Supercharge Your Vocabulary With Word Part Practice

An unfortunate thing for current high school students who are preparing for the SAT examination is that they have not received the benefit of the emphasis on prefix, root, and suffix instruction that the new Common Core standards are providing.  Also, many students do not read widely and often, so they have not built the huge vocabulary storehouse that readers who “always have their nose in a book” possess.  Thus, some (too many, but one is too many) high school juniors and seniors preparing for their SAT examinations come into the testing with a working vocabulary that is below grade level.

What can be done at this late hour to help students with a poor working vocabulary have a chance on the SAT?  There are two key elements.  These can and should be done hand-in-hand.  The main thing is to read!  Students should be reading a wide variety of materials at their independent reading level (If you do not know this level, I can find it for you with simple and quick testing).  If you have enough time before your SAT testing session, don’t just read those boring SAT sample passages (Well, not all of them, but many are boring!).  This will turn you off even more to reading.  I am not saying not to use these passages as practice at all, but have some fun reading a variety of interesting content everywhere – online, in magazines, books, etc.  Pick things that are interesting.  Read a good, high quality novel at your reading level as well.  Any time you spend reading at your reading level will improve your vocabulary.

In order to supercharge this easy and fun vocabulary practice, you can add one of my charts and give yourself a bit of word part instruction.  As you are reading, when you encounter a word you do not know the meaning of, look at your chart (You don’t even have to take the time to fill it in, but it may help at first).  Try to divide the word up into prefix, root, and suffix (If you are not good at this, I can help you with it).  Then, try to think about what the prefix and the suffix mean.  You already know quite a few prefixes and suffixes.  Look up some of these you do not know online (Prefixes, Roots, Suffixes is a good site).  Then, notice the root, are there other words that you know with that root?  This is often very helpful in learning the meaning of an unknown word.  Compare what you know about the word parts to the context sentence.  Often, the combination of looking at the word parts and the context sentence will give you an approximate definition.  Study just 5 words in this manner each time you read (Too many and it will get tedious and boring again).  Then, just for those five words, look up the definition and try to come up with an original sentence using the word.  After you have read, try to use all five new words and describe what you have read.

Those five new words each day will not supercharge your vocabulary, but the word parts study will.  You will begin to automatically break an unknown word up into word parts as well as look at the context sentence when you do not know the meaning of the word.  This is the part that will supercharge your vocabulary.  As you begin to learn the meanings of the most common word parts using this strategy and began to read more, your vocabulary will increase much more quickly and new words will be less likely to stump you.

Here is a link to the vocabulary chart:

If you need help learning how to divide the words up, discovering your reading level, or finding interesting reading at your independent reading level, use my contact information and set an appointment to get some help.

Vocabulary Chart in Word 97

picture of engaging looking bookshelf


SAT Reading Passage Practice Ideas

If students are not doing well on the SAT reading passages, there may be several things going on.  I am trained as a reading intervention teacher as well as a secondary English teacher.  Here are some key isses:

1) Lack of reading fluency – This can be solved by repeated reading practice with interesting reading passages.  There is a page on this blog that addresses fluency issues.

2) Poor working vocabulary – This can be solved by reading widely.  Reading increases vocabulary.  Readers have large vocabularies; non-readers do not.  Also, this can be aided by learning the most common English word parts – prefix, root, and suffix.  I have an enjoyable method for doing this as you practice some critical reading passages.  I will go into this method and provide a sheet to help you when I write the next blog post.

3) Not keeping track of the main idea and key supporting points of the passage – Many of the SAT reading passage questions directly address the main idea and key supporting points of the passage.  Some students read the passage, but do not try to get the main idea and key points, and then attempt to answer the questions.  If you look at the practice books with the sample problems, you will see that the majority of the questions directly address and highlight the main idea and supporting details.  If you have finished reading the passage and do not have the main idea and key details in mind, you will not likely do well on the questions for that passage.

Training for the main idea and key supporting points, if this is a really difficult task for you, is to work with a partner and stop after reading every paragraph, coming up with that paragraph’s main idea and details.  As this gets easier, begin to move up the main idea and key points for the whole passage.  After each reading, come up with these first before you attempt to answer any questions.  You will find you do better on better on the questions by studying in this manner, if finding the main idea and key points are a weakness for you.

If you would like help with SAT reading passages, please use my contact information and set an appointment.