I love words. I didn’t exactly enjoy my vocabulary lessons as a kid, but I appreciate them now. In order to communicate or write well, a good vocabulary is essential. It is difficult to express your thoughts and ideas clearly if your vocabulary is limited.
WordBuild: Foundations, Level 1 by Dynamic Literacy is a vocabulary program that uses roots, prefixes, and suffixes, instead of rote memorization, to teach students the meanings of words. WordBuild believes that students remember more of what they learn when they understand the different parts that make up a word. These parts are called morphemes, the smallest part of a word that means something.
Foundations Level 1
WordBuild: Foundations Level 1, for grades 3-5, comes with a Student Activity Book, the Teacher’s Edition, and a Basics Student Activity Book.
The Student Activity Book is meant to be used for just 15 minutes a day for five days a week. Each week the student studies a different prefix or suffix. Every day the workbook activities vary.
For example, in the first week, my son studied the prefix “over”.
Day 1: On day one, my son was presented with a prefix square, in which he created new words from different roots and the prefix “over”.
Day 2: Day two focused on discovering meanings of new words. My son was given a root word like “fill”, “dress”, or “done” and asked to add the prefix “over” to that root to create a new word. He had to write up what he thought the new word might mean and use that word in a sentence.
Day 3: Day three was my son’s favorite activity, the magic square. He got to match words to their definitions using a magic square box. In the magic square box, if you get all the answers right, all the numbers going down and across should add up to the same number.
Day 4: On day four, my son worked on a search-a-word puzzle. I learned that he’s not a fan of search-a-words and I wasn’t sure how educational this page was myself.
Day 5: Day five’s activity lets the student use the new words in a sentence by completing fill-in-the-blanks. Using words at the bottom of the page, he filled in the blanks in the sentences.
The Basics Student Activity Book comes in color and uses pictures to help students create new words. It’s a small book containing just 20 pages. This book introduces the student to compound words. It seemed too easy for my son, so we jumped right into the Student Activity Book.
The Teacher’s Edition contains all the answer keys to the student’s activities as well as assessments after every six lessons, teaching and discussion suggestions, and access to online resources.
Usage and Thoughts
The program encourages spending only 15 minutes per lesson, five days a week. The lessons took us a little longer so we usually went over the 15 minutes so that we could finish that day’s lesson. The lessons are light and easy to “open and go”. My son could take his workbook with him in the car, which he did on several occasions. He could also work on it independently, which certainly appealed to me. Although we haven’t reached the first assessment just yet, I have noticed my son using some of the words he has learned in his vocabulary, such as, “When I was trying to make lunch, my sister was really underfoot.” Ha!
I have to admit that I had a hard time adjusting to this program. The student studies the same prefix/suffix for a week but different roots each day. So, the words studied on Day 1 aren’t the same words studied on Day 2 or Day 3, etc. I didn’t really like the inconsistency. As we continued, though, I realized that the program wasn’t really looking for mastery of all the words. Instead they wanted the student to be able to discover the meaning of a word on his own, based on his knowledge of the meaning of a prefix or suffix. I both liked and disliked this idea…
I think it is important for children to be able to decipher the meaning of a word based on their knowledge of prefixes and suffixes. However, you can’t always determine a word’s correct meaning that way. For example, when my son was putting together the prefix “under” (meaning below or not enough) and the root word “brush”, he certainly did not come up with the definition of “small trees or bushes”. Instead of having the student guess at a word’s meaning I would’ve liked for the student to be asked to look up the actual definition in a dictionary.
After guessing at a word’s meaning, the student then has to use the new word in a sentence. This was a major challenge for my son, and I had to give him a lot of help in this area. In general, using new words in a sentence is not easy, especially when the definition the student came up with is shaky, at best.
I have mixed feelings about the Foundations program. The system has been successful in many different school districts where students were tested. I think it has also been helpful for us, and it may be very well suited for other homeschool families. However, it seems to have some flaws, and I’m not sure that it is the best vocabulary program for us to be using. We are going to continue trying it for a little while longer so I can assess what my son has learned. But after that, we will probably move on.