Friday, November 28, 2014

Wordly Wise 3000 vs. Vocabulary Workshop

I've gotten a lot of great questions over the Thanksgiving weekend from people who aren't out shopping but are still at home bored.  I'm beginning to realize that it's not clear to everyone how and when to use a workbook because everyone hasn't made all of the mistakes I made and bought the wrong material.  Plus I've got some excellent teachers to watch.

Wordly Wise 3000 is used at my sons' school.  The books are introduced in the 3rd grade.  Each unit has about 15 words (I'm looking at the 4th grade edition right now), about 5 pages of complicated questions, and a single story with super hard questions.   The teachers do not use any supplementary material other than the student workbook and treat the exercise like SAT test prep.  The program overall is very enriching with projects and plays and great books, but the Wordly Wise 3000 is used just for boring old disciplined memorization.  It fills this role.  It's also used as a spelling word list because the kids lose points for misspelling the words on the quizzes.  There is another spelling book that is organized around phonics as well.  This class is hard core and the kids thrive under the workload.   They are working 2 years up, which is hard but doable.

At home, we use Wordly Wise 3000 like SAT test prep as well, but I stick post-it notes around so I remember to work the words into the conversation.  This drives my oldest son crazy but he's managing to do well in school.

I got Vocabulary Workshop for my kids starting at about age 5 or 6 because at the time I was obsessed with test prep and vocabulary is 74.3% of test success.   Vocabulary Workshop has it's own stories and is much more interesting and enjoyable than Wordly Wise 3000 for little kids.  There is a great online component that will read the story to you.   My youngest would wake up early on Saturday's and beg to do the next unit of Vocabulary Workshop ahead of schedule.  I'm not kidding.  My oldest would usually not grumble about doing it which was also miraculous.  I think this has more to do with the fact that kids like to learn stuff at this age and less about the book.

When my 1st grader was struggling with 3rd grade science, I started to hang up the next unit's vocabulary list on the refrigerator so we could memorize the words before kids started the unit.  This trick works wonders and he's gotten A's in science ever since.   Mental note to self - the ability to memorize lots of vocabulary words quickly is a very useful skill in the academic environment.

Wordly Wise 3000 is about $11 on Amazon and Vocabulary Workshop is about $15-$19 on Amazon but $14 on the website.  I think Vocabulary Workshop is much better for kids under the age of 9.

It's harder to say for older grades.  I've got the 4th grade version of each open in front of me. Vocabulary Workshop's stories are way better.  Wordly Wise's questions are harder and more complicated.  Wordly Wise has a page at the end to describe definition variants of each word, and Wordly Wise has 2 pages at the end that have a grammar lesson.

Each book has about 20 units, maybe 30 words combined.   There are 52 weeks in the year.  If I were home schooling or approaching an important testing year for a GAT program or high school, I might use them both.  Otherwise, I would lean toward Vocabulary Workshop because I can't image doing boring rigorous SAT style test prep at home year round.


  1. I don't think I know anyone who can type as fast as you. Thank you for your quick response and making it into a great long post with all the details. Call me crazy but I'd rather want to read through your posts going back to 2011 instead of going shopping today which seems a little crazy to me and I know I will come home feeling frustrated and empty handed.

  2. Just a comment on purchasing the Vocabulary Workshop books directly from Sadler and Oxford. The price does appears to be $10. Except that's if you're a school ordering in lots of at least 10. The price is $19 when you're an individual ordering 1. I registered with the web site as an individual and all the $14 prices (for 1 copy) jumped. It was quite a surprise.


  3. Is this still your opinion on Wordly Wise? I just ordered Vocab workshop for my daughter, but I keep a running list for "if I have time for an extra workbook buy this one".

    1. Good question. This post is 2 years old. I really like vocab workshop and wordly wise is very boring, but was used at school. Vocab workshop was one of our all time favorite books.