Daily Skill Building: Vocabulary is available for grades one through seven, and Daily Skill Building: Spelling is available for grades three through seven. The vocabulary books can be used on their own at all levels, but starting in third grade, the two series are designed to be used together. Both series are available only as PDFs.
The books in each series follow the same format for all grade levels. Each book has lessons for 36 weeks.
Many words taught in these courses seem to be beyond those typical for each grade level. For example, while words taught in first grade include glad, safe, and flat, there are also challenging words such as applause, expensive, and jealous. Most of the words for fifth grade are challenging. For instance, the words for the first two weeks are emphasize, boisterous, magnificence, retaliate, extravagant, fashionable, perjury, and quench. These words will definitely challenge students’ vocabulary and spelling skills.
Daily Skill Building: Vocabulary
On the first four days of each week, students will work on one primary vocabulary work per day. For example, in Volume 1 (first grade), week 1, day 1 teaches the word drowsy. Students have two lines on which to write a definition for drowsy. They can copy this from the glossary at the back of the book which features brief definitions. Next, there are three lines for the student to use the word drowsy in a sentence.
Below these lines are two boxes where students will write three synonyms and three antonyms for drowsy. I found it easiest to use online resources to find antonyms since even my 2,229-page Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary doesn’t generally include antonyms. In contrast, I could quickly find lists of both synonyms and antonyms online. Students should be looking for lists that reflect the meaning of the word as defined in the glossary rather than a specialized meaning. For example, the second definition for drowsy in the online dictionary is “tending to cause sleep.” Synonyms for this meaning include words like narcotic, opiate, and soporific. It would be better to guide students to the synonyms and antonyms for the first definition: “desiring or needing sleep.” Those synonyms include words more familiar to children such as sleepy and dozy. Likewise, the antonyms for the first definition include familiar words such as alert, awake, and wakeful.
Students go through the same process for each word on the first four days. The fifth day of every week is used to review the four, featured vocabulary words. Students will do a matching exercise with definitions and a word bank. Then they will write a sentence, using at least two of the vocabulary words.
After every four weeks, a one-page unit review covers the words taught that month. This is the only activity that has variations for different levels. For all levels, the words are listed at the top of the page. First and second graders are told to write one or two sentences, using at least two vocabulary words, and draw a picture to illustrate it. Third graders are to write one paragraph, using three of the words, and draw a picture. For grades four through seven, students are instructed to write two paragraphs or more, using at least eight of their vocabulary words. As a side note, the weekly and monthly review writing assignments will inevitably help students become better creative writers as they figure out how to make use of the words.
Each book comes with a separate PDF for creating vocabulary cards in two formats: both formats list the vocabulary word with the week and day that it is taught immediately under the word. The first format includes the definition at the bottom of the card. The second format has blank lines for the student to write the definition.
For those who want more vocabulary exercises, there is a free, downloadable vocabulary resource pack with printable worksheets for vocabulary definition lists, sentence building activities, graphic organizers, word maps, and more.
Daily Skill Building: Vocabulary books can be used on their own without the spelling series, but read on to see how they work together.
Daily Skill Building: Spelling
Daily Skill Building: Spelling starts with third grade. The spelling books can be used apart from the vocabulary books, but I don’t think that makes much sense. Still, the instructions at the beginning of each book explain how you might use one of these books as a stand-alone option. I’ll discuss the books as if they are being used with the vocabulary series.
You will need to start the spelling lessons one week after the vocabulary lessons because spelling lists are built from the previous week’s vocabulary list. The first day of each week is for building the spelling list. Parents and younger students can work together on this step. The page lists the four vocabulary words from the previous week. You need to choose one synonym and one antonym from the vocabulary lesson for each of the four words. Either the parent or the student can add these words to the week’s spelling list, writing them in the spaces next to the original four words. Parents are free to substitute other spelling words if they wish. Students will work on these 12 words for the week. The first day, they will say each word, spell it aloud, and then say it again.
Formatted pages are included for each day’s work, including the spelling tests.
On the second day, students write each spelling word twice. On the third day, students copy the definitions for the four spelling words that were taken from the vocabulary book, then they write a sentence for each of the spelling words selected from the antonyms and synonyms. Day 4 is for a pretest. Students have space to write the correct spellings for any words they miss. There are optional worksheets that you can use in the appendix of each book for more practice with misspelled words. These worksheets include options for rewriting the words, drawing activities, storywriting, and using words in sentences. The fifth day is for the final spelling test.
The activities differ from what we see in most spelling workbooks. Parents or teachers need to be more involved, especially with younger students, in creating the spelling lists and evaluating student work. Answer keys would serve no purpose for these books since students are either copying what is in front of them or writing their own sentences.
Daily Skill Building: Vocabulary and Daily Skill Building: Spelling offer an unusual way to learn vocabulary and spelling. I can see where children and parents who enjoy playing with words are likely to enjoy the format. On the other hand, children who dislike writing and dislike looking up synonyms and antonyms might not.