Reading Comprehension Activities

Bas Bleu: "So many books..."

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Today I decided to share one of my favorite “literary” sources with you – Bas Bleu (www.basbleu.com). The website is great, but I love paging through an actual Bas Bleu catalog.  It features a full-color picture, detailed description and mini-review of each item – sort of like a J. Peterman catalog for books (if you don’t get that reference, you need to brush up on your Seinfeld re-runs).

Chances are if you are reading this blog, you also enjoy reading about words and language.  I never fail to find some intriguing titles in each Bas Bleu catalog that snag my interest; some are about word origins, others center on word usage, and many feature entertaining tidbits about grammar and vocabulary.  Of course, the catalog also offers countless works of fiction that constantly evoke my lament, “So many books, so little time.”

Here are a few of the books I’ve purchased recently:

  • The Art of the Epigraph: How Great Books Begin
  • How to Read Literature Like a Professor: For Kids
  • 399 Games, Puzzles, and Trivia Challenges Specially Designed to Keep Your Brain Young
  • Similes Dictionary: 16,000 Figures of Speech on More than One Thousand Topics
  • Flying by the Seat of your Pants: Surprising Origins of Everyday Expressions
  • Name that Movie: 100 Illustrated Movie Puzzles (not really a “word” book, but great for critical thinking exercise)
  • The Pun Also Rises: How the Humble Pun Revolutionized Language, Changed History, and Made Wordplay More Than Some Antics

Yes, I gravitate toward books with unusually long titles!

And just in case you’re the sort that likes to get a good jump on your holiday shopping, check out Bas Bleu for gifts to present to your literary friends and colleagues.  I volunteer in the library at my children’s school, and always find something perfect for our beloved librarian.  Of course, WordMasters merchandise is also a great gift idea!




 

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Wonderful Words: And the answer is... Lilliputian

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If you are reading this blog, you clearly have some interest in words, their origins and their usages.  In that case, you should be following WordMasters on Twitter, as we tweet an Analogy of the Day (AOTD) from the WordMasters Challenge archives.  On Monday, we tweet an analogy that originally appeared on a fourth grade Challenge test.  The vocabulary gets progressively more difficult as we finish out the week by tweeting an analogy from an eighth grade Challenge test every Friday.  We also tweet the correct answer the following day.  To sign up for AOTD, follow us (@wordmasterslisa).  If you don’t Twitter, you can catch the AOTD and corresponding answers by visiting us on Facebook (click here).

 

Yesterday’s AOTD was:

gauche : tactful :: titanic : Lilliputian

I think this is a great example of why students need to understand literary references and how they make their way into our vocabulary.  In case you’re mystified by “Lilliputian”, it is a reference to Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726). Gulliver is washed ashore after a shipwreck and finds himself a prisoner of a race of tiny people, less than 6 inches tall, who are inhabitants of the island country of Lilliput. “Lilliputian” can be used as a noun to name a native of Lilliput, or more commonly, as an adjective meaning trivial or extremely small. 

Even if your students haven’t read Gulliver’s Travels, it is important that they recognize and understand the literary reference of “Lilliputian.”  When asked why they looked this word up on Merriam-Webster’s website (www.m-w.com), respondents answered “Crossword puzzle” and “GRE vocab word.”  (By the way, Gulliver’s Travels is available as a free download through www.planetebook.com and other websites!)


 

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WordMasters Basics: What is the WordMasters Challenge™?

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Are you looking for a new way to help your students grow their vocabulary and verbal reasoning? Join over 150,000 students from some of the best public and private schools throughout the United States who participate in the WordMasters™ Challenge!

What is the WordMasters Challenge™ and what are the benefits?

WordMasters Challenge™ (n.) 1. A yearly, national competition for students in grades 3-8 that encourages growth in vocabulary and verbal reasoning through the use of analogies.

Unlike other language arts competitions for this age group—which focus on grammar, punctuation, spelling and other language mechanics—the WordMasters Challenge™ helps students learn to think both analytically and metaphorically. The contest addresses higher-level word comprehension and verbal reasoning in two ways:

  • It challenges students to complete analogies based on relationships among words they have learned.
  • It bases the analogies on special vocabulary lists, developed for each grade and difficulty level by experienced teachers, which participants study before each meet.

Traditional vocabulary learning : WordMasters Challenge™ :: Rote memorization : ___________

A. Verbal reasoning

B. Higher-level word comprehension

C. Improved reading comprehension

D. Improved verbal expression

E. Improved standardized test scores

F. All of the above!

The benefit? Research shows that developing higher order thinking skills impacts reading comprehension, verbal expression and performance on standardized tests!

To enroll your team for the 2013-14 school year, visit www.wordmasterschallenge.com.
 

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Wonderful Words: Poltroon

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One of the best parts of running the WordMasters Challenge is that I am constantly learning new words myself.  Several months ago, the Analogy of the Day (follow us on Twitter now to start receiving the AOTD!) read as follows:

FANATIC : ZEALOT :: QUISLING : ___________

  1. COWARD
  2. POLTROON
  3. LOYALIST
  4. FOLLOWER
  5. TRAITOR

Hmmm….Fanatic…check.  Zealot…check.  Quisling…quisling?  Poltroon??  So I did what any true WordMaster would do and I looked up the definitions.  A quisling is a traitor who collaborates with an enemy force occupying their country.  The word was coined during the Nazi occupation of Norway in World War II when Major Vidkun Quisling, serving as Minister-President, backed Germany’s Final Solution.  After the war, Quisling was found guilty of murder and high treason, and was executed by firing squad in 1945.  The word quisling became synonymous with traitor. Okay, so now you’ll never forget what a quisling  is, right?

But I wasn’t done researching.  I also learned that a poltroon is an utter coward.  The term dates back to the 16th century, and is likely derived from Old French poultron or Old Italian poltrone meaning lazy or good-for-nothing.  Okay, not quite as memorable as the quisling story, I admit.  However, one dictionary website suggested linking poltroon with poultry, and remembering that a coward is just a big chicken.

So this summer, I have been reading Ken Follett’s Fall of Giants, which is chock full of historical references to European politics during World War I.  I came across the following passage, which contains actual excerpts from a speech delivered by David Lloyd George to the British House of Commons in 1916 upon becoming Prime Minister:

“Any man or set of men who wantonly, or without sufficient cause, prolonged a terrible conflict like this would have on his soul a crime that oceans could not cleanse.”

         That was a biblical touch, Ethel thought, a Baptist-chapel reference to sins being washed away.

But then, like a preacher, he made the contrary statement. “Any man or set of men who, out of a sense of weariness or despair, abandoned the struggle without the high purpose for which we had entered into it being nearly fulfilled, would have been guilty of the costliest act of poltroonery ever perpetrated by any statesman.”

Poltroonery!  I experienced the thrill our students enjoy when they encounter a WordMasters word in literature or the media.  Now I’m just waiting for the perfect opportunity to work quisling or poltroon into conversation….

Have you come across any WordMasters words in your summer reading?





 

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Love to Learn: Wonderopolis.com

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Who doesn’t need a little more wonder in their life?  A great website for children, parents and teachers, Wonderopolis.com stimulates curiosity and encourages learning by posting a Wonder of the Day. Every Wonder of the Day asks and answers a question on a specific topic such as “What is a butte?” or “Why do bees sting?”  Each wonder is accompanied by a gorgeous photograph or video.

While posts are self-contained nuggets of wisdom, there are opportunities to dig a little deeper. Within each wonder there are tabs that lead to related activities, outside links or vocabulary words (our personal favorite).  For those who need a wonder wherever they go, there is a handy Wonderopolis.com app here.

Wonderopolis.com is supported though the NCFL (National Center for Family Literacy), an organization dedicated to helping families learn and grow.

Do you have any online educational resources that you find useful for students or teachers? Please let us know!

 



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Suddenly there’s a love affair with words in my classroom!

– 6th grade teacher from Florida

The high school program is now called
The WordWright Challenge.

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