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A Word a Day, Primary Review by Cindy West

Susan Rose Simms
Evan-Moor Educational Publishers
18 Lower Ragsdale Drive
Monterey, CA 93940-5746

It's hard to come across a solid yet simple program for building the vocabulary of first through third graders. Luckily, though, I've come across one that not only introduces great vocabulary but does it so quickly that a new word can be learned and reviewed in merely a couple minutes a day.

With over 350 vocabulary words, A Word a Day will last you longer than a school year. Each word is neatly printed on a chart, along with the part of speech, a simple definition, and an example of the word in a sentence. Within the same chart are questions that promote critical thinking and reading comprehension, at the same time reinforcing an understanding of the new word.

For example, when learning the word inquire, the child will find out that the word is a verb meaning "to try to find out something by asking a question." The following sentence is given using the word: "For information on when the movie begins, you can inquire at the ticket window."

Two activities always follow--the first being a multiple-choice type of question to show their understanding of the word. "Are you inquiring when you call your grandma to wish her a happy birthday? Are you inquiring when you ask the librarian where to find a book?"

The second activity has questions that require the student to think about the word as it relates to him or her. "Do you think it's a good idea to inquire when you aren't sure about something? Why or why not?"

Although the book could be used by a child independently, writing out all the answers, I found it to be just as effective (and less of a burden) to go through it orally together. In no time, we had talked about the word and its meaning and then completed the questions orally to check for understanding. New vocabulary learned without moans and groans--what more could a mother ask? On the other hand, the critical thinking questions make great writing prompts!

Visually, the book is nicely put together. Two vocabulary charts are found on each page with a striped or polka dot background to add interest and separate the charts. The pages are printed in black, gray, and white, with the vocabulary words always highlighted in black to grab attention.

If you desire, the pages could be copied and cut apart to make a vocabulary booklet, or the charts could be pasted into a notebook so that written answers to the critical thinking questions can stay with the chart. There isn't room enough on the chart to write out answers or stories. In the back of the book, you'll find an index of all the vocabulary words in case you'd like to skip around rather than going through the words in order.

I loved this curriculum. It's perfect for first through third graders! I can see how it could also be great preparation for SAT-style tests, too. One of the things I like most about this book, and most of Evan-Moor's publications, is the fact that there isn't a lot of extra teacher reading necessary to implement the activities. In other words, I can pretty much open the book and start it with my children without any confusion on my part. That goes a long way in my busy schedule!

Product review by Cindy West, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, May 2008