Ever since College Board President David Coleman announced that the redesigned SAT would replace its testing of more obscure words such as mendacious or treacly with the analysis of more frequent, multiple-meaning words in context, educators have been fretting about what this may mean for the study of vocabulary and for the precision of the next generation of American students' English in general.  Continue reading...
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In a previous column, "The Problem with Punctuation," I told you I'd report back my findings on teaching grammar and punctuation a little differently. Now I have some findings and thoughts I can share.  Continue reading...
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Jim Burke's The English Teacher's Companion includes a list of 358 academic vocabulary words culled from a survey of textbooks, assignments, standards, and examinations. Although the term academic vocabulary means different things to different educators, I like to think of Burke's use of the term as representing the vocabulary of directions.  Continue reading...
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Every day, teachers make a difference. In this time when teachers are seen as incompetent and lazy, and when we are being blamed for societal ills and failing students and schools, I wanted to provide some positive affirmation, something beyond that bumper sticker cliché of "If You Can Read This, Thank a Teacher." After all, teaching goes beyond the classroom, beyond our instruction, and beyond the love of words.  Continue reading...
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One hundred and fifty years ago today, Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the most famous American speeches: The Gettysburg Address, a speech that reportedly lasted less than two minutes and that he considered "a flat failure." Use this worksheet to help students use vocabulary and key lines from the address to discover Lincoln's lasting message to Americans.  Continue reading...
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In English language learning, most course books introduce verb tenses in a highly regimented fashion. As a result, many teachers who want to use short narratives for their elementary classes feel stymied because the linguistic devices from which stories are made don't follow the strict order prescribed by the course books. "It will confuse the students" is the most common cry to be heard. But this is wrong: it will not confuse the students at all.  Continue reading...
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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...
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