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High School — Reading
Acquisition of Vocabulary


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    Acquisition of Vocabulary


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      Activities: Help with Fundamentals

      These activities can help you address the fundamentals of Acquisition of Vocabulary with your students:

      Dictionary Scavenger Hunt

      Students often view the dictionary as simply a book for defining words. They do not realize how much other information it contains. This activity gives students an understanding of the dictionary's versatility.

      Using the list below as inspiration, generate a list of specific words you want students to "hunt" for using the dictionary. Then, working independently or in pairs, ask students to complete the scavenger hunt tasks. This is a great way to introduce vocabulary for a new unit or novel. Have students:

      • Determine the root of a word;
      • Define a word by defining its prefix, suffix and root;
      • Indicate whether the root is Latin, Greek or Anglo-Saxon;
      • Find the most common definition of a word;
      • Find an uncommon definition of a word;
      • Determine a word's part of speech;
      • Indicate a word's antonym;
      • List three synonyms for a word;
      • Create a sentence that defines the word in context (sentences such as "The definition of this word is…" are not allowed);
      • Create an antonym of the word by adding or changing the prefix or suffix;
      • List all of the words that contain the same root (e.g., biological, biography, biologist, biorhythm, autobiography, etc.);
      • Define a word's homophones;
      • Determine how changing a word's prefix or suffix will change its meaning;
      • Find the definition of prefixes and suffixes;
      • List the idiomatic phrases in which a specific word appears.
      Create-a-Word Game

      This activity encourages students to use their knowledge of prefixes, suffixes and roots to define new words. Working in teams of two, have students create three decks of cards, using three different color index cards. Ask them to write a prefix on each card in the first deck and then write PREFIX on the back. On each card in the second deck, students should write a common Latin, Greek or Anglo-Saxon root word and then write ROOT on the back. On the last deck, have students write a suffix on each card and then write SUFFIX on the back.

      Armed with their cards and a dictionary, each two-person team should find another team to challenge. Shuffle all of the prefix cards, all of the root cards, and all of the suffix cards, and lay each deck face down. Team number one selects a prefix card, root card and suffix card and turns them face up on the table. They read the word they created, and determine its meaning by defining the prefix, root and suffix. They then decide if it is a nonsense word or a real word. For example, if the team turns over pre-, gam- and -y, they would define the word as "occurring before marriage" and determine that it is a nonsense word.

      Team number two uses the dictionary to determine whether team one is correct. Each correct response earns one point. Team number two can challenge the definition and/or the finding of the word's authenticity by saying "CHALLENGE" and stating what it is challenging. If challenged, team one uses the dictionary to check its definition and/or whether the word is in the dictionary. If the challenge is correct, team one gives two points to team two. If the challenge is incorrect, team two forfeits two points to team one. Then the two teams switch roles. Whichever team has the most points at the end of ten rounds wins.

      Figurative Characterization

      Comprehending figurative language while reading literature can be overwhelming. This activity enables students to practice using figurative language both as a whole class and independently.

      As a class, pick a main character from a novel that the entire class has read. Ask students to develop similes and metaphors for the character. Then have the class decide on a symbol that best represents the character. The symbols should be consistent with the time period and tone of the book. For example, despite her "matchmaker" status, it would be inappropriate to select a cellular phone as a symbol for the main character of Jane Austen's Emma. Finally, for an extra challenge, ask the class to decide on a mythological allusion they could make if they were writing about the character. For example, a reference to Cupid would be a fitting allusion for Emma.

      Working independently, students should select a character from a novel they are currently reading and create similes, metaphors, symbols and allusions for these characters. If the character is from a novel covered in class, ask students to share their ideas in groups. Ask students to present their ideas.

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