Blog Excerpts

Celebrating Labor (and Labour) Day

On the first Monday in September, the United States observes Labor Day, while Canadians celebrate Labour Day. If you want to know why labour is the accepted spelling in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries like Canada, while Americans prefer labor (and color, favor, honor, humor, and neighbor), check out this classic Word Routes column by Ben Zimmer.
Topics: Words
Last school year, we noted an interesting trend among the most successful schools playing in our annual Vocabulary Bowl: they were operating in an environment of district-wide play. Continue reading...
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...
With the school year starting up, it's the best time to map out how best to make vocabulary mastery an integral part of your curriculum. 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...
For the Slate podcast Lexicon Valley, I delve into the many stories surrounding the origins of the word gringo, an epithet used by Latin Americans for foreign speakers, typically American Anglophones. Though a great deal of vivid folklore surrounds the word, its actual etymology is just as interesting. Continue reading...
When middle school literature teacher Kathy Zimbaldi first pitched the idea of Vocabulary.com to her principal at St. Vincent de Paul School in Houston, TX, she was pretty sure the tool would bring meaningful word learning to the literature curriculum. What she didn't realize? It would also help her hack Summer Reading...and land her students a David-beats-Goliath feel good monthly leaderboard win. Continue reading...
Teachers: One of the best ways to motivate your students on Vocabulary.com is to show them evidence of their own success. But how do you define "success"? Set a goal. Here, we share eight strategies we've observed from real teachers using Vocabulary.com in their classrooms. The strategies can be used in schools and classrooms large and small, and range from goals for individual learners to leaderboards that put word learning in a national, and highly competitive, context. Continue reading...