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.