My parents, (Generation X) spent hours and hours in primary school learning grammar. They learned all about subject-noun agreement, prepositional phrases, sentence structure, etc. That knowledge prepared them for college and the working world. Then, in the years between their schooling and mine, computers with spelling and grammar checking programs became mainstream. Likely due to those inventions and other factors, the teaching of grammar began to take a back seat to other instruction in many schools around the country. I attended one of these schools, despite growing up in a town many parents moved to for the wonderful schools! I was a good student and I got into a great college. However, I never really learned grammar rules and that has always haunted me. What is more concerning, is that I am confident I am not a strange anomaly in my generation. Many millennials have the same grammar gaps that I have because many schools abandoned traditional grammar instruction.
Yet, technology, the very thing that may have caused this problem, can provide an answer. Word Voyage has created a platform for learning grammar through a grade-by-grade skills map, engaging videos, formative feedback from teachers, and most of all, lots and lots of practice! The students make impressive progress with their skills, and the program is very efficient for teachers to manage. It’s an effective balance.
Grammar has not been taking center stage of late, but it is still important for success on both standardized tests and in many professional fields. It is a huge part of what makes writing present as educated and convincing. I wish I had benefited from Word Voyage as a child, and I hope many students will have the opportunity to do so going forward. If you are a parent or educator, please don’t hesitate to reach out and learn more!
When I was in Middle School I learned vocabulary by practicing with flashcards. It felt like a boring but necessary part of my education. Some years I also had workbooks, which offered a slightly cooler angle on the same thing: rote memorization. It was just accepted that vocabulary instruction was one of those things you had to trudge through to improve reading comprehension, standardized test scores, and the ability to speak like a well educated adult.
Computers have changed all this. Now students can learn new words through games and interactive exercises. We have raised the fun factor, but have we improved the learning? As always, it depends.
It takes time to evaluate the efficacy of new technologies, but research can shed light on what they should do, so that we can measure this against what they actually do. For example, studies show the benefits of students focusing on vocabulary from their current readings, as opposed to randomly selected words. Other studies show how learning word roots and root families can move students from memorization to process-based learning, the acquisition of strategies to apply to any unfamiliar word. Our goal at Word Voyage is first to deploy the methods proven to be most effective, and second to create a highly engaging learning platform. We balance both, cognizant that there are some things that just must be in the mix, like required practice and repetition.
Technology can and does help make learning vocabulary more fun, but it can do more than that. It can deliver the most effective techniques with great convenience and efficiency, and give teachers the ability to view each student’s efforts so they can provide the best possible assistance. Today, there are not only alternatives to flashcards that are more fun, but those alternatives also deploy educational techniques more powerful than rote memorization. At Word Voyage we believe learning vocabulary should both be fun and as effective as possible.
Family Reunion is the first Word Voyage educational game! Its purpose is to reinforce the meanings of root words and root families in any given Word Voyage lesson. The task in the game is to match each word from the student’s current lesson with the definition of a short word root. This task, which sounds rather mundane, is morphed into a game through music and competition. Each time the student plays the game and matches all of the words correctly, the program records their time and adds it to a speed leaderboard within the class. The spirit of friendly competition drives the students to return to the game over and over to improve their leaderboard placement. Since it would be very challenging for a student without a true understanding of the root definitions to place all of the words quickly, the game drives student learning and mastery.
The teacher has some power to control each student’s leaderboard by creating different leaderboard groups. For example, if half of the students in a class are more advanced than the other students, two different leaderboard groups can be created to ensure that more students have a chance to ‘rank’ on their leaderboard. The goal of a well monitored Word Voyage classroom is for every student to feel they are learning and succeeding.
Family Reunion comes free with all Word Voyage implementations and is an optional activity for students. In its first few weeks of widespread use, student engagement has been high and feedback has been incredibly positive. If your students are already using Family Reunion, please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts and experiences. If not, check it out, and encourage your students to give it a try!