I don’t know about you, but I am always searching for interesting ways to introduce and explore/understand new vocabulary with my students. It’s not easy, and exposure is not enough. The students need to be engaged. So I was intrigued by this little book by Ken Pransky called My Fantastic Words Book. On one hand, it is billed as a “young student thesaurus.” On the other hand, the visual elements of this small book for breaking down and extending words could easily become a model for a classroom activity around new vocabulary at any grade level.
Pransky almost views the words here as visual templates, and then expands them along realms of synonym/antonyms, degrees or meaning, and other framing ideas. It’s hard to describe but the concept of word clouds is what comes to mind here, although each page has different shapes to them, depending on the word. For younger students, this book might be just enough of a thesaurus for stretching out their writing (although the number of words in the book are limited to common ones, such as say, go, mean, sad, etc.). For older students, it could become a model for how we often try to add nuance to our language by choosing other words along a synonym trajectory.
I am going to bring this book by my co-teacher and see if we can’t brainstorm a creative way to approach some vocabulary words, as Pransky has wisely situated this book (in a one-page teacher’s guide) as a strong way to approach vocabulary development with students who have learning difficulties and ELL students. The graphic element is a key piece. And I am already thinking of the technology possibilities here — either with a simple drawing program or maybe some word cloud generator, or maybe something else altogether. It might be that a site like Visuwords is a companion to My Fantastic Words Book.
Peace (in the words),