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Research-Based Vocabulary Worksheets

The two most often-used methods of vocabulary instruction include passing out a vocabulary list to be memorized for the Friday quiz and pre-teaching a few vocabulary words prior to reading. Each method has its limitations. Retention of rote memorization without reinforced, deliberate practice is minimal. Exposure to a key word in a reading selection without context provides minimal understanding.

Whereas the Common Core State Standards have been widely criticized in some academic areas, I’ve never heard a parent, student, or teacher criticize the vocabulary Standards detailed in the Language Strand. Whether states re-write, re-name, or simply re-number the Common Core State Standards, the essential components of vocabulary instruction are retained. As an MA reading specialist, both vocabulary acquisition and retention are the keys to the kingdom. But minds are not simply empty vessels to be filled with ACT/SAT vocabulary; minds are also to be trained to acquire and retain words on their own. The latter is not the natural process that some describe (or hope for). Surely the process of vocabulary growth can be made more efficient and accurate with training. That’s where good teaching comes in… and one important instructional strategy is the research-based vocabulary worksheet.

The educational research provides insight as to what makes a vocabulary worksheet an effective instructional strategy for knowledge and/or skills acquisition.

In a January 2016 article, the American Psychological Association published a helpful article titled “Practice for Knowledge Acquisition (Not Drill and Kill)” in which researchers distinguish between deliberate practice and “drill and kill” rote memorization: “Deliberate practice involves attention, rehearsal and repetition and leads to new knowledge or skills that can later be developed into more complex knowledge and skills… (Campitelli & Gobet, 2011).”

“… several conditions that must be in place in order for practice activities to be most effective in moving students closer to skillful performance (Anderson, 2008; Campitelli & Gobet, 2011; Ericsson, Krampe, & Clemens, 1993). Each of these conditions can be met with carefully designed instruction.”

Most of the Tier II academic (not content-specific) language is gained through widespread reading of challenging text, Reading lots of words matters, but reading at a word recognition level of about 5% unknown words, coupled with context clues instruction and practice maximizes the amount of vocabulary acquisition and retention. According the writers of the Common Core, text complexity really matters. Research-based vocabulary worksheets can help provide deliberate practice in how to independently grow vocabulary.

The second key to vocabulary development is deep instruction in the words themselves. Passing out the vocabulary list to memorize is not “deep instruction.” Let’s take a look at the Common Core Vocabulary Standards to understand. Following are the eighth grade Standards. Highlights are my own to facilitate skimming and to provide your own vocabulary check-list of “Do that,” “Don’t do that, but need to” self-evaluation. After the Standards follows research-based vocabulary worksheets from my grades 4-8 Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) programs and the grades 4-8 Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit (slices of the aforementioned programs) to see how each of the Language Strand Vocabulary Standards L.4, 5, and 6 are incorporated into weekly classroom practice. The examples are from the fifth grade program. Yes, flashcards and tests are included in each program. Each program follows a grades 4-8 instructional scope and sequence and includes the Tier II Academic Words List.

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.8.4
Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words or phrases based on grade 8 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.8.4.A
Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence or paragraph; a word’s position or function in a sentence) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.8.4.B
Use common, grade-appropriate Greek or Latin affixes and roots as clues to the meaning of a word (e.g., precede, recede, secede).
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.8.4.C
Consult general and specialized reference materials (e.g., dictionaries, glossaries, thesauruses), both print and digital, to find the pronunciation of a word or determine or clarify its precise meaning or its part of speech.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.8.4.D
Verify the preliminary determination of the meaning of a word or phrase (e.g., by checking the inferred meaning in context or in a dictionary).
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.8.5
Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.8.5.A
Interpret figures of speech (e.g. verbal irony, puns) in context.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.8.5.B
Use the relationship between particular words to better understand each of the words.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.8.5.C
Distinguish among the connotations (associations) of words with similar denotations (definitions) (e.g., bullheaded, willful, firm, persistent, resolute).
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.8.6
Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases; gather vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.
 [pdf-embedder url=”http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Vocabulary-Worksheets.pdf”]

Check out the research-based grammar, usage, and mechanics worksheet and the research-based spelling patterns worksheets.

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based grades 4-8 Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)  programs to teach the Common Core Language Strand Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics worksheets and includes sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.

The program also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out the YouTube introductory video of the author’s program.

 
Here are FREE samples of vocabulary worksheets from this comprehensive program–ready to teach in your class today. Each resource includes directions, four grade-specific vocabulary worksheets, worksheet answers, vocabulary study cards, and a short unit test with answers.

Get the Grade 4 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 5 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 6 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 7 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 8 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

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How to Teach Prefixes, Roots, and Suffixes

Every teacher knows that word parts are the building blocks of words. Most teachers know that learning individual word parts and how they fit together to form multi-syllabic words is the most efficient method of vocabulary acquisition, second only to that of widespread reading at the student’s independent reading level. These word parts that are, indeed, the keys to academic vocabulary—the types of words that students especially need to succeed in school. However, most teachers do not know the best instructional methods to teach these important word parts.

How Most Teachers Teach Prefixes

The Test Method: “Here is your list of ten prefixes with game cards to memorize this week. Test on Friday.” No instruction + no practice = no success.

The Literature-based Method: “Notice the prefix pre in the author’s word preamble? That means before. Let’s look for other ones.

The Word Sort Method: “Here is a list of 20 big words. Sort all of the words that start with pre in the first box.”

The Intensive Vocabulary Study Methods: “Let’s use our Four Square vocabulary chart to study the prefix pre. Who knows an antonym? Who knows an example word? Who knows a synonym? Who knows an inflection that can be added to the word? Who knows…? Spend at least 15 minutes “studying” this one prefix.” How inefficient can you get?

The Modality Methods (VAK): “Let’s draw the prefix pre in the word preamble. Then draw a symbol of the word that will help you remember the word. Use at least three colors. If you prefer, design a Lego® model of the prefix.” Check out this relevant article on Don’t Teach to Learning Styles or Multiple Intelligences.

Better Ways to Teach Prefixes, Roots, and Suffixes

High Frequency Greek and Latin Word PartsChoose the Right Word Parts

Teaching the high utility Greek and Latin prefixes, roots, and suffixes is a very efficient tool to acquire academic vocabulary. These morphological (meaning-based) word parts that form the basis of English academic vocabulary are primarily Greek and Latinates. Prefixes and roots carry the bulk of important word meanings; however, some key suffixes are important, as well. Over 50% of multi-syllabic words beyond the most frequently used 10,000 words contain a Greek or Latin word part. Since Greek and Latinates are so common in our academic language, it makes sense to memorize the highest frequency word parts. See the attached list of High Frequency Prefixes, Suffixes, and Roots for reference.

Teach by Analogy

Word part clues are highly memorable because readers have frequent exposure to and practice with the high frequency word parts. Additionally, they are memorable because the simple to understand use of the word part can be applied to more complex usages. For example, bi means two in bicycle, just as it means two in bicameral or biped. Analogy is a powerful learning aid and its application in academic vocabulary is of paramount importance.

One of the most effective strategies for learning and practicing word parts by analogy is to have students build upon their previous knowledge of words that use the targeted word parts. Building student vocabularies based upon their own prior knowledge ensures that your example words will more likely be within their grade-level experience, rather than arbitrarily providing examples beyond their reading and listening experience.

After introducing the week’s word parts and their definitions (I suggest a combination of prefixes, roots, and suffixes), ask students to brainstorm words that they already know that use each of the word parts. Give students two minutes to quick-write all the words that they know that use the selected prefix, root, or suffix. Then, ask students to share their words in class discussion. Quickly write down and define each word that clearly uses the definition that you have provided. Ignore those words that use the word part, but do not clearly exemplify the definition that you have provided. Require students to write down each word that you have written in their Vocabulary Journals. Award points for all student contributions.

Teach through Word Play

Effective vocabulary study involves practice. One of the best ways to practice prefixes is through vocabulary games. A terrific list of word play games with clear instructions is found in Vocabulary Review Games.

Teach through Association

Memorization through association places learning into the long-term memory. Connection to other word parts helps students memorize important prefixes, roots, and suffixes.

Greek and Latin Academic LanguageFifteen Power Words

These fifteen words have prefixes or roots that are part of over 15,000 words. That is as many words as most student dictionaries! Memorize these words and the meanings of their prefixes and roots and you have significantly improved your vocabulary.

1. inaudible     (not, hear)

2. dismiss        (away from, send)

3. transport      (across, carry)

4. unsubscribe (not, under, write)

5. predict         (before, say)

6. remit            (again, send)

7. encounter    (in, against)

8. offer              (against, carry)

9. inspect         (in, see)

10. epilogue     (upon, word)

11. antigen      (against, people)

12. empathy    (in, feeling)

13. intermediate (between, middle)

14. destruction    (apart from, build)

15. superimpose (over, in, put)

Put-Togethers

Have students spread out vocabulary word part cards into prefix, root, and suffix groups on their desks. Business card size works best. The object of the game is to put together these word parts into real words within a given time period. Students can use connecting vowels. Students are awarded points as follows:

1 point for each prefix—root combination

1 point for each root—suffix combination

2 points for a prefix—root combination that no one else in the group has

2 points for a root—suffix combination that no one else in the group has

3 points for each prefix—root—suffix combination

5 points for a prefix—root—suffix combination that no one else has.

Game can be played timed or untimed.

Teach through Syllabication

Teaching basic syllabication skills helps students understand and apply how syllable patterns fit in with decodable word parts. The Transformers activity teaches the basic syllables skills through inductive examples.

In addition to the basics, the Twenty Advanced Syllable Rules provide the guidelines for correct pronunciation and writing.

Teaching the Ten Accent Rules, including the schwa, will assist students in accurate pronunciation and spelling.

Teach through Spelling

Using a comprehensive spelling pattern spelling program will teach how prefixes absorb and assimilate with connected roots, how roots change spellings to accommodate pronunciation and suffix spelling, and how suffixes determine the grammar, verb tense, and limit the meaning of preceding prefixes and roots. Beyond primary sound-spellings, spelling and vocabulary have an important relationship in the structure of academic vocabulary. Only recently has spelling been relegated to the elementary classroom. Check out Differentiated Spelling Instruction to see how a grade-level spelling program can effectively incorporate advanced vocabulary development.

Context Clues Reading

Even knowing just one word part will provide a clue to meaning of an unknown word. For example, a reader may not understand the meaning of the word bicameral. However, knowing that the prefix bi means two certainly helps the reader gain a sense of the word, especially when combined with other context clues such as synonyms, antonyms, logic-based, and example clues. For example, let’s look at the following sentence:

The bicameral legislative system of the House and Senate provide important checks and balances.

Identifying the context example clues, “House and Senate” and “checks and balances,” combines with the reader’s knowledge of the word part, bi and help the reader problem-solve the meaning of the unknown word: bicameral.

Context Clues Writing

Similarly, having students develop their own context clue sentences, in which they suggest the meaning of the word parts and words with surrounding synonyms, antonyms, logic-based, and example clues is excellent practice.

Inventive Writing

After introducing the week’s word parts and their definitions (I suggest two prefixes, three roots, and two suffixes per week), ask students to invent words that use each word part in a sentence, that uses context clues to show the meaning of each nonsense word. Encourage students to use “real” word parts to combine with each targeted word part to form multi-syllabic words. Award extra points for words used from prior week’s words.

Don’t want to reinvent the wheel? Find every resource you need to teach vocabulary, grammar, usage, and spelling in Pennington Publishing’s grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary programs. Teaching the Language Strand. Each comprehensive program is designed to help students catch up while they keep up with grade-level Standards. The vocabulary worksheets are designed to teach every grade level Common Core Vocabulary Standard (L4.0, 5.0, 6.0). Check out the YouTube introductory video for a concise overview of the program.

Pennington Publishing's Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 Programs

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 Programs

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Free Instructional Spelling Resources

Pennington Publishing's Differentiated Spelling Instruction

Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8

Despite having spelling instruction relegated to a mere editing skill tagged onto the end of the Writing Process by some writing “gurus,” good teachers continue to teach spelling through direct and differentiated instruction. Recent reading and writing research have reinforced the need to teach the structural components of words. Word analysis promotes spelling accuracy, correct pronunciation, and vocabulary development.

Spelling instruction is not solely the responsibility of primary elementary teachers. Intermediate, middle, and high school teachers need to both remediate spelling deficiencies and teach advanced spelling skills to their students. After learning the sound-spelling relationships, advanced spelling skills are acquired by learning and practicing the advanced spelling rules, syllabication and accent rules, and language derivations.

Following are articles, free resources (including reading assessments), and teaching tips regarding how to differentiate spelling instruction in the intermediate, middle, and high school from the Pennington Publishing Blog. Bookmark and visit us often. Also, check out the quality instructional programs and resources offered by Pennington Publishing.

Spelling

Spelling Scope and Sequence

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/spelling_vocabulary/spelling-scope-and-sequence/ 

Educators who once thought that spelling word check would solve students’ spelling and writing issues are squarely facing the fact that they do have a responsibility to teach spelling patterns. A spelling program with a comprehensive instructional scope and sequence, aligned to the Common Core Language Standards, College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards, and/or State Standards provides a well-defined instructional order. Check out the Common Core aligned grades 4-8 spelling scope and sequence of spelling patterns instruction.

Research-Based Spelling Worksheets

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/research-based-spelling-worksheets/

Of course spelling, grammar, usage, mechanics, and vocabulary scores plummeted during the late 1980s and early 1990s, sparking yet another “Back to Basics” movement. Mom had warned her son about the cyclical nature of educational movements and philosophies. The educational research provides insight as to what makes a spelling worksheet an effective instructional strategy for knowledge and/or skills acquisition.

Spelling Diagnostic Assessment

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Diagnostic-Spelling-Assessment.pdf

This diagnostic assessment tests all of the important vowel sound-spellings that students should have mastered (but frequently have not) as foundations to conventional English spelling. Included is a convenient recording matrix for the teacher to plan differentiated instruction to remediate unmastered spelling patterns.

Six Simple Steps to Teach Spelling

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/spelling_vocabulary/six-simple-steps-to-teaching-spelling/

Most veteran grades 4-8 teachers still teach spelling, especially in terms of spelling patterns, conventional spelling rules, derivational and etymological influences, accent placements and vowel shifts because they know how structural word analysis facilitates proper use of our language, better reading comprehension, and improved writing.

30 Spelling Questions, Answers and Resources

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/30-spelling-questions-answers-and-resources/

In the midst of the 1980s whole language movement, California State Superintendent of Schools Bill Honig strongly encouraged principals to confiscate spelling workbooks from their teachers. Even today, spelling instruction remains a contentious topic. No other literacy skill seems to run the complete gamut of instructional implementation from emphasis to de-emphasis. The article includes the 30 spelling questions, answers, and resources to help teachers get a handle on what does and what does not work in spelling instruction.

Spelling Assessment Questions and Answers

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/spelling_vocabulary/spelling-assessment-questions-and-answers/

That said, as an author of numerous spelling programs and an often-used Diagnostic Spelling Assessment, I get two questions quite frequently: 1. Does a diagnostic spelling assessment make sense? and 2. How can we use the weekly pretest as a diagnostic assessment? But I’ll let teachers ask those questions in their own words…

How to Evaluate Spelling Programs

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/spelling_vocabulary/how-to-evaluate-spelling-programs/

With increasing attention on following Response to Intervention (RTI) guidelines, it makes sense to follow the criteria that orthographic research has established for quality spelling programs.

Ten Components of a Successful Spelling Program

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/spelling_vocabulary/ten-components-of-a-successful-spelling-program/

Teachers truly want to differentiate spelling instruction, but the materials, testing, instruction, and management can prove overwhelming to even the most conscientious professional. Using this Spelling Program Checklist can help teachers re-focus  to improve their spelling instruction.

How to Differentiate Spelling and Vocabulary Instruction

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/spelling_vocabulary/how-to-differentiate-spelling-and-vocabulary-instruction/

It makes sense to teach spelling and vocabulary together. Simply put, one affects the other. However, not all of our students are at the same levels of spelling and vocabulary mastery. So, how can an informed teacher (that is you) differentiate spelling and vocabulary instruction in an efficient manner?

Common Core Spelling Standards

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/spelling_vocabulary/common-core-spelling-standards/

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in English Language Arts provide instructional challenges for all conscientious upper elementary and middle school teachers. In addition to the Reading, Writing, Speaking & Listening Strands, teachers are expected to teach the grammar, mechanics, language application, spelling, and vocabulary Standards of the CCSS Language Strand (Standards L. 1-6). When establishing instructional priorities to address these Standards, many teachers have placed spelling (Standard L. 2) on the back-burner.

The  “able” Spelling Rule

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/spelling_vocabulary/2840/

The “able” suffix spelling is often misspelled, even by very accomplished spellers. Here are the applicable spelling rules for the “able” suffix.

The Vulgar “a” Spelling

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/spelling_vocabulary/the-vulgar-a-spelling/

This lesson on the vulgar “a” includes definitions, examples, writing hints, practice, a formative assessment, writing application, and related CCSS standards.

Visual Spelling Strategies

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/spelling_vocabulary/visual-spelling-strategies/

Spelling is primarily an auditory skill; however, when used as an appropriate instructional component of a comprehensive spelling program, visual spelling strategies, such as these “picture spellings” can make sense.

Why Spelling Is So Difficult

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/spelling_vocabulary/why-spelling-is-so-difficult/

This article explains why the English Spelling System is so difficult to master. Seven suggestions give hope to even the most challenged speller to improve his or her spelling.

Top Twelve Spelling Trends and Fads

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/spelling_vocabulary/spelling-instructional-trends-and-fads/

A dozen of the most popular instructional spelling trends and fads over the last thirty years are described and rated as “TRUE” or “FALSE,” in terms of recent spelling research. Get ready to be challenged, and perhaps redirected in how you teach spelling.

Diagnostic Spelling Assessments

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/wp-admin/post.php?post=885&action=edit

In this series on How to Teach Spelling, this first post discusses and provides teaching resources for diagnostic spelling tests.

English Sound-Spellings

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/how-to-teach-spelling-part-ii/

In this series on How to Teach Spelling, this second post discusses and provides teaching resources for teaching the sound-spelling system. The sound-spelling system is the foundation of conventional spelling.

Spelling Rules

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/spelling_vocabulary/how-to-teach-spelling-part-iii/

In this series on How to Teach Spelling, this third post discusses and provides teaching resources for teaching the eight conventional spelling rules. These eight rules go beyond the sound-spelling system to lead students to conventional spelling mastery.

The Plurals Spelling Rule

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/the-plurals-spelling-rule/

The Plurals Spelling Rule Spelling Rule is one of the most consistent and useful spelling rules.

The Ending “ion” Spelling Rule

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/the-ending-“ion”-spelling-rule/

The Ending “ion” Spelling Rule Spelling Rule is one of the most consistent and useful spelling rules.

The “able” or “ible” Spelling Rule

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/the-“able”-or-“ible”-spelling-rule/

The “able” or “ible” Spelling Rule is one of the most consistent and useful spelling rules. Find other spelling rules, tests, and songs or raps in Pennington Publishing’s Teaching Spelling and Vocabulary.

The Ending “an” or “en” Spelling Rule

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/the-ending-“an”-or-“en”-spelling-rule/

The Ending “an” or “en” Spelling Rule is one of the most consistent and useful spelling rules.

The Double the Consonant Spelling Rule

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/the-double-the-consonant-spelling-rule/

The Double the Consonant Spelling Rule is one of the most consistent and useful spelling rules.

The Silent e Spelling Rule

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/the-silent-e-spelling-rule/

The Silent Final e Spelling Rule is one of the most consistent and useful spelling rules.

The Final y Spelling Rule

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/the-final-y-spelling-rule/

The Final y Spelling Rule is one of the most consistent and useful spelling rules.

The i before e Spelling Rule

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/the-i-before-e-spelling-rule/

Although only 50% of English spellings conform to a predictable sound-spelling relationship, applying The i before e Spelling Rule will significantly increase spelling accuracy.

Spelling Lists and Tests

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/spelling_vocabulary/how-to-teach-spelling-part-iv/

Teachers who are serious about effective spelling instruction use the spelling pre-test as a diagnostic assessment to differentiate instruction. In this article, teachers will learn how to supplement the spelling pre-test with useful free hyperlinked resources.

Effective Spelling Practice

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/spelling_vocabulary/how-to-teach-spelling-part-v/

Effective spelling practice is not exclusively memorization. Good spelling practice connects to language development, vocabulary, structural analysis, auditory processing, and writing. Learn how to practice spelling effectively.

Vowel Team Spelling Games

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/spelling_vocabulary/vowel-team-spelling-games/

Spellers often struggle in the “Within Word” stage of spelling development. The key challenge for spellers within this spelling stage involves the vowel sound-spellings. These three spelling games will help your remedial spellers both recognize and practice these vowel team spellings.

More Articles, Free Resources, and Teaching Tips from the Pennington Publishing Blog

English-Language Arts and Reading Intervention Articles and Resources 

Bookmark and check back often for new articles and free ELA/reading resources from Pennington Publishing.

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Pennington Publishing’s mission is to provide the finest in assessment-based ELA and reading intervention resources for grades 4‒high school teachers. Mark Pennington is the author of two Standards-aligned programs: Teaching Essay Strategies and Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)Mark’s comprehensive Teaching Reading Strategies and the accompanying Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books help struggling readers significantly improve their reading skills in a full-year or half-year intensive reading intervention program. Make sure to check out Pennington Publishing’s free ELA and reading assessments to help you pinpoint grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and reading deficits.

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Free Instructional Vocabulary Resources

Pennington Publishing's Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit

Common Core Vocabulary Toolkit Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8

Vocabulary instruction is vitally important to advanced reading comprehension and writing. Words are the foundations of our language. Students learn the words they need to converse, read, and write in three key ways. First, students learn academic vocabulary through wide reading in a variety of genre at their instructional level. Simply lots of reading does not improve vocabulary. What is read determines what is learned. It may be that most teachers need to increase the textual complexity of class novels and assigned independent reading to maximize vocabulary growth. Second, students improve their vocabulary from becoming more efficient in recognizing context clues and applying the context clue categories to making educated guesses as to the meanings of unknown words. Looking up every word in the dictionary is not advisable. Third, learning high frequency Greek and Latin roots/affixes builds academic vocabulary. Greek and Latinates are found in 50% of all English dictionary entries.

Following are articles, free resources, and teaching tips regarding how to teach vocabulary in the intermediate, middle, and high school grades from the Pennington Publishing Blog. Also, check out the quality instructional programs and resources offered by Pennington Publishing.

Vocabulary

Vocabulary Scope and Sequence

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/vocabulary-scope-and-sequence/

Is there any research about the instructional order of Tier Two words…? Yes. Furthermore, computer generated word frequencies have determined the frequency of Greek and Latin word parts.  Check out the Grades 4-8 Vocabulary Scope and Sequence. Teachers and district personnel are authorized to print and share this planning tool.

How to Teach Vocabulary

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/how-to-teach-writing-vocabulary/

How to Teach Vocabulary asks and provides possible answers to the How Do the Common Core Authors Suggest We Teach Vocabulary?  Why Should We Teach Explicit Vocabulary? Won’t Students Learn More from Independent Reading? Which Vocabulary Words Should We Teach? To Whom Should We Teach Academic Vocabulary? How Much Class Time does it take to teach the Common Core Vocabulary Standards? Check out the grades 4-8 instructional vocabulary scope and sequence.

Research-Based Vocabulary Worksheets

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/spelling_vocabulary/research-based-vocabulary-worksheets/

The educational research provides insight as to what makes a vocabulary worksheet an effective instructional strategy for knowledge and/or skills acquisition. Get examples of  Common Core aligned vocabulary worksheets.

Common Core Academic Language Words

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/common-core-academic-language-words/

Yes, the Common Core authors view literacy development as a mutual responsibility of all educational stakeholders. Yes, history, science, and technology teachers need to teach domain-specific academic vocabulary. However, there is a difference between academic language and academic vocabulary. The latter is subject/content specific; the former is not. Reading more challenging expository novels, articles, documents, reports, etc. will certainly help students implicitly learn much academic language; however, academic language word lists coupled with meaningful instruction do have their place. So, which word lists make sense?

The Ideal Vocabulary Worksheets

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If you were to create the ideal vocabulary worksheets for your 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, or 8thgrade students, what would you include? No doubt, the worksheets would be perfectly aligned to the Common Core Language Strand 4.0, 5.0, and 6.0 Standards (whether your state and district are Common Core or not…) These Standards make sense to any teacher.

Common Core Greek and Latinates

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The bulk of Vocabulary Standards are now included in the Language Strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Greek and Latin affixes (prefixes and suffixes) and roots are key components of five of the grade level Standards: Grades 4-8. Which Greek and Latin affixes and roots should we teach? How many should we teach? How should we teach them?

How to Memorize Greek and Latin Word Parts

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Teachers know that teaching the most common Greek and Latin prefixes, roots, and suffixes makes sense to help students build academic language. After all, about 50% of the words in any unabridged dictionary include at least one Greek or Latin affix or root. The question is how can students most efficiently learn these word parts? Rote memorization has a role; however, tapping into the students’ transferable, long-term memories is more effective.

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)

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Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) is part of a comprehensive Grades 4-8 language program, designed to address each Standard in the Language Strand of the Common Core State Standards in 60-90 weekly instructional minutes. This full-year curriculum provides interactive grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling lessons, a complete spelling patterns program, language application openers, and vocabulary instruction. The program has all the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets, each with a formative assessment. Progress monitoring matrices allow teachers to track student progress. Each instructional resource is carefully designed to minimize teacher preparation, correction, and paperwork. Appendices have extensive instructional resources.

Overview of the Common Core Language Strand

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English-language arts teachers have long been accustomed to the four-fold division of our “content” area into Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking. These divisions have been widely accepted and promoted by the NCTE, publishers, and other organizations. In a nod to the fearsome foursome, the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts maintains these divisions (now called strands)with two notable revisions: Speaking and Listening are combined and Language now has its own seat at the table. So who exactly is this new dinner guest? For those just beginning to explore the CCSS Language Strand, an overview may be helpful.

How to Teach the Common Core Vocabulary Standards

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What most teachers notice after careful reading of the Common Core Vocabulary Standards is the expected breadth, complexity, and depth of instruction across the grade levels. These vocabulary words require direct, deep-level instruction and practice in a variety of contexts to transfer to our students’ long-term memories. So which instructional strategies make sense to teach the Common Core Vocabulary Standards? And what is the right amount of direct, deep-level vocabulary instruction that will faithfully teach the Common Core Vocabulary Standards without consuming inordinate amounts of class time? Following is a weekly instructional plan to teach the L.4, 5, and 6 Vocabulary Standards.

Why Vocabulary Lists Don’t Work

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Teaching vocabulary word lists does not work. The strategy of giving twenty words on Monday and testing on Friday is both inefficient and ineffective. However, three instructional strategies do make sense to help students improve their vocabularies.

How to Improve Your Vocabulary

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Knowing common Greek and Latin prefixes, roots, and suffixes will significantly improve one’s vocabulary. In fact, over half of the words in any dictionary contain a Greek or Latin word part. Academic language especially relies on Greek and Latin. This article gives the high frequency word parts to improve anyone’s vocabulary.

How to Teach Prefixes, Roots, and Suffixes

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Prefixes, roots, and suffixes: These word parts that are, indeed, the keys to academic vocabulary—the types of words that students especially need to succeed in school. However, most teachers do not know the best instructional methods to teach these important word parts. Learn the techniques that work best.

Context Clues Vocabulary Review Game

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This context clues vocabulary review game helps students apply the five major context clues categories to informed word guessing. Using the Pictionary® game, students drawing context clues according to the five categories.

Vocabulary Word Part Games

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Students are more likely to use study and practice procedures that are “game-like” and less boring than simple rote memorization. Here are some fun and effective vocabulary word part review games.

Vocabulary Review Games

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Students are more likely to use study and practice procedures that are “game-like” and less boring than simple rote memorization. Here are some fun and effective vocabulary review games.

Top 40 Vocabulary Pet Peeves

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Here is the list of the Top 40 Vocabulary Pet Peeves that make Americans see read. Read, laugh, and cringe over mistakes that you or your friends make when abusing these words.

How to Memorize Vocabulary

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Many people want to improve their vocabularies, but memorization and retention are the key roadblocks. Not everyone has a natural ability to memorize. However, memorization is a skill that can be learned and improved upon with commitment and practice.

How to Teach and Learn Precise Vocabulary

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Memorizing words with precise denotative and connotative definitions is important. Sloppy use of our language inhibits effective communication and leads to misunderstandings. Learn the techniques to teach vocabulary with precise meanings.

Learn Vocabulary by Reading

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Most teachers teach vocabulary inefficiently. Learn the common mistakes that teachers make in vocabulary instruction and how to re-orient vocabulary instruction to help students make real gains in vocabulary acquisition.

Learning Vocabulary from Independent Reading

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Most vocabulary beyond the first ten thousand words comes from independent reading. Wide reading of challenging academic text produces the greatest net vocabulary gain.

How to Double Vocabulary Acquisition from Reading Part III

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Refining the skills of context clues strategies will help readers increase vocabulary. Wide reading of challenging academic text is the most efficient method of vocabulary acquisition.

How to Teach Multiple Meaning Words Vocabulary

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The Common Core Vocabulary Standards are found in the Anchor Standards for Language:

  • Multiple Meaning Words and Context Clues (L.4.a.)
  • Greek and Latin Word Parts (L.4.a.)
  • Language Resources (L.4.c.d.)
  • Figures of Speech (L.5.a.)
  • Word Relationships (L.5.b.)
  • Connotations (L.5.c.)
  • Academic Language Words (L.6.0)

Our instructional focus with multiple meaning words is centered on homonyms in these FREE vocabulary worksheets.

How to Teach Figures of Speech Vocabulary

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The Common Core State Standards emphasize a balanced approach to vocabulary development. Unlike some of the other ELA Standards, the vocabulary Standards are quite specific and especially so with figures of speech. Download FREE vocabulary worksheets to try out our grades 4–8 Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits.

How to Teach Connotations: Shades of Meaning Vocabulary

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Some of our English words are quite imprecise. Whereas the Greeks have at least four words for love, we only have one. How crazy is it that we can say, “I love you darling, and I also love hot dogs” in the same sentence? The writers of the Common Core Vocabulary Standards include connotative vocabulary acquisition in CCSS L.5.c. One great way to teach connotations is with semantic spectrums. Just like a rainbow is a color spectrum, certain vocabulary words can be placed within their own spectrum of meaning (semantics). Check out these FREE vocabulary worksheets with semantic spectrums.

How to Teach Word Relationships Vocabulary

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Word relationships help students understand precision of meaning and are included in the Anchor Standards for Language:

  • Multiple Meaning Words and Context Clues (L.4.a.)
  • Greek and Latin Word Parts (L.4.a.)
  • Language Resources (L.4.c.d.)
  • Figures of Speech (L.5.a.)
  • Word Relationships (L.5.b.)
  • Connotations (L.5.c.)
  • Academic Language Words (L.6.0)

Get FREE vocabulary worksheets, each including practice in the above Standards.

How to Teach Academic Language Vocabulary

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The importance of students acquiring a rich and varied vocabulary cannot be overstated… (Baumann & Kameenui, 1991; Becker, 1977; Stanovich, 1986), but vocabulary instruction has been neither frequent nor systematic in most schools (Biemiller, 2001; Durkin, 1978; Lesaux, Kieffer, Faller, & Kelley, 2010; Scott & Nagy, 1997). But which words? Dr. Averil Coxhead, senior lecturer at the Victoria University of Wellington School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies developed and evaluated The Academic Word List (AWL) for her MA thesis. The list has 570 word families which were selected according to certain criteria. My Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits have subdivided these word families into grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 programs.

How to Teach Greek and Latin Word Parts Vocabulary

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The keys to memorization involve deep learning, association, and continued practice. Students won’t benefit from these Greek and Latin short-cuts by simply learning a list of 20 per week with a quiz on Friday. Instead, a few well-chosen, high frequency Greek and Latin word parts learned well in the word analysis context, associated with each other to develop mental linking, and practiced in the four communicative contexts of listening, speaking, writing, and reading works so much better. Check out how I teach Greek and Latin word parts in these FREE worksheets from my grade 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits.

Common Core Vocabulary

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Let’s take a look at the Common Core Vocabulary Standards and the key instructional strategies to teach each Standard and download Pennington Publishing’s FREE worksheets addressing each Standard in the grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits.

  • Multiple Meaning Words and Context Clues (L.4.a.)
  • Greek and Latin Word Parts (L.4.a.)
  • Language Resources (L.4.c.d.)
  • Figures of Speech (L.5.a.)
  • Word Relationships (L.5.b.)
  • Connotations (L.5.c.)
  • Academic Language Words (L.6.0)

More Articles, Free Resources, and Teaching Tips from the Pennington Publishing Blog

English-Language Arts and Reading Intervention Articles and Resources 

Bookmark and check back often for new articles and free ELA/reading resources from Pennington Publishing.

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Pennington Publishing’s mission is to provide the finest in assessment-based ELA and reading intervention resources for grades 4‒high school teachers. Mark Pennington is the author of two Standards-aligned programs: Teaching Essay Strategies and Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)Mark’s comprehensive Teaching Reading Strategies and the accompanying Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books help struggling readers significantly improve their reading skills in a full-year or half-year intensive reading intervention program. Make sure to check out Pennington Publishing’s free ELA and reading assessments to help you pinpoint grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and reading deficits.

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Twenty Advanced Syllable Rules

Syllable Rules

The 20 Syllable Rules

Teachers should take a look at the importance of direct instruction in syllabication. The syllable rules provide helpful guides to proper pronunciation, spelling, and reading. Check out How to Teach Syllabication once you’ve skimmed the following syllable rules. The Twenty Advanced Syllable Rules are critical to accurate pronunciation, decoding, and spelling. Knowing the patterns of affixes and roots will also facilitate vocabulary acquisition.

Syllable Rule #1: Every syllable has a vowel. The common vowels are a, e, i, o, and u.

Syllable Rule #2: When the vowel is not at the end of a syllable, it has a short sound. The Vowel-Consonant (VC) and Consonant-Vowel-Consonant (CVC) patterns are called closed syllables. For example, bas-ket is a CVC-CVC word with the short vowels ă and ě.

Syllable Rule #3: When the vowel is at the end of a syllable, it has a long sound. The Consonant-Vowel (CV) and Consonant-Consonant-Vowel (CCV) patterns are called open syllables. For example, be-low is a VC-VC word with the long vowels ā and ō.

Syllable Rule #4: Vowel digraphs are paired vowels that have only one vowel sound. Usually the first vowel indicates the sound of the vowel digraph. For example, in the word boat, the vowel digraph is “oa” and the sound is /ō/. Usually keep vowel digraphs in the same syllable.

Syllable Rule #5: Base words are roots that form complete words. A root is the meaning-based syllable that may or may not connect to prefixes or suffixes. Usually keep the original spelling of the base word when connecting to prefixes and suffixes. For example, kick in kicking.

Syllable Rule #6: Compound words consist of two or three base words (roots that form complete words). Usually keep the original spellings of the base words in compound words. The spelling rules do not change the spelling of the base words. For example, bridesmaid.

Syllable Rule #7: An incomplete root is the meaning-based syllable that connects to prefixes and/or suffixes. Unlike a base word, the incomplete root is not a complete word. Both ending vowels and consonants can change when connecting to other roots and suffixes. Sometimes a vowel or consonant is either added or dropped. For example, vis in visible.

Syllable Rule #8: Keep the silent final “e” and the vowel before in the same syllable. The silent final “e” makes the vowel before a long sound if there is only one consonant in between the vowel and the “e”. For example, basement.

Syllable Rule #9: Vowel diphthongs are paired vowels that have two vowel sounds. For example, “au” in sauces. Like vowel digraphs, they stay in the same syllable.

Syllable Rule #10: Prefixes are meaningful word parts attached to the beginnings of words. More than one prefix can begin a word. For example, mis and under in misunderstand.

Syllable Rule #11: Suffixes are word parts attached to the endings of words. They can add meaning to the word or indicate a part of speech. More than one suffix can end a word. For example, on and al in seasonal.

Syllable Rule #12: Consonant digraphs, such as sh, and consonant blends, such as str, stay in the same syllable. For example, shallow and straighten. The /sh/ consonant digraph frequently changes to another consonant sound between different grammatical forms of the same root. For example, /sh/ to /k/ in musician and magic.

Syllable Rule #13: Keep the r-controlled vowels (ar, er, ir, or, and ur) in the same syllable. For example, er-ror.

Syllable Rule #14: Divide syllables between doubled consonants, for example for-gét-ting, unless the doubled consonant is part of a syllable included in a base word, for example ful-fill-ment.

Syllable Rule #15: Some short vowel sounds change to the soft /uh/ schwa sound with a different grammatical form of the same word. For example, in cónduct and conductor the “o” changes from a short vowel to a schwa.

Syllable Rule #16: Some long vowel sounds change to the soft /uh/ schwa sound with a different grammatical form of the same word. For example, in repeat and repetition the “e” changes from a long vowel to a schwa.

Syllable Rule #17: Some long vowel sounds change to the short vowel sound with a different grammatical form of the same word. For example, in nation and national the “a” changes from a long vowel to a short vowel.

Syllable Rule #18: Some silent consonants are pronounced when connected to different grammatical forms of the same root. For example, numb and number.

Syllable Rule #19: Many Greek and Latin prefixes change their spellings to match the roots to which they attach in order to make pronunciation easier. For example, in and mobile becomes immobile. These “chameleons” can change either their consonant or vowel spellings. Check out How to Teach Greek and Latin Prefixes, Suffixes, and Roots.

Syllable Rule #20: Many Greek and Latin suffixes are morphemes, which means that the word part is meaningful. For example, viewable. Other suffixes serve as inflections, which means that the suffix helps change the part of speech, but does not add meaning to the word. For example, started.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading StrategiesDesigned to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use–a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instruction. The program provides multiple-choice diagnostic reading and spelling assessments (many with audio files), phonemic awareness activities, blending and syllabication activitiesphonics workshops with formative assessments, 102 spelling pattern worksheets, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 644 reading, spelling, and vocabulary game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books. These 54 decodable eBooks (includes print-ready and digital display versions) have been designed for older readers with teenage cartoon characters and plots. Each book introduces focus sight words and phonics sound-spellings aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Plus, each book has a 30-second word fluency to review previously learned sight words and sound-spelling patterns, five higher-level comprehension questions, and an easy-to-use running record. Your students will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books BUNDLE

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

Or why not get both programs as a discounted BUNDLE? Everything teachers need to teach an assessment-based reading intervention program for struggling readers is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, tiered response to intervention programs, ESL, ELL, ELD, and special education students. Simple directions, YouTube training videos, and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program.

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Context Clues Vocabulary Review Game

Frequent readers of my blog know that I value context clues instruction and practice to enable students to problem-solve the meanings of unknown words and to increase their vocabularies. Readers also understand my view that over-reliance on context clues for word attack (pronunciation) can hamstring developmental readers. This being said, by way of introduction, here is a great game that reinforces practice in applying the five main context clue strategies and while refining and reviewing vocabulary. Great review for upcoming vocabulary tests! Want more vocabulary review games? But wait; there’s still more?

S.A.L.E.S. Clues Pictionary®

Directions: Divide students into small groups (four or five works well) and have each group select an illustrator, who is assigned the first word to guess. Use the following words to teach the game; then add on your own vocabulary words thereafter. Announce the first SALES category to the class; then say “Draw!” to begin. Using picture clues that fit each SALES category, the illustrator quietly draws out clues until one of the group members guesses the word(s). The illustrator may not use hand motions, mouthing, or letters (except for the syllables category). The correct guesser becomes the new illustrator. The group that first correctly guesses all words within the category is the winner.

Hints: Group members should whisper to prevent other groups from hearing their guesses. Feel free to “give the answer” to a group that is stuck. Suggest that illustrators may wish to draw blanks before or after their word part clues in the syllables category, e.g. ___cycle for bicycle. Probably one category per day is plenty.

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics and include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out the YouTube introductory video of the Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) program.

The author also provides these curricular “slices” of the Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) “pie”: the five Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits Grades 4−8; the five Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4−8 programs (digital formats only); and the grades 4−high school Teaching Grammar and Mechanics.

Pictionary Word Parts

Syllables

  • re (again)
  • pre (before)
  • vis (to see)
  • struct (to build)
  • er (one who)

Antonyms

  • desert
  • dark (darkness)
  • comedy (comedian, comic)
  • baby
  • life

Logic

  • box
  • 429
  • language
  • pyramids
  • snow

Examples

  • Santa Claus
  • Disneyland (Disneyworld)
  • music
  • red
  • water

Synonyms

  • movie
  • painting
  • wood
  • pair
  • happy (happiness)


Here are FREE samples of vocabulary worksheets from this comprehensive program–ready to teach in your class today. Each resource includes directions, four grade-specific vocabulary worksheets, worksheet answers, vocabulary study cards, and a short unit test with answers.

Get the Grade 4 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 5 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 6 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 7 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 8 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Memorize Vocabulary

There is just no doubt about it. Society judges us by the words we use. Vocabulary is the key linguistic measure of intelligence on IQ tests. It is the most statistically significant correlation on the SAT 1 sentence completions and passage-based reading components. It identifies a well-educated man or woman perhaps more that any other characteristic.

Many people want to improve their vocabularies, but memorization and retention are the key roadblocks. Not everyone has a natural ability to memorize. However, memorization is a skill that can be learned and improved upon with commitment and practice.

Let’s begin by understanding how we learn vocabulary. We learn most of our first 10,000 survival words through oral language. Beyond this number, most words are learned through reading, by using surrounding context clues to figure out the meanings of unknown words. Readers who read challenging text with academic language and unfamiliar words learn much more vocabulary than readers who stick with the T.V. Guide and People magazines. Good readers have good vocabularies. It’s as simple as that.

We also learn vocabulary through the structural components of our words. Many teachers do a wonderful job of teaching the building bocks of our academic words. Memorizing the common Greek and Latin word parts significantly increases word recognition.

Finally, we do learn vocabulary by making a conscious effort to learn and retain the meanings of new words. Becoming a word sleuth works. However, detectives have to investigate; they can’t just wait for the evidence to show up on their doorsteps. Those who want to learn new vocabulary have to intentionally expose themselves to new words. How? Read more challenging text, improve your ability to use context clues, learn the common Greek and Latinates, and use resources to practice “word play,” such as crosswords.

Practical Tips to Memorize Vocabulary

1. People start forgetting immediately after learning, so make a conscious effort to practice new words when you are exposed to them. Don’t wait. Information that is practiced immediately is retained. After the first few hours, the “forgetting cycle” kicks in.
2. People remember events or information that is rehearsed frequently. Frequent recitation improves retention. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Practice. Practice. Practice. Then repeat. Short study periods and small amounts of information divided by periods of rest produces better retention than cramming. Periodic practice of new vocabulary will keep the words stored in the long term memory. Use the words in your everyday speech. Talk to yourself and you won’t sound pretentious.
3. People remember information best when that information is organized in a structured manner.
Key a simple vocabulary journal or use index cards to keep track of new words. Write down the word, the definition (in your own words), and a context clue sentence that shows the meaning of the word.
4. People remember information that has clear multi-sensory connections. Practice new words out loud and in writing. Make a conscious effort to visualize a connection between new words and their meanings through concrete images. For example, precocious means someone who is ahead of his or her time. Picture a toddler you know, dressing up in a tuxedo, saying “I am precocious.”
5. Use vivid imagery. Make the effort to associate a new word with something else that produces memorable imagery. For example, a stunning rainbow connected with the new word spectrum is much more memorable than a simple definition. Use brief illustrations in your vocabulary journal or on your index cards to reinforce the images.
6. Connect what we naturally remember to newly acquired vocabulary. People remember events and information that are made exciting, interesting, or even embarrassing. Connect the discovery of a piece of spinach between your teeth to a new word, such as mortifying.
7. People remember information best that is personalized. Place yourself front and center into your memory association to better retain word meanings.
8. Learn it right the first time. The better a word is originally learned, the better is the retention. Define new words with precision. If possible, write down antonyms and synonyms in your vocabulary journal or on your index cards.
9. Key words prompt recall of larger amounts of information. Learn the base words well and commonly added inflections will be simple to add to your memory bank. For example, the base word parse (to figure out or analyze), if learned well, leads to understanding a whole host of related words, such as parsing or parsimonious.
10. Practice your vocabulary by visualizing the word, looking up and left. Hemispheric brain research has led to some interesting correlations. Good memorizers tend to recall images by shifting their eyes up and left. Poor memorizers tend to recall images by shifting their eyes downward.
Here are FREE samples of vocabulary worksheets from this comprehensive program–ready to teach in your class today. Each resource includes directions, four grade-specific vocabulary worksheets, worksheet answers, vocabulary study cards, and a short unit test with answers.

Get the Grade 4 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 5 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 6 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 7 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 8 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics and include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out the YouTube introductory video of the Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) program.

Pennington Publishing's Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)
Grades 4-8 Programs

The author also provides these curricular “slices” of the Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) “pie”: the five Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits Grades 4−8; the five Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4−8 programs (digital formats only); and the non-grade-leveled Teaching Grammar and Mechanics with engaging grammar cartoons (available in print and digital formats).

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Teach Precise Vocabulary

Despite all of our educational focus these days on higher order critical thinking skills, such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation (Bloom, Costa, Depth of Knowledge, Any New Fads, etc.), the bulk of our teaching and learning at all levels of education remains at the lower levels of factual acquisition, comprehension, and application. Most educators would agree that our students do need this pool of knowledge to be able to accurately and efficiently inform our thinking and decision-making. This pool of knowledge consists of words. Knowing the precise meanings of these words is crucial to developing academic vocabulary to think, read, and write well. Words build upon words. These foundations hold up houses and skyscrapers.

Since independent reading remains the chief vehicle that we use to access words, educators would be wise to focus on this point of access. Learning precise vocabulary is, of course, one of the keys to reading. The point of this article is that it is the precision of vocabulary words are the lower level gatekeepers  that allow readers access to the higher level thinking, reading, and writing skills.

However, some may be thinking… How can we be sure of precision when even the dictionaries disagree? Merriam-Webster defines precision as “the degree of refinement with which an operation is performed or a measurement stated”. Oxford Dictionary defines precision as “The quality, condition, or fact of being exact and accurate“. 

Others may be thinking… Aren’t all words subject to individual interpretation? To some degree, yes. However, words do have a collective consciousness of meaning. They do connect to objective realities. In other words, words are not totally subjective. Words must be denotatively internalized and connotatively applied with a good deal of accuracy and skill to properly access information the way the author intends. Only when the reader understands the meaning of the author’s words can higher order thinking skills be then applied to the text.

Although that author-reader connection is a two-way street, the relationship should be weighted heavily on the side of the author. It is the author’s thoughts that we are trying to interpret, not ours per se. An author chooses words carefully because of their precise meanings and the connotations/feelings that the collective readers commonly will understand.

So, memorizing words with precise denotative and connotative definitions is important. Sloppy use of our language inhibits effective communication and leads to misunderstandings. So, what’s the bottom line here? What’s the application for teacher and learner? It is better to teach and learn fewer words with greater precision, than many words with less precision. Two vocabulary strategies assist in this effort: The Vocabulary Ladder and Semantic Spectrums.

The Vocabulary Ladder

Students draw a graphic representation of a ladder with five rungs. They take notes in between the rungs from each of the guiding prompts (in boldface). Begin with a clear, simple, and concise dictionary definition and work students up the ladder via class and teacher brainstorming and reference to appropriate text.

Example Vocabulary Word: democracy

Full Understanding

-It’s important because… it’s the foundation of our government.

-It’s different than… a republic because… a republic has a Constitution.

-It’s the same as… a republic because… both have citizens who are allowed to vote.

-Specific examples of it would be… direct democracy like a club, representative democracy like our Student Council.

-It’s an example of the following… ways decisions are made in governments and organizations.

-The definition is… rule by the people.

Basic Understanding

Semantic Spectrums

Students draw a number line with one end labeled Extreme and the other end labeled Opposite  Extreme. The object is to list words in their connotative order along the spectrum of meaning. Select two vocabulary words for this activity that students fully understand that are antonyms. For example, hot and cold. Have students brainstorm synonyms to each word at the ends of the spectrum and problem-solve via consensus as to where to list each new word by degree of meaning. Select one or two unknown vocabulary words that will fit along this spectrum and read a clear, simple, and concise dictionary definition of each. Assist the students’ decision-making as to where to place these new words. Have the students write down their definitions below the spectrum.

Example Vocabulary Words: even-tempered and vicious

<————————————————————————————————————————————->

Extreme kind-hearted/nice/warm/even-tempered/cool/mean/cruel/vicious/hateful Extreme
Here are FREE samples of vocabulary worksheets from this comprehensive program–ready to teach in your class today. Each resource includes directions, four grade-specific vocabulary worksheets, worksheet answers, vocabulary study cards, and a short unit test with answers.

Get the Grade 4 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 5 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 6 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 7 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

Get the Grade 8 Vocabulary Worksheets FREE Resource:

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics and include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out the YouTube introductory video of the Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) program.

Pennington Publishing's Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)
Grades 4-8 Programs

The author also provides these curricular “slices” of the Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) “pie”: the five Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits Grades 4−8; the five Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4−8 programs (digital formats only); and the non-grade-leveled Teaching Grammar and Mechanics with engaging grammar cartoons (available in print and digital formats).

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,