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As a poet I can't really call it vocabulary. We learn new words by playing with and twisting meaning. Vocabulary grows as we delve deeper into passions or perform for those in power.


Those still a thing? Teach students dictionary skills regardless if they use print or digital sources. At the same time technology has shifted the way dictionaries work. They get embedded everywhere and students can access them by touch, voice or through print.

You need to review the parts of a dictionary definition with a student They need to understand how to handle multiple entries, prefixes and suffixes (online does this better)and the basic text structure of a dictionary entry.

Rhyming dictionaries belong in the classroom. Every classroom has at least one child who enjoys to study a rhyming dictionary.

What Makes a Word

Words get constructed through strings of morphemes, the smallest unit of language that hold meaning. Some morphemes can stand on their own in terms of meaning. We call these free morphemes. This would include book or case.

Other morphemes get bound to another morpheme to make sense. This can include inflectional suffixes like plural words “-s” in “bookcases” making the word consist of three morphemes.

Basically words rooted in Anglo-Saxon English are free morphemes. Prefixes and suffixes, Greek roots, and Latin roots are bound morphemes. Makes sense. That's the stuff people stick on words to sound smarter.

Root Words and Derivational spellings

Root words can not get broken down into smaller parts. They are free morphemes.

In terms of word families as rimes these do not hold meaning there are 37 groups of rimes, the ending sound of words in the English language.

In terms of root words and morphemes we mean stuff like pyro and cardio

On Point Word Play

Call it adept diction (Gaves, 2000) or to “have style/ And learn to be original” (KRS-One,1988) in order to break the silence that is the Black man's reality (Kirkland, 2013), but either way word play involves precision.

You need to encourage students to play with the soundscapes that dance in between words while building vocabulary.

Cadence, Rhythm, and Prosody

Words have different sounds and sounds strung together can make meaning in ways words can never do simply in print.

When you read the Common Core State Standards phonological awareness ends at 2ng grade. As if switching phonemes around or playing with rhyme and double meanings of morphemes no longer matter.

Folks talk of prosody, the bits of language bigger than morphemes but the linguistics tones, stresses and rhythms that can let you know what neighborhood someone's from.

Prosody is poetry and a product of playing with sound.

Alliteration: Avoid Always.

Consonance: Cranking on chunks and clunks that use consonants

Assonance Sounds frown on the lounge and use vowels

Cadence The Beat

Twisted Meaning

You build vocabulary by finding new words to describe stuff you already know. In terms of language and word play you need to think how word choice plays with meaning mood and tone.

Word have synonyms, words close in meaning and antonyms mean opposites.

These words can include literal matches we call denotation words or they carry connotative meanings, Word play exists in the sounds of meaning that shade the greys in between.

When we explore the gradients of meaning in between synonyms and antonyms we build vocabulary and provide students with tools to express connotative, literal, and figurative language with precision,

  • Literal-The Exact Meaning of a word. Trash is refuse for example.
  • Connotative-loading a word with meaning, using stench for smell, for example.
  • Figurative-associating meaning through literary devices. His is breath is garbage for example.

You can build vocabulary by playing a word number line game. Choose antonyms and synonyms and place them on a line and have students in groups find and look up other synonyms and antonyms and arrange them by positive and negative connotation. Gregarious vs Loud Mouth for example.

Encourage kids to play with a thesaurus, but teach them to wield the tool wisely. Precision means right tool for the write job.

Tongue Twister

You can flip meaning with homographs, homophones, and homonyms.

  • homographs-spelled alike, different meaning, sometimes different pronunciations
  • homophones-spelled differently, different meaning, same pronunciation
  • homonym-spelled or pronounced alike but different in meaning. Can describe either a homograph or homophone


Knowing a words origin, or it's origin can go a long way to building vocabulary. You can build new words, play with power relationships laden into words. Allow origins of originality to rise.

See Also

word_play.txt · Last modified: 2021/03/02 02:02 by jgmac1106