Learn More About Words and Their Stories

About the Creator

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. 

Testimonials & Reviews

"We have limited time to cover a vast amount of material, and Words And Their Stories helps teachers manage their time better, as preparing and grading vocabulary lessons/tests is very time consuming... We use Words And Their Stories for ESOL, SP, and all other students. The vocabulary words are showing up in student writing, and are used appropriately."

Wm. Bryan Borah
English Dept. Chairman
Centreville HS, Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax, VA

"It looked more like [my students] were playing a computer game! As soon as they got their computers, they were into Words And Their Stories. No teacher directions. They just knew what to do and were 'into it' without delay. The climate in the room was sooo positively charged. They were actually enjoying learning something at the very end of the school day — the worst time to sustain their attention on a task. They actually cared about their vocabulary score!" 

Jay  Stratoudakis, Ph.D.

 

"Words And Their Stories is so inherently motivational, and so quick to reward, students quickly seek out the time to do the words… I couldn’t be happier."

Jessica Warne
Jack London Continuation HS, Los Angeles

Awards

Bessie Award
Bessie Awards target innovative and content-rich programs and websites that provide parents and teachers with the technology to foster educational excellence.    

Media and Methods Portfolio Award
Media & Methods Magazine applauds and acknowledges the commitment of these winning companies for their development of quality materials, resources, and instructional tools.    

Bologna New Media Award
The Bologna New Media Award was established in 1997 to encourage excellence and innovation in children's interactive media, as well as to make children's software publishers more aware of the intellectual depth of the Bologna Children's Book Fair.

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CODiE Award
CODiE Awards recognize excellence by honoring the software and information industry's leading products and services. A CODiE Award is a prestigious representation of outstanding achievement and vision in the software and information industries.

Eddie Award
Eddie Awards target innovative and content-rich programs and websites that augment the classroom curriculum and improve teacher productivity, providing parents and teachers with the technology to foster educational excellence. Some selection criteria are academic content, potential for broad classroom use, technical merit, subject approach, and management system.  

Learning Standards

Words And Their Stories is a vocabulary development and acquisition program aligned with the following
Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Vocabulary Acquisition and Use:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.4
    Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grades 9–10 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
     
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.4a
    Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence, paragraph, or text; a word’s position or function in a sentence) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.
     
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.4b
    Identify and correctly use patterns of word changes that indicate different meanings or parts of speech (e.g., analyze, analysis, analytical; advocate, advocacy).
     
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.4c
    Consult general and specialized reference materials (e.g., dictionaries, glossaries, thesauruses), both print and digital, to find the pronunciation of a word or determine or clarify its precise meaning, its part of speech, or its etymology.
     
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.4d
    Verify the preliminary determination of the meaning of a word or phrase (e.g., by checking the inferred meaning in context or in a dictionary).
     
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.5
    Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
     
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.5a
    Interpret figures of speech (e.g., euphemism, oxymoron) in context and analyze their role in the text.
     
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.5b
    Analyze nuances in the meaning of words with similar denotations.
     
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.6
    Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.