Every Wednesday, my classes do vocabulary exercises. I started this a couple of years ago with my honors class. One student dubbed it “Word Day Wednesday,” so that’s what I call it now.
With the honors class, I’ve been using a specific program of studying Greek and Latin roots — the Word Roots series from the Critical Thinking Company. They have a lesson a week and a quiz every two lessons. Most of this is self-directed. Students complete the exercises alone or in groups, study the Greek and Latin prefixes and roots, and that’s it. I’ve not had them do much else.
The other classes, however, have had no regular lessons. We’d learn about 15 vocabulary words for a new unit (the words come from our reading of novels or short stories). We learn the words together in class, and then students complete a Word Wizard. This is an activity where they must use some of the vocabulary words correctly in sentences, and have adults other than me (their parents, coaches, teachers, etc.) sign the Word Wizard paper to verify that they’ve done it.
This year, I wanted to add more formal study to the regular classes. I found a workbook called Red Hot Root Words from Prufrock Press. Each week, we have new prefixes or roots to study, and there’s a worksheet that students complete alone or in groups. We still do Word Wizards for various units, too.
For second semester, I’m adding Frayer Models for both classes. There are several versions of the Frayer Model, but the one I’m using includes the definition of the root (or prefix), example words, using one of the words in an original sentence, and drawing a picture to show understanding.
I’d like to do more with having students apply their learning — especially with the honors class. I feel like I’m not doing that very well. First quarter I had the kids do little 5-point quizzes where they’d have to figure out new words based on understanding of the roots and prefixes, but I stopped because I just felt I didn’t have enough time.
And that’s really the big issue for me — time. There is so much more I’d like to do with vocabulary, but where should it be on my list of priorities when I have so many other things to teach?
If you’ve come up with a great way to emphasize and integrate vocabulary study in your secondary English classes, please let me know in the comments!