"Like many English teachers," Tom Carnicelli says, "I've felt my students would read, write, and even think better if they knew more about words." The solution he offers couldn't be simpler: integrated activities in which students explore words and, at the same time, develop their language arts and thinking skills. This way teachers can pay more attention to word study - without sacrificing other parts of the English curriculum and without resorting to word lists and memorization.
In "Verbal Charades," for example, students play a verbal version of charades, using all the language arts in the process; while "Verbal Clusters" is a weeklong set of writing and reading tasks designed to foster in-depth understanding of a group of related words. A third activity adds writing and thinking tasks to the traditional root and prefix method of learning words.
To help teachers use the activities, the second section of Carnicelli's book - a brief, nontechnical history of the English vocabulary - discusses the differences between native words and borrowed (loan) words.
The third section, on writing style, offers activities in which students analyze the kinds of words used by often-studied writers such as Frost, Hemingway, and Thoreau. Students also explore writing in different styles themselves, as they learn the special advantages of a balanced style, combining the best features of native and borrowed English words.
The final section, "Word Study and Cultural Values," aims to give students greater awareness of the cultural values embodied in the words they encounter - in sports, clothing, food, relationships, government, education, and more. Also, in an activity based on "Bartlett's Familiar Quotations," they explore, in depth, certain key cultural concepts such as courage, patriotism, and nonviolence.
"Words Work" couldn't be more effective or easier to use. All the activities have been tested in middle and high school classrooms, and there are twenty-one figures that can be duplicated as hand-outs, along with additional teaching suggestions. Included, too, are actual samples of student work.