students win points that help them “rebuild” an ancient town at an archaeological dig. For all activities students click and move words or word parts with a mouse, so completing the exercises feels very much like a game. The look and feel are definitely more appealing than the workbooks.

Two grading options are available within the software. The “non-auto-grading mode” requires students to check their answers to score points. They can check each answer once for free then it costs points for each answer checked again. Hints are available but they lose points each time they use one. “Auto-grading mode” checks answers automatically with no second tries available. Incorrect answers deduct points from the score and use of hints also deducts points. Students cannot go back once they have completed a section.

New Word Roots Flashcards software programs can be used on their own or in conjunction with one of the book-based courses. Programs are available for Beginning, Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. These are relatively simple programs that offer both study games and practice games. Players match up parts of words and their definitions, combine word parts to make words in response to a definition, and simply combine word parts to make words. While these are useful, they don’t challenge students as much as do the workbooks or original software programs, so, personally, I would use them to supplement the books.

You can view sample pages or view demos of the software programs on the publisher’s website.

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