Email: To Workbook or not to workbook

That is the question Debbie asked me:

Hi Julie,

I am new to Bravewriter.  I bought The Writer’s Jungle and am going to add the Arrow.  Your style is wonderful and fits so well with current research about children’s learning.  I am excited to start our program this fall.

I have a question about vocabulary that I couldn’t find a direct answer to.  Do you believe in a stand alone program or just learning in context?  Thanks so much for your time.


My reply:

Vocabulary is best built by reading a lot. Consider not just fiction, but quality non-fiction, myths, poetry, Shakespeare, magazine articles, television (yes, even TV builds vocabulary), movies, plays and more. A rich language environment does the best job of expanding one’s vocab. Some kids still work through vocab books for the SAT etc., but honestly, there is no substitute for a rich language experience which comes mostly through reading, acting and viewing performances.

Debbie responds:

Thank you for your reply.  I thought that was what was indicated in your book but it’s hard to resist the sales line of programs like “Wordly Wise” (my child will be an ignoramus without their sequential program).

And I can’t resist saying just a little bit more:

One quick thought…

When I’ve been in doubt about something and it is inexpensive, I buy it and try it. There are kids for whom working in workbooks is deeply satisfying. I have one out of four (still at home) like that. When she embarks on a workbook program, though, I am very relaxed about it. We do it as it suits her. Sometimes we even skip around in the book or past what she doesn’t feel like doing. But mostly, she enjoys plodding through the
pages and checking them off.

Worldly Wise was tedious to one of my kids (so we dropped it and his vocab is ridiculously off the charts without it – college age now) and was enjoyable for one year for another child. Yet both of these are huge readers, acted in Shakespeare for six years and enjoy poetry and language for its own sake. So I don’t know that it helped (or hurt) their development. I try to pay attention to what they like and focus on how they feel most happy about learning.

If you have a workbook kid, then Wordly Wise might be just the thing. The principle, though, stands. Vocab development occurs through rich language environments. 🙂

Hope that helps a few more of you with similar questions. 🙂

One Response to “Email: To Workbook or not to workbook”

  1. After glazing my children’s eyes over with various attempts at finding a vocabulary workbook, we found greater success with the rich language books. I had the kids keep index cards as bookmarks, and write down any word they came across that they did not know. We would then look those words up later, and the children would use them orally in sentences or synonym/antonym games. Both score off the charts in vocab sections.

    Once we hit middle school, we use various sources to one Latin or Greek root word a week (keeping it on our fridge). This too, is followed by lots of oral word games. This has helped my son immensely when he started Latin and in SAT prep!