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This month's crossword has a new wrinkle: solve the mystery clue and you might win a prize!  Continue reading...
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In this lesson, students identify the algorithm behind Fibonacci's sequence of numbers and then read a New York Times article about how blogger Gregory K. Pincus invented a poetry form based on this number sequence. Students then synthesize their knowledge of the Fibonacci sequence and the VT to create their own "Word Fib" poems that explore the multiple connotations of some challenging one-syllable vocabulary words.  Continue reading...
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The annual Scripps National Spelling Bee kicks off today, and every year there seems to be more and more public attention paid to this preeminent spectacle of word-nerdery. As in the past two years, tomorrow's semifinal and final rounds are being broadcast live on national television (semifinals on ESPN from 11 am to 2 pm, finals on ABC from 8 to 10 pm). It's always exciting to see middle-schoolers battle it out for the spelling crown, in a competition rife with dramatic "thrill of victory" and "agony of defeat" moments (most memorably depicted in the suspenseful documentary Spellbound). Adults can only marvel at the preternatural abilities of the young finalists to spell super-obscure words that most of us have seldom — if ever — come across. Where do they get those words, anyway?  Continue reading...
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Blog Excerpts

"Simpsons" Linguistics

Heidi Harley is a linguist and lover of "The Simpsons." For four years she's collected linguistically oriented "Simpsons" jokes (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008). A perfectly cromulent undertaking.
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On a test given on The Crucible during my first year of teaching high school English, I asked my juniors to name the time period of the play. Now, I'm sure I mentioned this several times while we read it, and — call me crazy — but I'm also fairly certain Miller specified that his play is set in the 1600's, what with his bonnets and "Goodys" and the fact that the Salem Witch Hunt took place in that century. I assumed that this was enough information to answer the question correctly.

O, foolish young teacher! Among the responses I received: "The Civil War," "American times," "Long ago," "the Colonial Era," and, my favorite, "the Early Twentieth Century."  Continue reading...
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VT Tip o' the Week

Word Suggestions Panel

If you make a spelling mistake when searching for a word and the word you typed in was not found in the dictionary, the "Word Suggestions" panel will open automatically. Words that are spelled like or sound like the word you typed in will be listed. You can also open the Word Suggestions panel whenever you want, even if the word in the search box is spelled correctly. This is an easy way to see other words that are spelled similarly, or that sound like the word in the search box.
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