While sorting books, I came across Debra Bell‘s The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling and starting thinking about vocabulary and vocabulary building as it relates to communication, education, writing and editing.
The following section, taken from page 23, fascinates me:
Care to hazard a guess as to the sources of each of these vocabulary lists?
List 1: SAT I (revised) Practice Test
List 2: Fourth-grade McGuffey Reader, in use during the late 1800s (after compulsory education was mandated). An 1897 fifth-grade reader we purchased at a library sale includes the same literary selections I studied in my undergraduate American literature courses. (Bell 23)
I showed the lists to my 12-year-old daughter. She read them both and chuckled. “I told you not to read the sources,” I said.
“I didn’t,” she assured me. “I just thought it was interesting how much harder the words were on List 2 than on List 1.”
I pointed at the sources. “Check it out.”
She read them. “Wow! So a fourth grader back in the 1800s knew harder words than someone studying for the SAT today who is maybe 16 or 17 years old?”
“I guess teachers just expected more from their students back then.” As I said that, I blushed. I’m not 100 percent certain what all those words mean, and I’m a bit older than a 16-year-old studying for the SAT. And I home educate.
Makes me want to expand my personal lexicon. How about you? If you want to launch a vocabulary building plan, join me as I experiment with some of these simple ways to learn new words:
- Wordsmith.Org. A.Word.A.Day http://wordsmith.org/awad/index.html
- Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/mwwod.pl
- Oxford English Dictionary http://www.oed.com/cgi/display/wotd
- New York Times, Word of the Day http://www.nytimes.com/learning/students/wordofday/
- Vocabulary.com: http://www.vocabulary.com/
- Word Think http://www.wordthink.com/
- Play Free Rice.
- Read books, read challenging magazines (think The Economist rather than People), and then read more books.
- Keep a record of words learned, whether a journal, note cards, loose leaf pages in a 3-ring binder, OneNote, or a Word document. I plan to include with the word and definition a sample sentence using the word in context (I’ll copy the example from the dictionary or the sentence from the text where I found it).
- Review suffixes, prefixes and roots (found a game). Lots of sources for this.
- Review personal word bank often.
- Assiduously incorporate new words into blog posts, conversations, e-mails, and journal entries.
Work cited: Bell, Debra. Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling. Nashville, TN: Tommy Nelson, 1997. Print.
Photo: “word up! c-o-f-f-e-e…” by Debaird, available for download from Flickr through a Creative Commons license.