Kids Love a Mouthful of Sounds!
Incredible, brontosaurus, animation, fluxgate capacitor, extra-terrestrial –
Four of these terms are real, and one is an invented term. Which one is imaginary?
Did you guess the fluxgate capacitor? If you are a “Back to the Future” movie enthusiast, you would have spotted it immediately.
But what is common about these words is that they are relatively complicated to say. Their length will not stop your youngster! Kids are familiar with them due to the popularity of movies. Young children can learn sophisticated vocabulary if they are exposed to more words in a rich environment.
But learning vocabulary should not conjure up disturbing memories of writing out the meaning from a dictionary – there are many more suitable and entertaining ways of learning more words. As a parent, your goal is to arm your child with the best life advantages. An extensive vocabulary is a sure-fire method for success.
Why Focus on Vocabulary?
Vocabulary is one of the 5 essential building blocks for reading effectively. According to the National Reading Panel, the other 4 components are phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, and comprehension.
But more significantly, an extensive vocabulary has an impact throughout your child’s life.
“Many research studies show that vocabulary is the best single indicator of intellectual ability and an accurate predictor of success in school.”(Elley, W. B. 1988 New Vocabulary: How do Children Learn New Words)
Of the 5 components for reading, vocabulary development is one of the easiest ways for you to support your child’s progress. The key to success is finding ways to have fun with the process. To get you started, here are some inspiring books to spark interest in your kids.
1) Books for Inspiration
The Word Collector: This delightful story will help to illuminate people’s fascination with words. Hopefully, it will inspire your kids to take joy in learning more words so they can use them to express their thoughts creatively.
The Lost Words: Lovers of the natural world will delight in investigating some words rarely used in modern-day society. Help your kids to be sensitive to their environment by gifting them with the vocabulary to appreciate it.
Vocabulary Cartoon of the Day: Visual learners will appreciate learning new words through cartoons and the context of a short description.
Hair of the Dog Idioms Book: The history of idioms can be fascinating. This book not only divulges the origins of the idioms but conveniently provides a plain-spoken meaning along with a graphic to support the learning of new vocabulary.
2) Specialized Books and Word Lists
For some kids, the traditional vocabulary building books are fascinating, as long as the books target the right age group.
Children’s Dictionary: Many parents may not realize that there are specialized dictionaries for kids. These texts include pictures and words in context to reinforce the vocabulary that is learned. Some kids enjoy browsing through dictionaries.
Thesaurus: Kids need to be explicitly taught how to use a thesaurus to locate synonyms and antonyms. It is helpful to use this tool when your child is writing, as it gives them a purpose for the exercise. Another time they might find a thesaurus helpful is completing crosswords. An electronic version may be more intuitive for your tech-savvy youngsters.
Marie’s Words SAT Vocabulary Flashcards: Although this vocabulary activity is made for a certain purpose, to do well on a specific test, you can use it to increase knowledge of words. The flashcard format narrows the focus to one word at a time.
Grade 3 Word Cards: These word cards are just a sample of what is available ay many different grade levels. They will give you a structured way of working through some specific vocabulary at the just right level for your kids.
Barron’s Painless Vocabulary: You learn new words in a natural context through short passages or stories. Multiple choice questions ensure that you have gained a correct understanding of the bolded words from the stories. Each of the 20 chapters introduces 15 words. This activity is suitable for kids 12 to 15 or someone trying to improve their interpretation of words. You practice the strategies of interpretation first but follow up with conformations of the meanings.
3) Word Games for Kids
Since game playing is far more interesting to many kids than learning on their own, why not capitalize on the social situation to help your kids get interested in the power of words.
100 Pics Riddles: Stretch your understanding of words through verbal riddles. A simple example follows. “What has a bark but no bite? A Tree. You can unscramble letters to lead you to the answers. (TAEER – A TREE)”
You can play a game with friends and family or enjoy the cards all on your own. The riddles are suitable for kids from 9 to 15.
Word Play: Various randomized conditions challenge your knowledge of vocabulary. You will gain a broader perspective of words by listening to your opponent’s solutions. Children as young as 7 can have fun with this game.
Play on Words: The starter version of the game involves 8 cards with letters. From these 8 cards, you take turns making words. However, you can capture words from your opponent by adding to a word or rearranging the letters to create a new word. You play through the 8 cards until no more cards are left The game is suitable for kids 8 and older.
Quiddler: The goal of this fast-paced game is to arrange all the cards in your hand into one or more words. With each round that is played, you are dealt more and more cards. Use the rules to your advantage to gain extra points.
Scrabble Junior: The 2-sided board means that you can start the game with young children as the words are printed on one side. Flip the board over to make up your own words. Even kids who are 6 or 7 can enjoy the beginning level.
Scattegories: This game was viral in the ’80s and ’90s for a very good reason. It is easy but a lot of fun to play, especially if your group loves to think out-of-the-box. Use the multi-sided die to randomize the letters and then start brainstorming words with those letters according to categories. It is suitable for kids of 12 years and older. Be prepared to laugh at the answers from your loved ones as they try to outrank everyone.
Pun Intended: If your kids like to clown around, they will be tickled by scoring points through punny sayings. The many ways to play the game make it enjoyable. The team approach encourages everyone to give it their best shot.
Jeopardy: If you liked the game show, you will love this activity that follows the familiar format. This book contains 27 crossword puzzles and 40-word search puzzles with 5 Jeopardy!® style clues for each puzzle. The correct responses can then be used to solve the puzzle.
Best Language Learning Apps
Using a tablet can be a great motivator for kids. Take advantage of the attraction to help your kids learn more words.
Endless Alphabet: This app is for young children. It is suitable for kids from 3 to 5 years old. Your child will hear and see the letters in a word. Once the sounds of the letter have been presented, then there is a definition for the word. A cheerful animation monster style accompanies all phases of this experience. The words are shown in the ABC order. There are 70 words to learn.
Mindsnacks (Kid’s Vocabulary): is a fast-paced vocabulary game that reviews the meaning of more words at different levels. It has been developed for kids ages 7 to 12. It is also an app that can help you learn vocabulary in many different languages. There are some pictorial clues to assist you. Before you start the game, you can review the vocabulary under a category such as Fantasy. During play, your kids can learn about homophones, word parts, etymology, and figurative language – all part of the game!
Word Dynamo: This game is an offshoot from Dictionary.com. It is suitable for kids ages 7 to 18, using a variety of options. It addresses vocabulary, grammar, and spelling. Once you have reviewed the words in the vocabulary area, you can challenge yourself to a crossword.
Winning Words: This simple game is built on the familiar format of concentration. It is suitable for kids from ages 8 through to adulthood. You can learn synonyms, homophones, antonyms, and more words.
Shake a Phrase: This app teaches vocabulary as well as parts of speech. Kids from 8 years old can benefit from this game. You can select stories from different kid-friendly themes – animals, fairytales, monsters, and sports. The advantage of this app is that the vocabulary is presented in context.
Words With Ibbleobble: Your kids can select words from 3 choices. The game has 7 levels for kids under 5 years of age. This app has been developed for kids who can already read.
Find the Synonym: You learn synonyms through matching. In this app, you are given the word, and you need to unscramble the synonym for the words. You can ask for clues, but you will suffer a penalty. This app is for the older student from 12 years to adulthood.
Quizzitive: The app has great bones as the Merriam-Webster dictionary company built it. It helps you build your vocabulary in 4 different ways with multiple levels. It is a game for older students. The answer is given each time, so you receive correct feedback. The game has context using pictures during one way of using the app.
These are only a few of the available apps. Some are free, but many are only a few dollars to purchase. If your kids love their devices, have them use the apps to expand their vocabulary.
4) Crosswords, Word Searches, Etcetera
For decades and even centuries, people have learned vocabulary through word searches, crosswords, and other word-related games. For some, this method of acquiring more words is a soothing activity. But with our modern tools, kids will be even more excited by online opportunities.
One way of reinforcing vocabulary is to build crosswords and word searches that relate to areas of study. If you are investigating types of rocks with your kids, find or make crosswords or word searches to include that specific set of words such as geological formations, pressure, earthquakes, fissures, igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic.
Kids will also enjoy making their own crosswords and word searches too!
5) Vocabulary Building Exercises
Kids enjoy a variety of approaches. Change up what you are doing by changing the format of vocabulary building.
Word Ladders: Play with words by changing part of the spelling. The ladder also includes clues for the right answer. This sample ladder is suitable for kids 9 to 10. There are multiple levels of Word Ladders to suit your needs. Word Ladders activity strengthens spelling knowledge as well as vocabulary building.
Word A Day Calendar: Often, a routine activity builds knowledge over time. The Word a Day Calendar will give structure to learning a new word daily. The level of vocabulary and explanations in this calendar are suitable for older students.
6) Conversation: Words Spoken in the Family Context
Have you ever wondered why lawyer’s kids become lawyers or doctor’s kids are in the medical field, teacher’s kids become teachers or mechanics’ kids turn to the vehicle trade? One of the most straightforward answers is that family conversations, as well as shared experiences, give the kids a background of information about specific professions.
They know more words about their parents’ careers. So, it stands to reason that the level of vocabulary you use to communicate with your kids has a profound effect on their growth and understanding.
Millions of Words Difference
“In October 2013, Hillary Clinton, who is dedicated to closing the vocabulary gap, wrote:
Studies have found that by age four,
children in middle and upper class families hear 15 million more words
than children in the working-class families, and
30 million more words than children in families on welfare.”
according to Psychology Today.
Once parents realize the importance of introducing many different types of words to their children, they can focus on using more words with their children. Young children can understand some very sophisticated vocabulary as long as the words are introduced in context.
“Researchers believe that low-income parents may underestimate by as much as 50 percent the impact that they can have on improving their child’s vocabulary and cognitive development.”
Parents from all socioeconomic levels can make a significant difference by introducing more complicated words in their communications.
A 2-Way Street
Remember, a conversation is a 2-way street. It is just as essential to allow time for your child to express themselves, as it is to talk to them.
One convenient time is around the dinner table. Turn off the TV, put away the other devices, and have a conversation about everyone’s day. Ask questions, respond to current issues, and encourage your child to express their opinions. Don’t be reluctant to introduce advanced words in your conversation.
If this process is a little uncomfortable at first, you can jot down 3 words connected to an issue that you want to introduce to your child.
For example, suppose your child is watching the media about Black Lives Matter. In that case, you have a perfect opportunity to introduce the words equitable and equal to discuss the difference in them. That may lead to a discussion about what is systematic racism. You have introduced the difference between equal and equitable, as well as the concept of systematic. By discussing more words, your child will start building even more connections when they hear the next news story.
Or if you are planning a visit to the science center, you can start to use the vocabulary from that center. You can ask your kids if they want to go to the engineering, biological or terrestrial forces areas. Use the vocabulary they will discover at the center to prepare them for their visit by examining the guides or maps of the learning center.
Once you start consciously introducing more words into your conversations, you will discover the many opportunities to build on your child’s vocabulary.
Research has shown that your children are never too old to read aloud to them. Most written texts have a more sophisticated approach to vocabulary than general conversation. An author will likely use different words than you use with your children.
Readalouds provide you with the perfect opportunity to introduce your kids to a different set of words and possibly a different perspective. Hearing words in the context of a story is a more powerful way of introducing vocabulary than through isolated lessons. Research supports this notion. “Nash and Snowling (2006) found that using a contextual approach to instruction produced greater vocabulary gains than lessons that emphasized learning word definitions.” A Review of the Current Research on Vocabulary Instruction
By reading aloud to your kids, they also hear the correct pronunciation of the more sophisticated words.
You can also find audiobooks on topics of interest. YouTube has many opportunities for rich experiences. By sharing the books together, you can now have conversations about the stories using this enriched vocabulary, as introduced in the book.
Is Repetition Helpful?
What if your child asks to hear the story again? Will it help with solidifying their gains in vocabulary? The short answer is YES.
Biemiller and Boote (2006) found that repeated reading of a storybook resulted in greater average gains in word knowledge for young children. A Review of the Current Research on Vocabulary
So, sit back and enjoy the same ReadAlouds repeatedly, firm in your belief that repeating the experience is worthwhile.
What Strategy is Best?
You do not need to use all 7 approaches. Select the ones that work for your family’s lifestyle. But be confident that you are cultivating an integral part of your child’s learning by increasing their knowledge of vocabulary.
Cultivate the power of an advanced vocabulary in your kids. But make the experience enjoyable, too.
Expand their vocabulary in entertaining ways.
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