The junior high Word Building PACES and Etymology PACES require students to write original sentences using the spelling words to demonstrate that they understand the words correctly. These assignments require time and focus on the part of the parent or supervisor to score, but are an important exercise to improve student vocabulary and develop critical thinking skills.
Here are some tips for grading the Word Building Sentences:
- Check that the spelling word is indeed spelled correctly. Even though the word is right there, some students will mis-copy it or spell it from memory and leave out letters, or mix up letters. If that happens fairly frequently, you may have a student with dyslexia or a slight learning disability that you need to address.
- Check that the spelling word is used as the correct part of speech. Some words can be used as a different part of speech than the assignment is asking for. For example, the word “doubt” (in the picture above) could be a Noun, as in “The devil puts doubt in the mind of new believers.” However, “doubt” can also be used as a verb, as in “We should never doubt the promises of God.” Look for the red n, v, adj, or adv after the word (preceding the definition) before scoring the sentence and note what part of speech is being called for.
- Check that the spelling word is correctly used. Students sometimes mis-use the vocabulary word by just relying on the given definition as it is not part of their own vocabulary yet. I had a student look at the definition above for “insure” (to protect or make safe) and wrote, “I will insure that my sister will walk safely to school.” Well, actually, the word insure implies that money was spent on a policy. She was thinking of “ensure” when she wrote the sentence. I suggested a sentence like, “When I buy my first phone, I will insure it against water damage.” This is particularly applicable to ESL students.
- Check that the other words in the sentence are correctly spelled. Many times students will use the wrong form of there/their/they’re or to/too/two in other parts of their sentences. This gives you a good opportunity to reinforce correct spelling by pointing out the most common mistakes.
- Check for correct punctuation. When a student gives me their sentences to grade, I first eye-ball it to see if every sentence starts with a capital letter and ends with a period or question mark. If any are missing, I give it right back and ask them to correct that first. If I catch it while grading, I mark it wrong until they fix that.
- Check that the sentence is creatively crafted. If they are allowed to get away with it, many students will lazily write sentences like “February is a month. March is another month. April is the next month. Etc. “ Or even worse, “I hate Monday. I love Friday. Etc” Insist on some creativity which helps develop critical thinking skills and builds character!
- Check the handwriting. Do you require cursive? Good question! Whether you allow printing or cursive, I would not allow the sentences to be typed, as word processors can catch their spelling and punctuation mistakes and auto-correct them. They need to get practice writing in a neat, legible way for you to read.
A final Tip from Tim
Here’s another Tip from Tim for keeping things simpler working through Word Building and Etymology. Students are sometimes asked to look up words and write out the definitions. But, as you’ve probably found if you’ve tried to help a student with that assignment, once they find the word in the dictionary, there may be a few different variations of the definition. Which one to use? Then after they choose and write it in, they go to score and their definition doesn’t match very well. So you’re called over to make a judgment call and you may have to pull out the dictionary again to help choose which definition best fits the scorekey’s expected definition. Your student may even have trouble navigating the dictionary confidently, adding to the level of frustration over the time spent! So, I encourage my students to look ahead to the Check-up where every word has a very concise definition and use all the ones they know to complete the defining assignment. Then they should look up words they don’t know and try to match the dictionary definitions to the ones available in the Check-up multiple choice section and find the best one for that word. In that way they will continue to reinforce the same definition for those words throughout the rest of the PACE and tests. This method is much more efficient and less frustrating and still helps them master the expected vocabulary words.