Reading Response: A Focus on Vocabulary

Want to help your children or students build their vocabulary? Try this exercise.

Prepare to Read

First, either instruct your children or students to read for a set amount of time. When I was a classroom teacher my standard “student choice” reading homework assignment was to read for 10 minutes, 3-5 nights a week.

You might do the same with your children or students, or you might read aloud for a set time period or length of pages. Be sure, if you are a parent, your child is sitting beside you so he or she can see the text as your read. If you are a teacher, be sure you are reading from a text that all the students can have a copy of, so they can follow along.

Print the following statements onto a note card, project them on your Smartboard, or write them on your whiteboard:

  • A word I did not know or was not certain of the meaning of was…
  • I found it in this sentence…
  • I think it means…
  • I looked it up in the dictionary and it means…

As you or they read, tell your students to be on the lookout for a word for the exercise.


Instruct your child or student to begin reading, or you begin reading. It is best if you do this in a quiet room without a lot of distractions. Tell him or her to write down the word and page number when they spot it and then continue reading for the allotted time.


When done, instruct your students or child go back to the page they noted and copy down the sentence in which he or she found the word. Instruct them to fill in the remaining statements or, if your group is small enough, discuss the remaining statements together.


Challenge your students or child to look for ways to use their new word for the next few days.

Your Turn

How do you like to help your children or students to expand their vocabulary?


“aab…” Poetry Mystery Form–Try It!


The Mystery

Last fall, I discovered an aab, ccd, eef…poetry form when I was working on my Mt. Rainier poetry book and I gave it a try. Because I enjoyed working with it, I attempted to dig up the information about it to share with you, but can’t find it anywhere. So here, from memory, are the instructions for the “mystery” form and my example.

aab, ccd, eef…Mystery Poetry Form

The basic unit of the form is a stanza consisting of a couplet (two rhyming lines) followed by a single unrhymed line. That third, unrhymed line is often a new thought–a conclusion, a comparison, a summing up, or a twist on the couplet.

This type of poem can be a single stanza in length or as many stanzas as you would like to make it. The rhyme scheme for any stanza in this form can be completely independent of the rhyme scheme of the first stanza, thus my description–aab, ccd, eef…

My Example


Like water trickling ever downward without being taught,
You experience life’s moments ceaselessly through thought.
Writing is thinking.

Like opening your front door to the street,
You note cars, the weather, and people to greet.
Writing is noticing.

Like a jeweler creating with pearls and gold,
Idea meets idea and a story is told.
Writing is connecting.

The hardest part of writing–“What shall I say?”
Is something you do every waking second of your day.
Writing sings the music of your mind.

“I get by with a little help from my friends.”*

As I am still recovering from my blasted concussion, I have given up on my search for the name of this form. If you know what it is called, could you please share with me and your fellow readers in the comments below?

Thanks so much! I hope you have enjoyed your National Poetry Month.

*The Beatles



Is Courtesy Contagious? Persuasive Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #78


Some people say courtesy is contagious. What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Jot down some of your thoughts.


Write 2-4 paragraphs stating your point of view and sharing supporting arguments. Your objective? To convince your readers to agree with you.

When done read back over what you wrote. Consider the following:

How convincing is it?

What kind of supporting evidence for your arguments did you use?

Did you use enough detail for your evidence to be convincing?

Did you use active verbs and specific nouns?

Did you use wishy-washy words, like maybe or sometimes, that weakened your argument?


Revise your paragraphs to make them more convincing.


When you are done, share you work with your writing partners. Together consider the questions for revision for each piece.

And please, share your writing here as a comment. Is courtesy contagious? I’d love to read your thoughts on the issue.

Greek and Latin Roots Practice/Homework Options

When implementing the Greek and Latin Roots Spelling and Vocabulary program, I wanted my students to invest time in learning their roots, meanings, and words. Therefore in addition to introducing each lesson with a pretest and discussion of the roots and words, I provided one day per week for practice and exploration activities in class and required as homework, one practice per week from a menu of practice options that provided selections for a variety of learning styles. Today I will share three of these options.

Ziggurats: For each root + meaning set and each spelling word, students create a ziggurat. (This is a visual and kinesthetic practice.)  For example:

hex =
hex = s
hex = si
hes = six

Picture Frames: For each root + meaning set and each spelling word, students create a picture frame writing each fully along all of the four sides of the frame. When done students draw a picture or symbol in the middle representing the root or word practiced. (This is a visual and kinesthetic practice.)

Spell Aloud: Students work with a responsible adult who verbally quizzes them on the meaning of the roots and spelling of the words. For any root + definition or spelling word missed the student repeats it correctly three times. Instead of turning in his or her practice, the student must turn in a signed note from their adult partner stating the date they engaged in this practice. (Auditory)

Each week students were free to select and complete any one practice option they wanted. The practices were due each Friday.

On the Friday of the test, students spelling practices had to be turned in before taking the test in order to qualify for scoring. I found this “no make-up” policy necessary as the purpose of doing the assignment was for engaging in concentrated study before the test.

I scored practices as done or not done. If a student only practiced part of the list, the percentage of roots and words completed determined the percentage of points for which his or her practice qualified.

Rationale: Please note, these spelling and vocabulary practices were not busy work. The objective of the Greek and Latin Roots Spelling/Vocabulary program is for students to remember the formation and meaning of Greek and Latin roots so they can recognize them when encountered in unfamiliar words, and use them to help determine the meanings of these words. For this to happen, students need to engage with their roots and words multiple times within he context of the unit in order to truly own them.

Onomatopoeia and Ssssounds: Reading Response Exercise #103

The format of this reading response exercise is a little different from our usual set up because to do this one, you need to read the instructions first.


Authors use sensory details to help readers understand and experience (vicariously) the setting of a story. Words like roaring or ringing help the reader imagine themselves into the point of view character’s experience. Other sound words include onomatopoeia, specialized words that sound like the sound they describe. Examples include: plop, splat, and thunk.


To complete this reading response exercise, get a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Sit down and read for at least twenty to thirty minutes. Each time you come across a sound word in your reading, list it along with its page number.


When done reading, choose three sound words from your list. Go back to the page where you found each of them and reread the paragraph in which each was included. For each sound word, consider how the author’s choice of that particular word influenced your perception and experience of the story.


Share your responses with your reading partners, or here as a comment on the blog.

Preschool Literacy


Find a picture book that includes lots of sound words. Read it with your preschooler, asking your child to stop you and repeat the sound word each time he or she hears one. (Help her if the task proves too daunting to do on her own.)


When you have finished reading, ask your preschooler which sound word was his favorite. Ask why.

Write the word (and write it big) on a piece of paper then give it to your preschooler to decorate. (Media options can include: crayons, marking pens, stickers, pictures torn out of magazines and glued on… or anything else you can dream up to play with!)

Post your preschooler’s finished project where it can be enjoyed by family and friends.

Fall Football! Ya Gotta Love It, or Do You? Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #77

It’s Fall, and on Thursday and Friday nights the sounds of football echo over our little valley from the high school up on the hill. Today’s Play With Your Words Writing Prompt will have you writing about football, or some other sport if you prefer, from two different points of view.


Brainstorm a list of words you associate with football or the sport of your choice.


Write a description of football (or your other sport) from the point of view of someone who loves it.

Next, write a description of football (or your other sport) from the point of view of someone who hates it.

Revise and edit as necessary. Make certain both descriptions reflect powerful emotions.


When done, read what you’ve written with your writing partners or share here as a comment. Consider the kinds of words you used to evoke the feelings you intended. What was particularly clear or expressive in your writing? What may have seemed weak compared to the rest? Compliment and encourage one another—and enjoy the process. Writing about strong feelings can be fun!

Character Beach Towel: Reading Response Exercise #95


Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes.


Think about what you have read. What is the main character of your story like? What are his likes and dislikes? What are his favorite activities, things?

Suppose the main character of your story finally got a break from all that’s stressing her and she’s headed off to the beach, taking the brand new beach towel someone who knows and loves her well just gave her.


Design, draw including graphics and color, or describe your main character’s great new beach towel. Why is it so perfect for him or her?


Share your responses and explanations with your reading partners.

Post your pictures or descriptions here on the blog. Remember to include the title and author of your book so another reader can give it a try.

Color-Coded Theme: Reading Response Exercise #94


Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes.


Think about what you have read. What message about life and how it is to be lived it is being communicated in your reading material?


  • Write this message as a succinct thesis statement. For example: ______ (title of your book or novel) by _______ (author ) demonstrates (or shows) that life ….
  • If this message were a color, what color would it be? Explain your reasoning.
  • Share your responses with your reading partners or right here as a comment.

Enjoy your summer reading!

Defend Your Favorite Comic or Graphic Novel: Play With Your Words Writing Prompt #69

What is your favorite comic strip or graphic novel?


Web-storm your favorite comics or graphic novels in order to gather and organize the information you will want to use when you begin writing.  Create a bubble for each comic/novel you like, writing its title in the center.

For each comic/novel bubble, add rays extending from the bubble and write one reason you like that particular comic/novel on each ray.

Read over the options you have provided for yourself, and select the comic/novel you would most like to write about.


Write a letter to a relative or teacher who perhaps does not value the reading of comics or graphic novels explaining:

  • what your favorite comic/graphic novel is
  • why you like it
  • why he or she should reconsider her judgment of the genre.

Remember to proof-read and revise your letter after you finish the rough draft.


When done, read what you’ve written with your writing partners or share here as a comment. Compliment one another on:

  • how well each writer has explained what it is he likes about her chosen subject
  • how clearly she has expressed herself
  • and the use of specific details.

Then kick back and enjoy the kind of reading material you like.

Test that Title: Reading Response Exercise #93


Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes.


Think about what you have read.

  • What is the title of the book you are reading?
  • Do the plot, characters, and themes of the story seem to go well with its title?
  • Why or why not?


Share your responses with your reading partners or here on the blog. If you like your book, share the title and author with your fellow readers. Someone might just be looking for a good read for a summer’s afternoon.