Many of us were not directly taught vocabulary. We learned it from reading, speaking to our parents, and listening to our teachers. We used context clues to give words meaning and half the time didn’t even know if we were pronouncing the words correctly or using them right. Whether you’re a parent or a teacher, squeezing vocabulary instruction into your day is nearly impossible… but it is insanely important. So how do we make it happen? I’m going to include a few tips and tricks that I love to use for creating discussions around vocabulary in the classroom or home.
1. Cover words with post-it notes.
During read alouds in the classroom or at home, choose words to cover up with a cut up Post-It note. For example; “I am what I am an’ I’m not ashamed” – Rubeus Hagrid in Goblet of Fire. You could cover up the word ASHAMED and read the sentence without it.
Once you’ve read the sentence without the covered word, go back and ask your students or child, “What do you think this word is?” Let them tell you what they think and then ask for another possibility. And another. Keep it going for as long as you can! Don’t tell them if they’re correct or incorrect. Just discuss it! Then tell them what you think it could be and explain your reasoning (and don’t use the word it actually is!! This is a great teaching moment). Ask them their reasoning for choosing words. Ask them which word they think is most likely. By creating a conversation out of one sentence, you’re teaching them all about vocabulary! I wouldn’t do this every day – that can crush the joy of reading a good book. But it is something fun for every now and then. And it works with ANY level!
2. Get your child or students around other people!
Bring in guest speakers, make sure they talk to your friends, and let them watch documentaries! One of the best ways to grow a vocabulary is to listen to the words around you. If kids are only speaking to you, their vocabulary is going to be limited to the words that you use. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s important for them to hear how other people speak and use language.
3. Find a fun way to add in vocabulary instruction!
Crosswords are wonderful and my Middle School Vocabulary Units are great for this. They have a ton of weekly games and activities with specific vocabulary words chosen to guide instruction. My FREE, downloadable, Crossword puzzles for young kids are also a great way to work their brain! Just print them and go. If. you want something a little more challenging, I also love these crossword puzzles for kids. Starting your children early on puzzles and word games will help them feel comfortable solving tricky concepts later on in life. Grab your own crossword puzzle book and work alongside them!
This is the most effective and simple way to build a child’s vocabulary! There is a trick to reading, however. Be sure to offer many book options to children (think a stack of 3-8) and let them pick what they want to read. Once they find a book they love, try to find a series that is similar. Then you can offer them the option, “Since you liked ___, I bet you’ll love these books!” and hand them a gorgeous pile of new books. Just keep this going. Make looking for that next book fun! Visit the library, peruse Amazon, shop your local bookstores and grab a hot chocolate while you’re there. Enjoying reading should be an experience but it’s a learned experience; one they can’t get to know without YOU!
You can brush up on some tips for making reading enjoyable HERE!
So, how do you teach vocabulary in your household or classroom? Do you have any tips and tricks that you love? Please share below! I’d love to learn more!