Word Ladders

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Teaching Is Joyous Work
It’s early September and school has begun or will begin soon for teachers, principals, and other educators. I certainly believe that teaching is a joyous profession; however, it is also a profession that requires lots of work. Thankfully, Labor Day rolls around on the first Monday in September and gives teachers a chance to take a quick breather. Here’s a word ladder I did that connects work to labor.

Work to Labor Word LadderLadder-for-Blog
Start with . . .

  • Work Change one letter to make an old-fashioned cap for a bottle of wine or other liquid.
  • Cork Change one letter to make the center of an apple.
  • Core Change one letter to make a word that means aiding a person or animal in need.
  • Care Subtract one letter to make another word for an automobile.
  • Car Change one letter to make what you may get if you cut yourself.
  • Scar Change one letter to make a scheme for cheating or swindling another person.
  • Scam Change one letter to get the sound you make when you shut a door forcefully.
  • Slam Change one letter to make a mollusk that is used in chowder.
  • Clam Add two letters to the end to make a word that describes a loud noise often coming from a crowd of people.
  • Clamor Now take away the first letter and change another letter to make another word for work.
  • Labor!

I hope you were impressed! Please feel free to use this word ladder with your students in honor of Labor Day. You may also want to extend this vocabulary lesson in another way. As many of you know, my colleagues Nancy Padak, and Evangeline and Rick Newton, and I have developed a series of instructional materials, Building Vocabulary from Word Roots, to help students expand and deepen their vocabularies using word roots or meaningful word families. If your students can learn the meaning of just one word root, they will have a mental tool for helping them figure out the meanings to many more words in English.

Vocabulary Ladders
Try a vocabulary ladder too.

Working It Out
If students learn that labor means “work,” they will know that a laborious task is hard “work,” and that the place where scientists “work” is called a laboratory. They can also infer that to collaborate means to “work” “with” others  (col- = with or together); and they will understand, when speaking, to elaborate on a point means to “work” something “out” (e- = out) in great detail. Of course, something that is elaborate is an object that was made or “worked out” with great care, much more than would normally be expected. In fact, there are over 25 words in the English language that come from the Latin base “labor”! Use the days around Labor Day to help your students make the connection between the word root labor and work. I don’t want to belabor the point, but as Claudia Bezaka, world languages program coordinator for D.C. Public Schools, noted in a recent article in the Washington Post, students learning word roots, especially those that are derived from Latin and Greek, can be a “game changer” when it comes to increasing students’ vocabularies and improving their overall reading and writing. Yes, teaching can be laborious, but I cannot think of a more rewarding and important profession. I wish you great success as this new school year begins.

Did You Know?
The Greek god Hercules was famous for his superhuman strength. According to ancient legend, Hercules was ordered by the god Apollo to perform 12 labors (work) tasks so difficult that they seemed impossible. These labors included wrestling with the ferocious Nemean Lion, slaying a multi-headed water snake named Hydra (hydra means water), and going into the underworld to kidnap a three-headed dog named Cerberus. It took Hercules years of struggle and suffering to complete his labors, but by doing so he became the most beloved hero of the ancient world. (BV, Guided Practice Book Level 7, pg. 45).

Your Turn!
Thanks, Dr. Rasinski, for another fun word ladder! You’ve got a knack for them! Teachers, challenge your students to create word ladders of their own. Feel free to post one here!

Use these awesome books co-authored by Dr. Rasinski to build vocabulary fluency!

RASINSKI TIMTimothy Rasinski, Ph.D., Professor of Education, Kent State University, is the author of numerous books and articles on reading education. His research on fluency was cited by the National Reading Panel. Rasinski is the co-author of Starting with Prefixes and Suffixes, Practice with Prefixes, Building Vocabulary, Greek & Latin Roots: Keys to Building Vocabulary, Fluency through Practice and Performance, and consulted on TIME FOR KIDS® Nonfiction Readers and Read! Explore! Imagine! Fiction Readers. He is a frequent and popular presenter nationwide.


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