Do you remember those vocab tests you took in middle and high school? Did you actually learn vocabulary that way? Yeah, me neither. Vocabulary is meaningless if not used in context.
Obviously the best way to boost vocabulary in children is through reading and conversation, and since we certainly have the reading element taken care of I created a word jar to improve conversational vocabulary.
Every morning this summer Kiddo chooses a word from his vocabulary word jar. Then, throughout the day Kiddo and I have a good-sport contest to see who can use the word in context the most. It’s quite fun and we end up creating silly observations about our day.
Here are a few tips:
1. Keep it simple. Don’t start with SAT word lists! I filled our jar with words I found on these grade level lists based on his reading level, picking and choosing words I thought he might be unfamiliar with but which he could pick up easily.
2. Include some words with double meanings. A word like signal is both a noun and a verb. A word such as staple is a noun, verb and adjective and has a few completely different meanings.
3. Use words your child knows but may not regularly use. The above example of signal is perfect. Kiddo knew the meaning of this word when he picked it from the jar, but I’d never actually hear him use it as a verb in conversation before. Now he’s uses it a lot!
4. Relax. Don’t make it a test. Some days we use the word a lot in conversation. Other days Kiddo spends 10 minutes thinking up the craziest sentences he can and then doesn’t use the word again. Thats okay. It’s summer. It’s supposed to be fun. The real goal is simply to demonstrate the benefits of having a large vocabulary, not to get your 7 year old using the word specious appropriately.
5. Use words from previous days. Truth be told, it is mostly up to me to reuse words from previous days in our conversation. I love that when I do, Kiddo’s face shines with acknowledgment.
I admit, my favorite part of this activity is not even that Kiddo is learning and retaining new words, it’s that we can have a lot of cheerful conversational moments at a time when he is displaying too much typical 7 year old petulance!
What about you? Do you take any deliberate steps to widen your child’s vocabulary? What works for you? Leave a comment and tell us.