SAHS Academics > English Department Web Site > Philosophy & Mission Statement > Policy on the Study of Vocabulary
We teachers want our students to integrate their vocabulary skills into any and all language experiences: reading, writing, speaking, listening and thinking. Skillful communicators have the ability to deal with words in their contexts. A word can have shades of meaning, flavors of connotation, depending on the sentence, the paragraph, indeed the entire text surrounding that word. To put a word in a list and ascribe one denotation to it for the purpose of memorization for a test is to take the study of vocabulary out of the realm of real human communication.
Our students must be aware of the history of our English language so that they can fully understand how and why word meanings evolve from century to century, from year to year. A word's etymology is key to grasping that word's structure, denotations and connotations. Prefixes, suffixes, roots, combining forms and entire word families serve as clues for the discriminating reader. Students familiar with word etymologies experience our finest pieces of literature more deeply. John Milton, in his Paradise Lost, chose many words expressly for their rich histories. He coined "Pandemonium," an example of a Greek combining form, a Greek root and a Latin suffix, as his capital of Hell. Today pandemonium may reign in a football stadium, on a crowded highway or at the New York Stock Exchange.
Instructional Policy for Vocabulary in Grades 6 and 7
The core of our vocabulary program is teaching word structure using prefixes, suffixes, and roots in the context of word families. As an extension of reading workshop, students self-select authentic words in context from fiction and non-fiction reading selections. Student vocabulary acquisition is assessed through quizzes.
Instructional Policy for Vocabulary Grades 8-12
Instructors select words for study from the pieces of literature that students read. Some instructors may also use supplemental lists. Students learn etymology, definitions, parts of speech, and word use in context. Instructional activities include structural analysis, dictionary reference, study of word parts, use of words in original sentences, traditional quizzes, word games, creative writing, and translation of words to visual image.