Tuesday, January 5, 2010

‘Word of the Day’ Builds Vocab, Test Scores in K-12 Schools

Students at Deltona (Florida) High School have seen test scores rise as a result of the Word of the Day program. The program instructs students in Latin and Greek roots that will help them unlock thousands of words, explains reading coach Mary Thomas.

Many schools present a Word of the Day to students as part of their morning announcement or news broadcast routines. Does yours?

Whether you use a formal program or create their own, Word of the Day is a simple and powerful tool for building students' vocabulary, critical thinking skills, and test scores. In addition, you and your teachers might follow through with the Word of the Day to extend its usefulness.
You might encourage students to share with you - or submit to you - sentences that make use the Word of the Day. Each day, before you share the new Word of the Day, remind students of the previous day’s word and share a sentence submitted by a student. Be sure to spread around the spotlight so many students have the opportunity to be singled out in this way.
If you don’t already present a Word of the Day to students in your school, creating a program couldn’t be easier. Check out this sampling of sources you might use to build a program.


SuperKids Vocabulary Builder
This site includes many tools and games for building vocabulary. The Word of the Day page offers words for students in upper elementary grades (which I find to be totally appropriate for all elementary grades) as well as individual lists for junior high/middle school and grades 9, 10, 11, and 12.

Daily Buzzword from Merriam-Webster’s Word Central
Check in each day for the new Buzzword, or sign up to receive your daily Buzzword via email or RSS. The site also offers a link to the archive of Daily Buzz Words.

WordThink’s Word of the Day
This site offers “insightful and persuasive words you can use every day.” The words are practical, never obscure, and perfect for middle school students.

‘What Does It Mean?’ from Infoplease.com
Listen to the Word of the Day, read a sentence that includes the word, then ask a question to verify that students understand its meaning in context. This source ideally lends itself to a daily classroom activity; students might use their dictionaries to verify their understanding of the word’s meaning. Infoplease’s sister site offers a similar activity: FactMonster.com’s Word Quiz.

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day
These words are generally appropriate for grades 7 and above. A complete archive of past words enables you to pick and choose. You can even get the Word of the Day in a nicely produced podcast format that you can broadcast as part of your a.m. announcements.

Word of the Day from the New York Times Learning Network
Each entry provides a definition and pronunciation as well as links to NYT articles that include the word so students can read it in context. Words are generally appropriate for middle school and above.

Dictionary.com’s Word of the Day
This list of words is recommended for middle and high school levels. In addition to a definition, the site offers information about each word’s origin and quotes that include the word. Click an audio link to hear the word pronounced. Sign up to receive each day’s word via email.

This feature of the Wordsmith learning community presents a weekly theme and five words. Generally, these words are appropriate for use with high school students and adult wordsmiths. Click an audio link to hear the day’s word pronounced. Sign up to receive each day’s word via email.

The Quotation Page’s Word of the Day
Each word is defined and presented in the context of a handful of quotations from The Quotation Page’s archive. Sign up to receive each day’s word via email.


Do you present a Word of the Day in your school? What source do you use? Please share your source so that other school leaders might learn from your experience.


  1. Do you know of a site that would be good for elementary school's?

  2. What research is out there to show how a school-wide word of the day is effective?