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High Definition

Unforgettable Vocabulary-Building Strategies Across Genres and Subjects

By Sara Holbrook, Michael Salinger
Foreword by Ellin Oliver Keene

Break out of the vocab doldrums with High Definition, an approach to vocabulary instruction that’s not just effective but energizing and fun.  Students  collaborate in small-group discussions that lead to writing exercises in a variety of genres, then  share their work aloud, building community,  understanding, and retention.

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Full Description

“This is kids’ ticket into an utterly different kind of vocabulary learning—an energy-juiced, falling in love with words. I wish I were back in school again, and my teacher had read this book.” —Ellin Oliver Keene

Any teacher who has challenged a sunny day with the phrase "vocabulary lesson" only to see a dark cloud descend over the room knows that students can be downright word resistant. Break out of the vocab doldrums once and for all with High Definition, a whole new approach to vocabulary instruction that’s not just effective, but energizing, sociable, and fun.

When kids envision a word as if it were a real person, with a unique voice and personality, they forever imprint the meaning of the word into their memories. Vocabulary lessons become anything but dull, and still blend seamlessly into your writing objectives. Veteran teacher-authors Sara Holbrook and Michael Salinger offer a powerful formula for getting even the most reluctant kids into the act:

Well-chosen Words + Collaborative Discussion + Genre Writing + Performance = Strong Vocabulary

Students are first given a choice of vocabulary words, then collaborate with their peers in small- group brainstorming discussions that lead to writing exercises in a variety of genres. Finally they share their work aloud, building community and understanding throughout the classroom.

Everything you need to put High Definition into action is included:

• Sample word lists give you an immediate starting place for choosing vocabulary words

• Collaboration Cheat Sheets offer instant pre-write organizational help

• Clear explanations of each genre include ways you can build on what kids already know in their lives

• Student samples throughout provide inspiring examples of how students take the definition of words way beyond what’s offered in dictionaries

• Lesson Process Plans show you how to use writing, collaboration, and performance across genres and content areas.

Help your kids build strong and lively vocabularies. Teach with High Definition and discover how to make words unforgettable.

Additional Resource Information

(click any section below to continue reading)


1. Learning About Words

2. Choosing the Words

3. High Definition Through Explanatory Writing

This Just in: Words Make the News: Writing a News Report

Sincerely, Vocabulary: Writing Business Letters

Vocabulary One, Two, Three: Writing Sequence Descriptions

Dead but Not Buried: Writing an Obituary

Where Do You See Yourself a Year from Now?: Composing an Interview

4. High Definition Through Persuasive Writing

He Said, She Said: Writing Well-Crafted Argument

But That’s Not All! Developing an Infomercial

It’s Only My Opinion, But…: Writing Editorials and Persuasive Speeches

5. High Definition Through Narrative Writing

Okay, Here’s What Happened: Writing a Nonfiction Story

Here’s What Could Have Happened: Writing Fiction

Note to Self: Writing Journal and Diary Entries

6. High Definition Through Descriptive Writing

Who Goes There?: Writing Character Description

My Bedroom Looked Like a Blast Zone: Writing Place or Object Descriptions

Word Suggestions

7. High Definition Through Writing Poetry

I’ve Been in Verse Situations: Writing Vocabulary Poems

There’s Method in His Madness: Pattern in Poetry

Less Is More – More or Less: Revision Writing

8. High Definition Through Big Words

What’s the Big Idea? The Mentor Text

Metaphorically Speaking: Figurative Language


Related PD Services


Email if you would like to contact Sara Holbrook directly about professional development support.


Email if you would like to contact Michael Salinger directly about professional development support.