Our middle school began using Word Voyage this fall and my colleagues and I have been thoroughly impressed with the program. Whit Symmes and his team offered a comprehensive training session before our school year began, and the team has been available all year to answer questions.
One of the best aspects of Word Voyage is that it allows technology to help students meet their individual needs in building vocabulary and understanding language. The program streamlines the process of presenting and assessing lessons. With my sixth graders, I have mainly used words taken from the literature we are reading, but a teacher might mingle in SAT Prep words and Greek and Roman root words. I have been able to pull words from Word Voyage’s stored library as well as load in my own word lists. Word Voyage takes my list and generates the lessons. The result is that my students research vocabulary on Word Voyage, recognize the word in the context of our reading, and own the word through the writing of an original sentence. I have the option of accepting a sentence or sending it back for revision.
Because of its comprehensive lessons, its ability to allow students to work at their own pace, and the constructive criticism students receive from teachers after writing original sentences, I feel that Word Voyage is one of the best value-added programs I have found. I highly recommend this program.
Middle School English Teacher
The Benjamin School /North Palm Beach, FL
Word Voyage has been an integral part of my 7th and 8th grade language arts program for the last two years. As a veteran teacher of 37 years, I am always looking for new and innovative ways to inspire the love of learning new words! Because our English language has grown so fast, so large, and at such a rapid pace, it is of paramount importance that students acquire as many new vocabulary words as possible each school year. I also feel that this aids in encouraging life long learning. As one may expect, I have a vast spread of abilities in my classes. I also am an inclusion teacher, meaning special education students are mainstreamed in my classes. Word Voyage is a huge part of the IEP's for these students, as I may customize the word lists and sentence writing tasks for each student! This allows for differentiation, a best practice in middle level education. My gifted students have higher level words. My favorite lists involve Greek and Latin roots as well as SAT words. My more challenged students work with Dolch lists. This way all students are challenged but also meet with success! The fact that it is a computer program and not a textbook, or just me being the “sage on the stage,” also makes it attractive to students and conducive to learning in this technology-filled society.
Word Voyage is well presented to any student or teacher “learning the ropes.” It includes tutorial videos which greatly speed up the learning curve as to how the program works and gets students working the program fairly quickly. It is very easy to manage as the teacher as well. I find the many facets of individualizing lessons available in this program to be extremely valuable and productive. I also encourage the use of new vocabulary in the students' writing pieces and research projects. The final piece, which I consider of key importance, is the immediate assistance made available by the program developers. If I get stuck, or make an error, Whit Symmes is always available online to assist, and response is always rapid and helpful. He is also willing to take suggestions to further enhance and improve this program. I cannot say enough positive things about Word Voyage!
Teacher Grades 7&8 Medomak Middle School
I have really enjoyed working with the Word Voyage program and team this year. I have five classes of students, 9th graders and 11th graders, using Word Voyage on a weekly basis. I assign a new lesson every Monday, and the students must finish it by Friday. On Friday afternoon, I log in, look at their scores and identify any problems they might be having, particularly with sentence writing, word origins or roots. Then I can follow up with the few students who need individual attention. For everyone else, it’s a well-greased machine. I appreciate the ways in which the WV team has accommodated our requests, making lists for our specific texts and answering questions promptly whenever something comes up. The word lists are appropriate for all levels of students, and the SAT preparation pleases parents and our college counseling office to no end. I’ve been very happy with the program and with the progress it’s allowed my students to make in their understanding of words, definitions and where they come from.
Episcopal High School
Word Voyage has changed my approach to vocabulary and grammar instruction at the fifth grade level. The emphasis placed on using the word properly in a sentence is critical. Students learn good writing strategies and techniques as a result of this sentence writing practice. When sentences aren't revised and edited carefully before submission, they're returned to the student for closer examination. This back and forth between teacher and student can only be accomplished in this format. Word Voyage makes tracking students' progress with vocabulary much more accessible.
The individualized nature of this software helps teachers work one-on-one with a specific student's needs without the student knowing the teacher is making accommodations. The value in being able to work with students at the level and speed they're moving is priceless. The shared respect from students and teachers significantly improves the learning environment and process.
Fifth Grade Teacher
West Newton, MA
I am the English Department chair at a Catholic college prep school, grades 7-12. In the last few years we have sought to re-examine our programs in light of 21st century learning skills. Since October of this year I, and several other English teachers, have experimented with Word Voyage. I find the program hits upon many essential elements of 21st century learning.
First, it allows for individualized learning. Word Voyage individualizes the study of vocabulary, allowing a student to work at his or her own pace. It also allows the teacher to deal with a student's individual needs re: numbers of words, sentence writing/corrections, spelling, and grammar. It has been interesting for me to deal with both honors and non-honors students and to adjust my demands to their ability and their needs.
Second, the program utilizes a universal design. Word Voyage has aural and visual components for both kinds of learners; its use of interactive technology evens the playing field for students challenged by the physical act of writing. The resource experts in my school love this!
Third, the lessons focus on a traditional study of vocabulary based on roots, one that, in my 30 years of teaching English, I have found to be the single most effective way of increasing students' word power. Because it is root-based, Word Voyage involves critical thinking; students are asked to go beyond memorization and investigate why words mean what they mean.
I could not be more happy with customer service at Word Voyage. They have responded to all my questions, requests, and suggestions with alacrity. I am amazed at the promptness with which they have created customized word lists on demand for our literature and subject-specific curriculum.
English Department Chair
Mount St. Charles Academy
Teaching in an increasingly inner-city school is somewhat of a challenge. Students come in at varying levels of education, and responding to their individual needs can be a difficult task. Last year, I started to use Word Voyage as a part of my Language Arts curriculum. Since I was new to the program and wasn’t sure how much time I’d have to learn something new, I assigned words to only my honors students. These students needed enrichment beyond my curriculum, and I decided to use the program to meet that need. What I quickly learned is that Word Voyage gave me the opportunity to really “connect” with my students. Each time they sent me a sentence, I could give them individual input. I could focus my corrections on the skills they needed to improve upon. They engaged in the program, became quite competitive with each other and worked hard to impress me with their new knowledge.
I enjoyed the “on-line” interaction with them. I would watch my nightly television, check into Facebook and correct Word Voyage sentences. It became a regular routine that I didn’t mind. Correcting took on a new meaning. The kids were so involved, that at one point, I was sitting in a conference in another state, and when I checked into Word Voyage, I realized that the kids had taken their “free time” in the computer lab and decided to complete some lessons! They had taken it upon themselves, without my direction, to work on word studies instead of playing games. I wasn’t even in the school! It was at that point that I knew I was hooked.
This year, our Professional Learning Community (PLC) narrowed down our focus to some basic essential learnings. We had to pull out some basic skills that all learners should master. Among the areas we decided to focus on were vocabulary and context clues. I put more kids into Word Voyage for this reason. I believe strongly that if a student can write a sentence that uses a word in context, that it will become easier for them to determine the meaning of a word when it is given in context by another author. By requiring them to write contextual sentences, they’ve become better at determining word meanings in their reading.
In addition, learning about prefixes, suffixes and root words has been helpful. Students are starting to see that most words are made up of “parts.” They have a better chance of figuring out the definition of a word since they can connect it with similar words. Even more, they have started to make “connections.” I will often hear, “This word is kind of like the word that we had in Word Voyage.” So true.
All in all, I enjoy the interaction with individual kids through a different medium, the internet. By eliminating the pencil and paper, kids seem to be more invested in writing. By getting constant feedback from me, they are more invested. Because I can choose different word lists, I can make the program accessible to both my lowest learners and my most advanced learners. My special education students can work on basic skills and my honors students can start preparing for their SATs! Word Voyage has become a large part of my homework program. I can control the number of words my kids learn each week and vary that depending on ability level. Since the kids work at their own pace, I can correct sentences a few at a time, instead of bringing my teacher bag home. My students come in first thing in the morning and ask, “Did you correct my sentences?” or “Did you send any of my sentences back?” or “How did you like my sentences?” and my favorite, “Ms. Walsh, tell me if I used that word correctly because I think I nailed it!” When kids start to care about the sentences they write, I know that we’ve won half the battle. Bravo Word Voyage and ahoy!
Lynda Manganello Walsh
Pennichuck Middle School
Nashua, New Hamphire
We spent a year looking for a method to address vocabulary development and more, I call it "plus," something beyond what we have typically seen in the market place. Our Middle School has roughly 300 kids, grades 7 and 8. With a wide diversity of learners, we differentiate our instruction through small group and individual targeting. We also modify for our gifted and talented students.
Here in Maine we have a one-to-one laptop program at the Middle Level statewide. Our district decided it was worth supporting one-to-one at the high school level as well. Our 7-12 population resides on one campus in 7-8 and 9-12 buildings. Part of our search for an answer to vocabulary development had to stretch past the middle level experience. Word Voyage seemed to fit our needs. We piloted a small group (at no cost) at the middle level last year for 2 months, which provided a thorough evaluation. The criteria we needed to see included: ease of student use, ease of teacher use, able to span 7-12 all the way to SAT needs, Web-based (platform independent), able to extend the school day for student learning, and customer service.
This year we are using Word Voyage for all 7-9 students and all special education students 7-12. At the half year point we have seen significant growth in NWEA scores for all students. One teacher indicated: "Wow- every kid has already had a year's growth!” This is just what we needed as we were behind a grade level with one third of the population. The results are so compelling that for 2012-13 we will be extending our Word Voyage license to grades 4-9 for all students. Word Voyage students receive extensive practice with Greek and Latin roots and sentence writing- using the words in context. The ease of use all the way around makes this program without a doubt a win-win for student and teacher.
Medomak Middle School
Working with Word Voyage this year has been a learning experience for all, students and educators. We have taken advantage of the best features and learned how to manage a completely different way of doing things.
One of the obvious advantages to Word Voyage is teaching kids how to break a word down into parts for meaning. This is a skill they will clearly benefit from long after they leave Kearsarge Regional Middle School. That said, another advantage of Word Voyage is the ability to meet every student where they are. The permutations of differentiation are endless. The students have been great about asking for simpler or more complex words as needed.
The unexpected advantage of Word Voyage has been the sentence writing aspect of the exercises. By reading the sentences students compose using the vocabulary word, I have been able to help them one on one with their mechanics, usage and grammar skills. I have seen a solid improvement. Paradoxically, my favorite aspect is also my most time consuming aspect of Word Voyage. I have learned how to manage this by daily maintenance. I spend roughly thirty minutes a day keeping up with lessons for about 75 eighth grade students. The kids have also learned to manage their time, and we have established a consistent rhythm at this point.
Finally working with Whit Symmes has made everything more pleasant. Whenever I have a question he gets back to me immediately. He is patient and has solved every dilemma. He has come to talk with students, and he has communicated with our technology department to make everything smoother for all of us. He has also created customized word lists for us.
I recommend you give Word Voyage a try.
Grade 8 Language Arts
Kearsarge Regional Middle School
North Sutton, NH
Word Voyage has quickly become an integral component of our 7th grade Literacy curriculum. Students look forward to learning their word parts online and at their own pace. This program is the highlight of our class for most of our students!
Word Voyage is designed so that every student can be successful. Most students working on grade level are cruising along learning new vocabulary and a plethora of roots, prefixes, and suffixes. They love using Simon the Avatar to learn the history and origin, the part of speech, and the meaning of cool new words. Some students, like our ELL students or our targeted reading intervention students, are working on a different list, a Dolch list compiled at just their reading level. They spend more time with spelling out syllables and listening to Simon the Avatar say the accented syllables so they can pronounce the words correctly. Other students, who are reading above grade level, find Word Voyage a unique challenge and are trying to see just how many word parts they can master! Word Voyage is automatic differentiation, adapting the word list and the speed at which each student learns. So Word Voyage addresses the needs of each learner on our team.
I spend just 10-15 minutes a day reviewing the students’ work online and setting them up with their next lesson. I log on quickly from wherever I am—home or school or on-the- go—and do my evaluating and assigning in no time at all. Just a few clicks and the words are ready for the students to learn.
I love Word Voyage and know that our students do too. Often they ask if I can get the laptops into class so that they can “just work on Word Voyage.” How funny! How can any educator not love that! They consider it a treat and look forward to using the program. Please let me know if I can be of any further help. I would love to discuss my experiences with Word Voyage with you.
Pennichuck Middle School
Nashua, New Hampshire
I truly like the program a lot. I think the word lists are great, and found they are words that students encounter daily and need to know. Several students mentioned how much the root words helped them. It really helps to have the progress reports on student work available. It just confirms my belief that if you are weak in vocabulary and don't read enough you don't have the resources to do well. Overall it is an excellent tool to help all students. A neat feature is students will tell the teacher they have done the work, and then be horrified to find out that the teacher could see how many times they had tried to use the program. A great feature. I think it is well thought out and has true potential. Thanks so much for sharing it with us. I will definitely recommend it as a district purchase.
Susan S. Nichols
Douglas Intermediate Elementary
Douglas, MA 01516