Young children learn hundreds of words simply by listening to those around them. It is essential, however, for children to not only learn words but also to learn how to properly use those words.
Children with extensive vocabularies hold the key to one of life’s most important assets – the ability to effectively communicate. They will be better able to understand what others are saying and comprehend what they are reading. They will also be better able to express themselves to others.
There can be no argument that learning depends on a child having good communication, reading, speech and writing skills. As such, improving your child’s vocabulary can also improve his school performance in every subject. You may find your own vocabulary improving, too.
Some tips for assisting your child develop an extensive vocabulary are listed below. These are paraphrased from What Parents Can Do at Home to Help Students with Vocabulary, published by The Parent Institute® in 1999.
Help your child learn to use context clues to figure out what a word means – A colon (:) normally indicates the author is going to explain a word mentioned earlier in the sentence. Terms such as “for example,” “that is,” “such as” or “for instance” also signal readers more information follows.
Pick a word of the day – Let each family member take turns bringing a new word to the dinner table. Have that person not only bring the word to the table but to use it in a sentence. After dinner is over, post the word on the refrigerator make an effort to use the word in a sentence again the next day.
Make a booklet of new words – Have at least one page per letter of the alphabet. Every time he learns a new word, have him add it, and its definition, to the booklet. Keep it in a 3-ring binder to make it easy to add pages.
Use index cards – (This is a tried and true study method.) Write each word on a 3 x 5 card. On the back of the card, write the definition closest to the one that matches the way it was used when your child first used it. Write an example sentence under the definition. Have your child look at the word and try to tell you the definition. Separate the cards into 2 stacks: the ones she knows and the ones she does not remember. Keep the cards in a safe place and review occasionally.
Use TV time to build vocabulary – Have your child keep his booklet of new words handy while he is watching TV. Have him write down at least 5 unfamiliar words, doing his best to spell them. Afterwards, work with him to look up the words in the dictionary and use them in a sentence.