The Interdisciplinary Concept of the Vocabulary Program by Michael Clay Thompson
The nonfiction readings are one of the most important elements of the new revisions.
by Michael Clay Thompson
Royal Fireworks Press recently announced a new revision of my Word Within the Word, Volume III. The revision contains rigorous supplementary content by Dr. Tom Kemnitz that provides background for the development of English vocabulary, and this is made more rich by the inclusion of beautiful photographs that he took of ancient ruins and artifacts. In terms of implementation, the way to understand the new supplemental texts and photographs is that they profoundly enrich the background of English vocabulary, without affecting the interdisciplinary focus of the curriculum itself. For the historical supplements, there are no quizzes or questions; they are to be enjoyed. The quizzes and the thinking questions go with the vocabulary core content.
My central concept for The Word Within the Word is that it is a profoundly interdisciplinary vocabulary curriculum, methodically interweaving the vocabulary of science, mathematics, history, literature, art, and other disciplines into a great vocabulary fabric that will make students better in every subject and prepare them for advanced college and professional vocabulary like no other curriculum ever has. It now has powerful history supplemental content, but it is not a history book. The Latin and Greek stems have an inherent interdisciplinary power unlike anything else in intellectual life, and that is one of the central reasons to study those, instead of mere lists of words. The new books are exceptionally beautiful and are now stronger in historical and cultural content than ever, but they are as profoundly interdisciplinary as ever, and that core curricular content is undiminished.
The Word Within the Word was the model for Caesar’s English. The purpose of Caesar’s English was to accomplish two goals. One was to provide students with an intellectual experience that would prepare them for The Word Within the Word, and the other was to provide them with literary vocabulary as they began to embark on more serious reading. Dr. Myriam Borges Thompson and I worked together as co-authors on the original Caesar’s English, and in recent years, when Tom began providing his extraordinary photographs and comments about Roman and Greek culture, Myriam and I worked on the new Caesar’s English revisions as well. Each of the three of us brought something to the table for the revisions. As a native Spanish speaker, Myriam was able to make the perspective of the books more expansive, contributing essays on Roman emperors who were born not in Rome but in Hispania. Marcus Aurelius is one example.
When you take the three Word Within the Word books and the two Caesar’s English books together, one of the most important improvements you see is a dramatic increase in the presence of strong nonfiction readings, written by myself, by Dr. Thompson, and by Dr. Kemnitz. We feel deeply that it is rigorous reading that is central to intellectual development, and these new readings are one of the most important elements of the new revisions.
Tom literally traveled the world to get the amazing photographs that now fill the pages of the books, and he spent many months writing the background historical essays. His photographs create a kind of visual immersion experience for students who study the vocabulary. Myriam brought a particularly enlightening perspective to the non-Italian contributions to the Roman Empire, and I too have played my part. We are all excited about these beautiful new revisions to an extensive, powerfully interdisciplinary vocabulary curriculum.
The MCT vocabulary program has an elementary level, with Building Language and Caesar’s English, and a secondary level, with The Word Within the Word.