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Conversations in Literature

Why is it helpful to study vocabulary in the context of a book?
Recently I wrote a series of posts about why we study vocabulary, how I create the vocabulary lists, and study
methods for the kids. I hope this copy the posts will help you as you create the lists for your club.

Vocabulary, part 1

Today I am working on creating a vocabulary list for each of the books we read. I know, I know
I'm supposed to be working on the lesson plans but I got bogged down. I put that aside for a
while and started work on the vocabulary lists. Each group reads 10 books so I’m working on
20 lists. Sound impressive? Well deflate your thoughts about me because there's not that much
to it except a fair amount of time in front of this screen.

Last year I found a wonderful site called There must be hundreds of English
teachers and students that create lists on this site. This makes it pretty simple to create a list of
your own. Borrowing is allowed. When I search a book title, all lists that were created by other
people for that book pop up, and I choose the words I want. It is that simple.

More tomorrow on how our community of readers uses Quizlet.

Part 2
Last year I created a group on Quizlet called Literature Through the Ages, which I am going to
change to the title of the book I am writing. All members of my literature club have access to
the lists I create. Some members use the vocabulary lists and others do not. Quizlet offers
several study games the kids can use to practice the terms. When the child is ready for a test,
you click the test button and the child takes the test. When it is completed, a grade is assigned
and you can print it if you want to keep a record for transcript purposes.
I’m still working on our lists. Tomorrow I will tell you how I create vocabulary lists for titles
that aren’t on Quizlet.

Part 3

What if Quizlet doesn’t have lists for the books my group is reading?

That is an excellent question. For the younger and older groups I create four lists for each book.
The younger group studies 10 words per list and the older 20-30 words per list. This year I was
able to complete the lists for 8 of our 20 books on Quizlet. For a few other books I created
partial lists. Now it’s time to Google or get the books out and find words to place on a list. I
start with "Googling." If you want to create words for Huckleberry Finn then search
Huckleberry Finn vocabulary words. When I find a list, I add the words to Quizlet. I do this
until I have four lists per title; a total of 40 for the younger group and 80-100 for high school
group. This exercise is tedious but valuable. It serves two groups of people; your literature
group and the unknown groups on Quizlet that will read the book you’re reading and want
Conversations in Literature
vocabulary words to study.

Part 4

How much time does it take to create the lists?

It averages about to be about 45 minutes per book. If Quizlet has 40 words for a younger title
I’m working on, that will take about 10 minutes but a title that is not already created can take an
hour or so. Honestly, creating the lists is not my favorite work in literature. I find it helpful to
remember the lists will help others but the task takes a long time and I have to push through the
tediousness of it. This year I had a special reminder that pressed me forward. Rae Ann is one of
my high school literature reading buddies. As I plodded through my list creation assignment I
was encouraged to keep going because of something her mother told me. Rae Ann recently took
a standardized test and reported that the vocabulary words from the literature study of the
1800s, which amounted to 800-1000 words, were on the test. Rae Ann told her mother, "I think
I did really well on the vocabulary portion thanks to the vocabulary lists from literature club."
Encouragement transformed the tedious into excitement!

Part 5
Why study vocabulary when reading the classics?
Learning new vocabulary is one of the best ways to raise your Sat score but there are other
reasons to improve one’s vocabulary? Our club studies vocabulary to enhance our ability to
speak and write well and improve reading comprehension. If you read across too many words
you do not understand, comprehension is limited and in our culture, to be taken seriously,
speaking and writing well is imperative.
In our club, I do not give tests or even discuss the vocabulary words with the kids. It is left to
each family to make this decision. Our Lexis in Literature is a silent giant. The time we spend
on it as group is limited but the impact is profound. Rae Ann’s words from yesterday speak
volumes about why one should study vocabulary, "I think I did really well on the vocabulary
portion of the standardized test thanks to the vocabulary lists from literature club. The words on
the test were on our lists from literature club."
Conversations in Literature
Part 6
What is the best way to memorize vocabulary words?
Best way? I’m not exactly sure but I have some ideas that might be helpful. Generally speaking,
vocabulary can be studied by using workbooks or through reading good books. Our literature
group uses the second option because we believe it is the most effective. Higher retention is
achieved when the words are studied in the context of a story. Words in context take on
meaning because they are connected to something living, a story.

I use a strategy called Familiarize, Recognize, Memorize.

Step 1: Before reading the book, FAMILIARIZE yourself with the vocabulary list created for
that book by reading over it as much as necessary to remember the words when you see them in
the story.

Step 2: When you are reading the book and RECOGNIZE a word from the list, pause and
consider the meaning within the context of the story. I like to use Aristotle’s Ten Categories as
a means of locking a word into memory. Apply as many of the ten things to the word as
possible. I like this method because you don’t have to pause for very long while you are

Step 3: Go to Quizlet and take the test to see if the words are MEMORIZED.

If you aren’t familiar with Aristotle’s Ten Categories, I will post them tomorrow in short form
for easy memorization.

Part 7
How can I use Aristotle’s Ten Categories to memorize vocabulary words?
1. WHO or WHAT is the subject ?
2. WHAT KIND of a subject is it (i.e. he, she, or it)?
3. HOW MUCH or HOW BIG is it?
4. TO WHOM does it belong, or WHO is affected by it?
6. HOW DID IT FEEL? or WHAT WAS SUFFERED in this event?
8. WHEN?
9. WHAT was the SITUATION?