Operation Lexicon is a series of eight books for grades five through twelve that teach vocabulary based on excerpts from literature and poetry. They also provide a variety of writing activities related to the vocabulary words. The format of the activities for each week's lesson combines classical education methods of copywork and learning-by-imitation with creative applications.
Each book uses quotations from the works of a single author, with the exception of Operation Lexicon: The Inklings (for ninth grade), which draws upon the works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. The other authors featured in the books are Ted Hughes (fifth grade), E.B. White (sixth grade), Madeline L’Engle (seventh grade), Emily Dickinson (eighth grade), John Steinbeck (tenth grade), Shakespeare (eleventh grade), and Flannery O’Connor (twelfth grade).
The books are not identified by grade numbers, so you can use them whenever you choose. They are packaged with the Blackbird & Company complete language arts programs for each grade level noted above, but they can be purchased on their own. Each lesson is presented over three days per week, and the courses vary from having from 25 to 29 lessons.
The vocabulary words are presented in alphabetical order throughout each book. For instance, Week 1 of Operation Lexicon: Inklings begins with acquiesce, aesthetic, alchemy, and anon; Week 2 teaches bigot, bombast, brusque, and burgeon; and so on. Sometimes there aren't enough vocabulary words for a particular letter, so the lesson includes a word from the next letter of the alphabet. Some books have no words beginning with x and few with z. On the other hand, there might be quite a few great vocabulary words that all begin with the same letter, so words that begin with that letter might be extended into the next week's lesson. Students learn four new words each week, although the number of words left for the final week varies from book to book.
In the first session each week, students study two new words following the same sequence of activities. Each word is presented with a definition. Students copy the words onto the lines provided. An example sentence illustrates the meaning of each word. For instance, Operation Lexicon: Inklings teaches the word prosaic with the example sentence, “Bilbo longed to break free from his prosaic hometown where nothing interesting or exciting happened." 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 additional research might be a weak link in the course since the lessons don’t remind students to do it. If you think the additional research is important, you will need to ensure that these extra steps take place.
In the second session, students repeat the process with two more words.
After learning the four vocabulary words, students complete two activities on the third day of the lesson. The first activity says, “Choose the word that you find most interesting and describe why you made this choice.” The second has student uses as many of the week’s words as they can to write a micro-story. Near the front of the book is a page of story starters that students can use if they need help. The page of story starters is followed by a sample micro-story.
Operation Lexicon books are designed for independent work. Nevertheless, parents or teachers will need to review student work to check that they accurately grasp each word’s meaning as they use the words in their sentences and stories.
Operation Lexicon requires more writing than 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. And 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.