We have all seen this tired loop of "instruction": distribute word list, have students look up words, ask students to use the words in original sentences. While encouraging usage is never a bad idea, it's not realistic to expect students to pivot from definition to usage without guidance. We suggest ditching (or at least delaying) the idea of originality and instead asking students to model their sentences on usage examples written by those people who are especially skilled with using words: professional writers. Continue reading...
One of the most persistent myths about word acquisition is that students don't need to be taught words; they just need to read more and their vocabularies will magically expand. This theory — which I like to call "learning words by osmosis" — doesn't hold much promise for your average or struggling reader. While it may hold true for a select group of students who are strong, avid readers possessing a curiosity about words, most students don't learn words by simply encountering them in reading. Continue reading...
The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which appears this weekend in all its thrilling spy story glory, might leave the non-nindoctrinated among us wondering: What does U.N.C.L.E. stand for? And why did the show's creators select that particular word? Continue reading...
When English-language Scrabble champ Nigel Richards, who does not speak French, won a French-language Scrabble championship, analysts rushed to analyze how much memorization that actually entailed. Ben Zimmer explains that to get a full understanding of Richards' achievement, a simple counting of words in the dictionary only gives a partial picture. Continue reading...
Topics: Fun Language
Happy Fourth! It's time for fireworks, picnics, swimming excursions, ice cream cones...and word learning! Continue reading...
Topics: Words Fun
It's time once again for the nationally televised semifinals and finals of The Scripps National Spelling Bee! As in past years, our own Ben Zimmer will be live-tweeting the competition from the @VocabularyCom Twitter account and reporting on the results here in his Word Routes column. Continue reading...
Following the enormously successful release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Slate's words correspondent Katy Waldman raised a question, "Why are they called the Avengers? What are they avenging?" This put us in mind of lexicographer Neal Whitman's observation a few years back that, at least in movies, "Avenging and vengeance are for good guys, while revenge is for the bad guys." Continue reading...
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