Word Trains

Bifocals Word Train bigger

Some of my favorite teaching ideas happen on the fly. My students completed the final lesson in our vocabulary book this week. The vocabulary book is based on Latin roots, common prefixes, and suffixes. Now that it is the end of the year and our “root bank” is full, students have been noticing words all over the place that are combinations of the roots and prefixes we studied all year (Yeah!– something stuck).

So, here is what happened. We studied the root “loc” this week, which is in the word “locomotion”. “Loc” means to move from place to place. A student recalled that we already knew the root “mot” meaning to move or to do. And then the game began.

Have you ever played 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon with movie actors? The Word Train game is the nerdy teacher variation of that game.

  1. You begin with a word that contains 2 known parts like DISORGANIZED (dis and organ).
  2. Connect it with another 2+ part word that shares a root, prefix, or suffix from the original word like ORGANIST (organ and ist).
  3. Add a third word that shares the newly added word part like ACTIVIST (ist and act).
  4. Keep going from there by adding REACT then RECAPTURE then CO-CAPTAIN then COOPERATE then OPERATOR.
  5. To really play like the Kevin Bacon game and test a student’s word knowledge, give them the first word and the last word in the word train and ask them to create the connection. For example, try to get from reheat to illiterate.
Capture Word Train

Click on the picture to view the sample

This was a great vocabulary review, and the students got supercompetitive (super is a prefix from our list, by the way). We have standardized testing coming up, and I am trying to practice reading comprehension and vocabulary skills. This activity forced the students to look at word parts and give definitions based on the parts. It is much more strategic than memorizing definitions.

How many words can you connect? My record is 9. I am sure I could go further if I pulled any word root, not just the ones from my 4th Grade Common Prefix, Root, and Suffix List. Can you beat me? My students did. To download the complete lesson plans for free, click here.

A Word Train

Click on the picture to view the sample

I apologize for the tiny pictures. I kept resizing, and I could not get them to appear larger in the post. If any web experts have advice, please share.

Ranking Words Vocabulary Activity

I have several pet projects in my fourth grade class and expanding vocabulary is one of them. To me, acquiring new words can be like a puzzle. If students learn some Greek and Latin roots and prefixes, they can begin to mix and match and gain access to a whole cluster of words rather than memorizing one definition. If students play with synonyms and antonyms, they can have a mental thesaurus, so they avoid “boring” words like said or nice.

ranking words shades of meaning vocabulary activity #vocabulary

I am trying a new activity where students rank or qualify words from mild to extreme.

How can students rank vocabulary words?

Word Clusters: I created lists of related words, printed them on cardstock, and cut the words into strips. Visit my TeachersPayTeachers store to download the free activity plans.

Word Envelopes: I used white coin envelopes and wrote the common theme or topic on the front. Some topic suggestions are light, heat, cold, hunger, anger, and happiness.

Sorting: My local Lowe’s unknowingly donated a class set of paint chips to me. Students worked in pairs to rank the words in the coin envelopes from mildest to most extreme. Once they finished ranking, they copied their words onto the paint chips in order. They started with the most mild word on the light end of the paint chip and ended with the most extreme word on the darkest portion of the paint chip. The paint chip allowed for six words. Some coin envelopes contained more than six words, so students were supposed to decide which words were less effective and eliminate the extras. WARNING: Some students simply eliminate the unfamiliar words, so they do not have to reach for a dictionary.

The paint chips will be displayed in the classroom, so students can use these while writing.  Parents, if you are working with your child on a writing assignment at home and notice overused words, create a word rank chart. This is particularly helpful with said. Create a list of variations for said and rank them– whispered, murmured, squeaked, announced, screeched, screamed… Try it with very too!

Extensions: This activity can be used to build analogies. You can also skip the step where you provide the main topic on the front of the envelope and ask students to create a heading for the words in the envelope. All of these activities require critical thinking on the part of the child.

ranking words ring