As your child absorbs words, both written and spoken, his vocabulary grows. Beginning with a young one understanding the meanings of basic words such as dog or chair to a teenager familiar with the definitions of escalate or tangible, increasing vocabulary allows your child to navigate the world around him. There are plenty of fun and effective ways to strengthen your child’s vocabulary.
STEP-BY-STEP PROCESS TO LEARN NEW VOCABULARY
Step 1 – Read
One of the most important things your child can do to build vocabulary is to read. Anything your child reads—from books to graphic novels to magazines—exposes him to words of varying complexities.
For a beginning reader, picture books with only a few words on each page are beneficial to help him make connections between words and the objects they represent. The more he reads, the more vocabulary he will retain. As your young child becomes a confident reader, he can read books that may still have pictures but contain complete sentences and have an increased word count. The more words, the more opportunities to fine tune and expand vocabulary.
Eventually, your child will be reading books that only contain text. He’ll be even more immersed in building his ability to navigate through content with familiar and unfamiliar words alike. Over time, he will also develop the ability to use context clues to determine meanings of new words.
Step 2 – Definitions and sentences
Encourage your child to write a vocabulary list of unfamiliar words he encounters when reading. Rather than providing him with each word’s meaning, ask him to use a dictionary to find their definitions. Have him create his own vocabulary notebook where he can write words, parts of speech, and definitions to reference. Take the activity a step further by asking him to create sentences using the new words, as this will help him retain their meanings and how to properly use them.
To motivate your child with this activity, have him set a goal to read enough to learn a certain number of new vocabulary words each week. On weeks that he reaches his goal, he can earn a small reward, such as a special dessert or a few extra minutes of free time before bed.
Step 3 – Word wall
At any stage in your child’s reading and vocabulary development, creating a word wall is a beneficial resource. The word wall should be formed using the terms in his vocabulary notebook.
Every day, he can look at the word wall to be reminded of the new words he has learned. He can even make a conscious effort to incorporate his new vocabulary into conversations and writing.
The word wall can be created multiple ways. One – your child can continually add to his list of new vocabulary on poster paper. Two – he can write each word on an individual index card or sticky note to stick to the wall. Three – he can add and remove terms on a dry erase board.
Step 4 – Matching game
To further assist in growing your child’s vocabulary, he can play a matching game using his new vocabulary terms.
Gather double the number of index cards as there are vocabulary words. Write a word on one card and its definition on another. Put all the cards in a pile and shuffle them. Place each card down with the blank side showing. If there are 10 terms, that makes for 20 cards, so he can place the cards in a grid of four by five.
He will turn over one card and try to find its matching word or definition. This activity allows him to enhance his vocabulary skills and strengthen his memory when recalling where each card is located. This game can be played infinite times with any number of words.
Next, let’s explore why learning new words is important.
BENEFITS OF A HEALTHY VOCABULARY
Having an ever-growing vocabulary will serve your child well as a reader, a writer, and a speaker. The more words your child is familiar with, the more tools she will have in her toolbox to help her decode the meanings of new terms she encounters when reading. A child with a strong vocabulary will be able to face any text with confidence. She will use context clues, based on words she knows, to uncover the definitions of unfamiliar words. The stronger her vocabulary, the more equipped she will be to understand the content she is reading, which will improve her reading comprehension skills.
When your child is writing, anything from an essay to a short story, a strong vocabulary will bring the content to life. The more diverse your child’s vocabulary, the more successful she will be at incorporating variety into the writing. She will have the resources to create writing with assorted sentences that is clear and interesting to its readers.
Just as having a vast vocabulary benefits your child’s writing, it will also help in her ability as a speaker. Your child will speak with confidence, whether it is in conversations at home or delivering a speech to her classmates. In conversations, she will understand the topics being discussed. When giving speeches, she will keep her audience captivated with a variety of phrases that relate to the purpose of her message.
Your child’s skills as a reader, writer, and speaker will continue to grow throughout her adult years as she constantly absorbs new vocabulary terms.