Words And Their Stories: Student License

Words And Their Stories: Student License

About the Creator

Ogdan Morse Jr.H. Ogden Morse, Jr. is the principal creator of the WATS™ ("Words and Their Stories") System, the patented process for critical thinking upon which Words And Their Stories is based. His educational background includes a B.A. from Dartmouth College, a M.A.T. from Yale University, and a sixth-year degree in secondary administration from the University of Bridgeport (CT). During his 38 years of teaching experience, he served as English Department Chair at Joel Barlow High School, a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence in Redding, CT, for 35 years.

In his English classroom, Morse was quickly aware that memorization was not an effective means for his students to learn vocabulary. What Morse did realize, however, was that his students readily recalled stories they found interesting or engaging. To avoid that moment when "the eyes glazed over" during vocabulary study, Morse began to interject stories about the words' histories and derivations. One of his favorite stories was that of the word "sinister":

"In Latin, ‘sinister’ means ‘the left hand or left side.’ I would ask my students with which hand we typically greet someone if we wish to shake hands. The answer, of course, was the right hand. I would then ask students, ‘Now why would one Roman want to greet another Roman with his right hand?’ Gradually, students would come to the conclusion that, if most people were right-handed, then most people would hold a weapon in their right hand. Therefore, the custom of extending the right hand was not only a greeting, but evidence that no weapon was being held and no animosity was being expressed in this encounter. ‘But what if the person extending his right hand were actually left-handed? What could he be holding in his left hand?’ I would ask them next. Slowly, students would begin to see the thread between the Latin definition of ‘sinister’—which, again, simply referred to the left hand—and the dangerous or ‘underhanded’ behavior that might be associated with it. Not only did students think that the story was ‘cool,’ but they remembered it."

Morse went on to develop the WATS System, the foundation of Words And Their Stories. Through illustrative stories and intriguing clues, Words And Their Stories requires students to apply etymology and critical thinking skills in a sequential, inductive process – rather than rote memorization – for vocabulary development.