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The weakness of a lot of vocabulary programs is the tendency to introduce words without providing proper context. Wordly Wise attempts to meet this need by guiding students through a variety of exercises requiring them to identify the definition of and properly use each word in sentences. The downside is that word lists aren't organized according to type or phonics rules, but this is fairly compensated by the thoroughness with which every word is treated.
How Do These Work?
Books A, B and C are intended for grades 2-4. There are 10 word lists per book with 8-10 words per list. On the first page of each lesson the words appear with their definitions, followed by four exercises:a true/false section, copywork, definition identification, and a crossword puzzle. All these exercises are definition-oriented, forcing students to understand the context in which words are used, not just the words themselves. The staplebound answer keys simply contain answers to all exercises.
For grades 4-12, Books 1-9 provide 30 weekly lessons with lists of 12-18 words. Three sets of exercises follow each list, with a crossword puzzle every third lesson. The exercises focus on definitions and contextual usage, as well as distinguishing similar-sounding words. At the end of each set of exercises is a brief etymology and extra information concerning select words from the list. Difficulty increases with each level so students are constantly confronted with more challenging material.
The teacher's keys provide answers to all exercises on reduced student pages. There isn't any other teacher support, so if you want to elaborate on what students are learning from the consumable worktext you'll have to do your own research. Also, in Books 1-3 definitions for each word are found in a glossary at the back of the book, while Books 4-9 require students to look up definitions on their own in a dictionary. While some students (and parents, for that matter) find this frustrating, it's a great way to encourage a lifelong habit of vocabulary expansion and improvement.
These aren't flashy books—no colorful illustrations or fun characters offering tidbits in the sidebar....which makes them excellent for teaching vocabulary. Students are expected to learn the words through good old-fashioned memorization and drill, and because each exercise requires them to know the words in question, retention is optimized. As mentioned above, the downside is that lists seem a bit haphazard:because this isn't a phonics-based program there really isn't a way to organize lists. And since most vocabulary programs share this characteristic, the fact that the amount and quality of review far surpasses that of most programs makes this one highly recommended.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.
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