Every child needs regular opportunities to face appropriate challenge, push him- or herself, and
know the joy of active learning. But, age does not necessarily determine learning needs. Students with exceptional background knowledge, processing speed, and motivation in language arts may need a spelling and vocabulary program beyond the regular classroom activities for their grade. Such students benefit from a program that is not only advanced, but that also engages their taste for critical thinking, logic, and puzzles.
For such students, a good alternative spelling/vocabulary program is Wordly Wise 3000, a vocabulary instruction series for K-12 students. Wordly Wise engages a higher level of reasoning and logical analysis than vocabulary workbooks typically do. For instance, instead of asking students simply to supply a synonym or antonym for a vocabulary word, students may be given a set of four words and asked to decide which of them have a relationship with each other and what that relationship is. Here are other examples of Wordly Wise exercises:
● Given sentences using vocabulary words, students are asked to decide whether a word is used appropriately. If they think it is, they write “C” for correct. If they think it is not, they rewrite the sentence so that the word is used correctly. This adds a layer of agency by putting the editorial power to “approve” or “correct” in the student’s hands.
● In another typical exercise, students are given a vocabulary word and three different contexts and asked to discern in which context(s) the word fits. Because the word might fit in one, two, or all of the contexts, the question engages more active thinking and agency on the students’ part than a typical question that asks them to “choose the right one.”
● In “Word Study” exercises, students are given several pairs of words and asked to identify analogies. These analogies may involve a greater or lesser degree of the same condition, a relationship of part to whole, or the relationship between one part of speech and another. Again, logical thinking exercises are more likely to engage gifted learners.
Unlike some spelling programs, Wordly Wise does not use arcane, esoteric words to challenge advanced students, but rather it teaches them useful words–words that have utility across various fields of study. At my school, a pilot of Wordly Wise for two gifted second grade students proved successful in that the students were highly engaged and delighted to learn words that they subsequently encountered in their environment, like “loquacious” and “lofty.” The students’ classroom teacher said she was “amazed” that they could perform at such a high level, and their parents were very pleased with the program and requested that the students continue it the following year. These second grade students found appropriate challenge in the sixth-grade
workbook (Book 6).
The structure: Each Wordly Wise lesson opens with a list of vocabulary words, definitions, and several examples of their use in context, and then it provides five exercises in which the words can be applied. The exercises move sequentially, with each exercise requiring more precise knowledge and more subtle and sophisticated levels of discernment. Each lesson culminates in a reading passage that uses the vocabulary words in a well-integrated manner so that the words seem organic to the text. This allows students to delight in recognizing the now-familiar words and feel ownership in them as part of their own vocabulary repertoire.
Students typically start a new lesson on Mondays, work through the exercises during the week, and have tests on Fridays. At the end of five units, the book provides review exercises in the
form of puzzles.
Wordly Wise also includes a free online component that provides supporting reinforcement activities to expand and enhance the lessons in the Wordly Wise 3000 Student Books.
Lexile levels for Wordly Wise workbooks are as follows:
Wordly Wise books are available for purchase from the publisher or from Amazon.com. Prices for Student Books currently vary from $7.80 to $11.70, depending on quantities ordered. Prices for the Teacher’s Resource Guides vary from $21 to $35 on Amazon.com to $50 from the publisher.
So, for those young lexophiles in your care, check out Wordly Wise 3000! It may be just the thing for them.
(1) Book 9 Teacher’s Resource Guide, p. vii.