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An Adventure in Language: Word Voyage Seeks Student Understanding, Avoids Memorization

By Kelly Church

Word Voyage is a unique program that can be incorporated in schools or at home for young students to develop a deep understanding of vocabulary at the ages when they are most receptive to learning new words. It's called "an adventure in language," creating lessons that are pulled directly from students' assigned readings.

Co-founder Phil Wallingford says the program is more than just memorizing words and definitions. Word Voyage teaches the Latin and Greek roots of words, so students develop an understanding of where language comes from.   

"Word Voyage teaches students how word meanings are formed from Latin and Greek roots," Wallingford says. "About 90% of multisyllabic English words contain these roots, so it is critical for students to learn them. Root words deliver lots of meaning and color to sentences, and are used to describe characters, moods and scenes, so the more a reader engages with this vocabulary, the more engaged he [or] she will be with the story. Word Voyage students drag root cards on the screen [and] build word meanings."

When used in schools, students and teachers voyage into vocabulary, grammar and sentence structure in relevant readings. Students are taught to slow down as they read, paying attention to details and learning new skills at their own pace. Word Voyage lists their technology platform as a major benefit, keeping students interested due to learning via digital pathways and ditching heavy workbooks and cumbersome worksheets. Word Voyage has a similar per-student cost as workbooks, is easy to implement and adaptable in the classroom. 

"We offer over 800 literature vocabulary lists and will add additional titles on request," Wallingford says. "We want students studying words that they need now to be successful with their class readings." 

For home schooling, Word Voyage creates individualized lessons at each student's level. The program also helps prepare students for the critical reading and writing sections of the SAT, and the English, reading and writing sections of the ACT. Features of the home-school program include learning root words, 24/7 access, time management and self discipline for learning, and can even grade and provide feedback. 

Word Voyage was started by Wallington (a software engineer) and his fellow co-founders: a teacher, a web designer and a linguist. The foursome was inspired to create a way for students to grow their vocabulary using their current readings. They wanted their method to avoid memorization and teach students to think critically to discover the meaning of a word by understanding where it comes from.

This is where Latin and Greek roots come into play. Students are conditioned away from skipping words they don't know and are taught to slow down and break down the different parts of the word. 

"Our goal is to give students a reliable attack strategy to confidently apply to unfamiliar words," Wallingford says. 

Schools can introduce Word Voyage to their students at roughly $12 per student and licenses are renewed annually. For home schooling, an individual student license is $65, but additional licenses can be added on at a discounted rate if parents are teaching more than one child. 

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