Dynamic Literacy’s “WordBuild: Elements, Level 1 Set” ~ A TOS Review

Through the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we recently received Dynamic Literacy‘s excellent vocabulary development curriculum, WordBuild: Elements, Level 1 Set (Includes WordBuild the Game) to  use and review.  The WordBuild: Elements, Level 1 Set includes the Student Activity Book, a Teacher Edition, and a CD of WordBuild the Game for computers.

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I am always interested to check out curricula which teach vocabulary  based on word roots, suffixes and prefixes and their meanings.  One of the college classes which had the most powerful and enduring effect on me was an upper-level class I took on Greek and Latin vocabulary.  In this class, I learned that I could decode the  meanings of words simply if I knew the meanings of their roots plus any suffixes or prefixes added to them.  I had always been a book nerd and had a decent vocabulary, but this class transformed the way I looked at words…and used them!

Because of this amazing experience, I’ve always wanted to teach my son the secrets of word decoding that I’d found so useful.  I believe that this is a skill that’s not only vital for SAT and other standardized tests and college prep, but for lifelong enjoyment and learning about words.  It can truly be a mark of an educated person.  So, introducing Jackson (who’s 13) to this world of discovery via Dynamic Literacy‘s WordBuild: Elements Level 1 was a fantastic experience.  And, one that will have a lifelong effect on him!

WordBuild: Elements Level 1, suited for students in grades 6-10, teaches 25 word roots from the English language in 28 lessons.  (Basically, that will give you a full year’s course.)  Each of these words is derived from either Latin or Greek, and comes in the forms of roots, suffixes and prefixes–the “key elements.”  These “key elements” are known as “morphemes,” which are simply the core parts of words.  The curriculum itself teaches these via games and exercises, rather than just rote memorization, so students enjoyably learn each morpheme by working on a lesson for about 15 minutes each day.

Teacher Edition, Elements Level 1

Teacher Edition, Elements Level 1

WordBuild: Elements Level 1 Teacher Edition

The Teacher Edition has everything you need to effectively teach this vocabulary course.  First, it gives an overview of how WordBuild works.  It outlines a lesson plan for each morpheme.  The book begins with some advance preparation for the first three roots (-form, -pon, and -vers).  These chapters cover the prefixes and suffixes which will be combined throughout the course with the word roots, and reminds (or teaches) students their meanings.  This helps students to understanding what meanings will result when they create words using these morphemes.  Then, lesson plans for the remaining 22 word roots follow.

Example of a lesson plan

Example of a lesson plan

Each lesson plan is so complete that, once you’ve taught the course for a few weeks, it will be very natural to just pick up the book and teach!  Each chapter contains a word root, along with 5 lessons to teach and reinforce it.  There is a list of materials needed (generally the Student Activity Book and a print or online dictionary).  We also utilized our own whiteboard for making lists of words.

Each day, the student plays a game which teaches him (very painlessly) about the word root, its meaning or definition, and how it can be combined with suffixes and prefixes to form brand-new words.  There is also a link to the Dynamic Literacy website listed, where teachers can find simpler or more challenging exercises for students as needed.

Student Activity Book

Student Activity Book

WordBuild: Elements Level 1 Student Activity Book

The Student Activity Book is what your child will be working in every day.  It contains 5 pages for each week/word root, with the following games and exercises:

  • Root Squares (where students combine a root with many prefixes and suffixes to form as many new words as possible)

    Jackson working on a Root Squares page

    Jackson working on a Root Squares page

  • Magic Squares (which introduces definitions for roots + suffixes/prefixes in a matching and numbers game)
  • Stair Steps (where students fill in prefixes or suffixes to form the missing words)
  • Comprehension Booster (students use clues to fill the right word into a sentence)
  • My Word Wall (lists of words learned, their synonyms and antonyms are recorded)

Following the instructions in the Teacher Edition, the student works on one of these one-page lessons each day.  The first four games build up to the last lesson of the week, My Word Wall.  By this time, the student has built a large new list of vocabulary words.  Best of all, he’s learned how to put morphemes together to create new words with new meanings!

WordBuild the Game

WordBuild the Game

WordBuild the Game

WordBuild the Game, which requires either a Windows 98 or a Mac OS X operating system, helps kids to take all that they’re learning in Elements 1 to learn to form new words in a competitive game.  Background music can be turned on or off (classical, funk, rock, jazz and more).  Students can play with a timer or not.

To play, students select one root from a list of more than 200.  Then, they select prefixes and suffixes from columns on the left and right of the game board to form new words.  Once they’ve composed a word, they click on “Check It!” to see if they’ve made a real word or not.  There is a button which allows students to print a list of the words they’ve composed, each time they play.  There’s also a “Help” button which plays a game instruction video.

How we used it:

Basically, we followed the course’s lesson plan as without any changes. It’s laid out so easily for the teacher; all I had to do was to follow the lesson plan as it was written, make sure a dictionary (we used the online dictionary.com) was available, and work with Jackson on each lesson.  He used WordBuild the Game on his own.  I let him pick the words he wanted to work on each day in the computer game, although I did figure out (sort of late in the game) that it was a better learning activity for him if he did the words in the game that we were doing in the physical lessons!

WordBuild the Game, for the word root "vent"

WordBuild the Game, for the word root “vent”

I introduced each word root, prefix and suffix to him (as the lesson plan indicated).  Then, we’d work together on the exercises in his book each day.  At the beginning of the course, I did more with him, but the further we progressed, the more he understood the exercises’ outlines and purposes, and the more he could do on his own.  In each chapter, there were “Word Fun Facts” to share; “Word Alerts” that showed similar words that weren’t from the same root; and learning extensions and “Mini-Lessons” which not only gave deeper understanding but helped keep things fun.  There are also mini-quizzes (the “Check-Up”) to test kids on their understanding of the work completed.

It’s important to do the lessons in order, especially the first six ones, which introduce both the teacher and the student to the prefixes and suffixes used with each word root in the course.  These lay the foundation, really, for the entire course, and equip the student to complete each lesson with understanding, and to build each lesson on the last ones (and last words) completed.

Our Conclusions:

I’m very impressed with WordBuild: Elements Level 1!  The Teacher Edition fully and easily equipped me to teach this vocabulary course.  Of course, I did have a good background on Latin and Greek word roots; but even if I hadn’t, I believe it still would have been very simple to teach this course.  The lessons are clear and enjoyable, and the exercises in the Student Activity Book build well on each other.  And WordBuild the Game was neat for several reasons.  First, it was fun for Jackson to play.  Second, it showed him easily how very many words can be made using these Latin and Greek roots!  Third, it was a great tool to use each day because it was one more exercise which enabled him to learn and know these morphemes.

I think that this course would be a huge asset for any homeschooling family who’s looking for a way to teach vocabulary and word roots in an effective and enjoyable manner!you can

WordBuild: Elements, Level 1 Set (Includes WordBuild the Game)  can be purchased from Dynamic Literacy  for $99.

And a special bonus for our readers:

Dynamic Literacy is pleased to offer you a discount!  If you use the code wren to purchase at http://www.dynamichomeschool.com, you can receive 25% off the books.  Or, you can use wren at http://www.wordbuildonline.com to receive 10% off.

You can also visit Dynamic Literacy at their social media outlets:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dynamic-Literacy/77106927761?ref=hl
Twitter: https://twitter.com/dynamicliteracy
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/dynamicliteracy/


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Enjoy! –Wren


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