Every year my department revamps the curriculum to teach the material more effectively and to improve student achievement. This year we’re taking a particularly close look at the vocabulary words we use in the honors courses. A few different means of choosing words, all backed by research, are available to us.
1. We could simply pluck words directly from the literature we read. This way the students see the words in context, and we don’t have to work real hard finding words. In the past this has been the primary way we have selected the words we use.
2. We could choose words often used on the SAT to guide the students towards success on the test. Of course, these words are useful beyond the test, but using them would definitely be an easy motivator for most of the kids. Also, numerous books are already available to help us deliver the material.
3. Using words with common roots, prefixes, or suffixes can help students retain the information and can help them see how words relate and change. This could also include learning specific Latin and Greek roots commonly used in English.
4. We could also just choose high frequency words. By using words the students would commonly see in literature, writing prompts, and other documents, the students would also be better prepared for upcoming classes, work, and daily life.
If we change, I’m leaning towards options 2 or 3 since option 1 is what we currently do, but I think I’ll know more once the entire English Department has sat down and discussed this issue.