Sunday, June 14, 2015

Dynamic Literacy {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

One of the best ways for students to build a larger vocabulary is to study word parts. Lauren's not quite ready to study Greek and Latin word roots, but we can start talking about how various prefixes and suffixes can change the meaning of a particular root word.

Dynamic Literacy has developed a vocabulary program based on the idea of building words from morphemes (the smallest part of a word that means something). Their goal is to get students to figure out what bigger words mean by looking at the smaller parts and putting those parts together like a puzzle. WordBuild Foundations: Level 1 introduces 30 different prefixes or suffixes.

WordBuild Foundations begins with a 20 page Foundations Level 1 Basics activity book to introduce the idea that many words are made up of pieces of meaning. It starts with the idea of combining two words to make a new compound word, such as birdhouse, football, headlamp, etc. The second half shows how a single base word such as pain can be changed to form words such as paintbrush, painter, painting, repaint, painted, etc. This entire workbook can be skipped by older students who find it too easy.

After finishing the Basics workbook, students are ready to move on to the main part of the WordBuild program. The Foundations Level 1 Student Activity Book is 184 pages long and contains 30 weeks worth of materials and six assessment tests. Each week introduces a new prefix or suffix and then has five practice activities to help the student see how that word part changes the meaning of different base words. Each day's activity should take approximately 15 minutes to complete.

Each week's assignments follow a specific pattern. The first assignment is to form eight words that contain that week's prefix/suffix. The student writes the word and the definition. On the second day, the student forms new words, tells what the word means, and then writes a sentence that illustrates the word meaning. Days three and four are a bit easier -- a matching activity and a word search. The final day of each lesson is a fill-in the blank activity that could easily serve as a quiz to determine if the students have learned the new words introduced that week.

Lauren struggled with defining the new vocabulary words, so the first two assignments of the week required a lot of my help. The idea of composing a sentence that not only includes the new word but also illustrates the definition was similarly very difficult for her. We worked together to compose several sentences (and then I wrote them down), but it took much longer than fifteen minutes. Although we could continue to work together on the activities in this program, I think it would be a better fit for her in a few years. Lauren just isn't ready from a language development standpoint to analyze vocabulary words the way this program suggests. It would have taken much more than fifteen minutes per day to finish any of the workbook assignments.

I should note that the authors of WordBuild Foundations recommend stopping each lesson after fifteen minutes, regardless of how much or how little of the workbook page the student has completed. The goal is to make sure the student gets the concept of working the puzzle to figure out new words and to learn the new prefix/suffix, not necessarily to learn all of the new words that are formed in the lesson materials.

Sometimes I review a product that's perfect right out of the box, and sometimes the product just doesn't work right now. This vocabulary program may be perfect for Lauren in a few years, after she has a bit more practice with abstract thinking. Dynamic Literacy recommends WordBuild Foundations: Level 1 for grades 3-5, but thinking skills develop at different rates and ages.

WordBuild Foundations: Level 1 is available as a complete set including the Teacher Edition, Basics Student Activity Book, and Student Activity Book for $82.99. Extra Student Activity Books can be purchased separately to use with other children.

Dynamic Literacy Review

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