Word within the word

We’ve been trying a new resource lately, and I’m ready to report our initial response.

I had never heard of Royal Fireworks Press or Michael Clay Thompson until commenter Kit suggested the RFWP/MCT curriculum.

I had a really hard time choosing the right level. The suggested grade levels listed for each text is pretty broad. And though they are designed for gifted kids, you never can tell just what that means. In the end I started with the secondary level series, The Magic Lens and The Word Within the Word.

I confess, we started off overwhelmed. Or at least, I did. I saw that they looked like workbooks, and I thought we would use them as workbooks. But they aren’t designed that way. They’re designed to be used as a classroom text, with discussion and group processes and lots of looking things up in the dictionary on your own. This threw me a little at first. Plus — OK, I’m sure MCT is a brilliant man with a great love for language but — editor, please! This must be what it feels like to talk to Violet at times: you turn on the faucet to get a little water and you get a full-on 30-second firehose-strength blast in the face. Or maybe I was just tired. And when they say designed for gifted kids — they mean it! It’s not just about jumping ahead a grade or two, it’s about thinking differently. Which is good, but for a few days I questioned whether I should have started with the last book in the earlier series. Now I think I made the right choice.

We have not had a lot of time to explore The Magic Lens, which is the grammar text, but I have started to give some regular attention to Word Within the Word. This is something we do together, and it has been pretty fun.

I’m not sure what kind of book to describe Word Within the Word as — it falls in the “Vocabulary” column of the RFWP/MCT scheme, but it’s not really a traditional vocabulary study, or a traditional spelling study. It’s mainly based on learning word roots, so our focus has mainly been an extended etymology study.

One of the examples MCT gives for his style of study is learning the stems for respect, “re” — again” and “spect” — as in looking, so to “respect” is to look anew at something or someone. A “circum” -(around) “spect” person looks around before taking action. It’s a fun and interesting way to talk about words.

One of our favorite discoveries so far is “supercilious,” which we had to look up because though I had a general idea of the word’s meaning, I really didn’t recognize the “cilious” word stem. Aha! “super” = “above,” and “cilium” = “eyelid.” “Supercilium”=”eyebrow.” So a “supercilious” person is one who looks down at you with a raised eyebrow. We laughed out loud at our discovery.

My hope is that this will enable Violet’s reading a little more. Yes, she is reading at a post-secondary level, which means she is reading at a level when it is absurd even to talk about it (you have no idea how much time I’ve spent on Youtube trying searching various combinations of “Simpsons” “Lisa’s wedding” and “I read at a 78th grade level” to illustrate this point.) But working on the history of English study has given me a sense of where she’s at beyond that, and what she needs to do to keep progressing in order to keep up with her interests.

Plus, hey, she’s got lots of years to qualfy for Scripps-Howard! Remember the goofy kid in Spellbound, the one who made crazy jokes and talked all the time? I’ve got the female equivalent, right here — calling aspiring directors of Spellbound 2: Electric Boogaloo!

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6 Comments

Filed under Curriculum, Gifted Ed, Schoolday Doings, unit study -- history of english

6 responses to “Word within the word

  1. patience

    This is a wonderful resource recommendation, thank you. Which volume of Word Within the Word did you use? I might look at buying one, because Rose really enjoys etymology.

    I laughed at the mention of reading levels. No one ever asks a college kid or an adult what their reading level is! But they assume it can tell you so much about a young child’s learning progress.

  2. shaun

    I’ll answer here instead of in an e-mail in case anyone wonders.

    I bought the first Vol. of WWW, because I planned to use it with The Magic Lens Vol. 1. I’m not sure, but I think if you were not planning to use the books together it wouldn’t matter if you started later. There are a lot of PDF samples on the site.

    Magic Lens — the grammar text — might not be of interest to you now — there is some sentence diagramming, which I recall you have already done a fair amount of. (Plus, maybe you are not the type to willfully end a sentence with a preposition — and split your infinitives with abandon!! )

  3. I remember that kid from Spellbound. I liked him!

    I was planning on using Michael Clay Thompson for L.A. in the fall. I’m really glad to to read your review. At home Z is working at a 3rd – 6th grade level in various L.A. subtopics. Her vocab level is high and her grammar rules knowledge is lower. What level do you think she should be at for the Clay Thompson books?

  4. patience

    I am actually terrible with prepositions, I try hard not to plonk them at the end of sentences, but often fail miserably. And as for split infinitives – I go along with some great writer whose name I can not recall: he said, “they’re my infinitives, I’ll split them if I want to.” (Yes, bad grammar in more ways than one.) If its good enough for Star Trek, it’s good enough for me. 😉

  5. The books sound interesting.

  6. Hello there, Happy April Fool’s Day!

    Sitting on the side of the highway waiting to catch speeding drivers, a State Police Officer see’s a car puttering along at 22 MPH.
    He thinks to himself, “This driver is just as dangerous as a speeder!” So he turns on his lights and pulls the driver over. Approaching the car, he notices that there are five old ladies, two in the front seat and three in the back, wide eyed and white as ghosts. The driver, obviously confused, says to him, “Officer, I don’t understand, I was doing exactly the speed limit! What seems to be the problem?”
    “Ma’am,” the officer replies, “You weren’t speeding, but you should know that driving slower than the speed limit can also be a danger to other drivers.”
    “Slower than the speed limit? No sir, I was doing the speed limit exactly twenty-two miles an hour!” the old woman says a bit proudly.
    The State Police officer, trying to contain a chuckle, explains to her that “22” was the route number, not the speed limit.
    A bit embarrassed, the woman grinned and thanked the officer for pointing out her error.
    “But before I let you go, Ma’am, I have to ask… Is everyone in this car OK? These women seem awfully shaken and they haven’t muttered a single peep this whole time,” the officer asks.
    “Oh, they’ll be all right in a minute officer. We just got off Route 142.”

    Happy April Fool’s Day!

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