Merriam-Webster’s Vocabulary Builder

The best way to build a vocabulary is to pay attention to vocabulary. We build our vocabulary by developing the habit of becoming familiar with words we do not already know — taking the time to look them up and understand their meaning. As mentioned in our 5 Ideas Toward a Richer Vocabulary, another way to develop vocabulary is to study Latin. A student’s vocabulary increases exponentially when he is familiar with Latin prefixes and roots. Merriam-Webster’s Vocabulary Builder is one way to accomplish both purposes!

The stated objectives of Merriam-Webster’s Vocabulary Builder are:

  • To add a large number of words to your permanent working vocabulary.
  • To teach the most useful of the classical word-building roots to help you continue expanding your vocabulary in the future.

To achieve these goals, Merriam-Webster’s Vocabulary Builder employs an original approach that takes into account how people learn and remember. Some vocabulary builders simply present their words in alphabetical order; some provide little or no discussion of the words and how to use them; and a few even fail to show the kinds of sentences in which the words usually appear. But memorizing a series of random and unrelated things can be difficult and time-consuming. The fact is that we tend to remember words easily and naturally when they appear in some meaningful context, when they’ve been shown to be useful and therefore worth remembering, and when they’ve been properly explained to us. Knowing precisely how to use a word is just as important as knowing what it means.

With this in mind, the book follows the format of introducing 250 roots, followed by four words based on the root. There are 30 units in the book containing 40 words each. Each word is followed by the common pronunciation along with a definition and introductory paragraph. Quizzes are included that focus on synonyms, antonyms, analogies, and more.

As an example, the book starts by introducing the Latin prefix bene meaning “well” or “good.” Then, benediction, benefactor, beneficiary, and benevolence are introduced along with a sample sentence and an explanation of the meanings. After another Latin root is introduced, a quiz is used to test the student on the material covered by choosing a synonym or completing an analogy.

This is only the beginning. Now the student will need to continue the habit of noticing the words — and using them!

Making a Notebook

Those wanting to take the material a bit further will have their students create a notebook containing an entry for each Latin root introduced along with the meaning and example words. They can add other words containing the root as they comes across them.

For those interested, the words introduced would be considered those likely to be found on SAT and other standardized tests.

The Kindle version is frequently discounted. If you don’t have a Kindle you can still read the book on your computer or another device.

Great book to add to your teaching toolbox!

Additional Resources

Orthography ~ Free eBook
For a more formal approach.

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