Everyone knows we should speak and write better. In today’s high-tech texting/messaging world, we are rapidly losing the ability to spell even simple words. Students need to be able to function in the business world (read: get better jobs), but how can this be done with our limited vocabularies? A good vocabulary is what we need to communicate ideas and feelings effectively. The larger the vocabulary–and that means MORE words, not bigger words–the better a person will be able to control learning and life in general. How can we help our students improve the words they use?
1)Read and use context. The best way to build vocabulary is to read. Read books, read journals, read blog posts. Yes, as I’ve stated before, read everything! When a word is read in context, the student understands the meaning of the word better. It’s much easier to learn new words when a student can see it used in context, next to other words.
In A Day Development
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2) Play with a dictionary. Even though we can find definitions online easily now, teach your student how to use a dictionary. This is so the student can look up words while reading. Learn the different pieces of information in a dictionary: it provides more than just definitions! A dictionary also gives the parts of speech, syllable structure, and pronunciation of a word, among other things. Many students don’t understand the difference between the noun version of a word and the verb version. These are basic understandings of language that will help students (and us!) when they are constructing sentences and learning foreign languages.
3) Find synonyms and antonyms. Encourage your student to find different words for the common ones your family uses every day. For example, instead of saying “big,” suggest saying “large.” Or, when the student learns a new word from reading it somewhere, help the student remember it by relating it to a word the student already knows. As a helpful reminder, synonyms are words that have the same meaning (e.g., big and large), and antonyms are words that have opposite meanings (e.g., big and small). Have your student search a thesaurus for more!
4) Play rhyming games! Younger students enjoy sounds, especially the sounds that words make. If you’ve ever repeated a word over and over until it doesn’t sound right anymore (or seen someone do this), you know what I mean. Help your younger students increase their vocabulary as they search for words that rhyme. Try this great game: give a lead sentence where the student has to think of a follow-up line that ends with a word that rhymes with your sentence’s end word. Example: You can say, “we want to be safe around things that are hot…” and your student can reply with something like, “so don’t wave your arms around the soup pot!”
Note: words that sound the same but have different spellings or meanings are called homophones, like male and mail. Use them in the rhyming games, and then use the extra bonus of talking about the meaning of each homophone.
5) Play with compound words. Make new/bigger words from smaller word pieces that your student already knows. Discuss the meaning of the new compound word.Example: play + ground = playground.Is it related to the small words? Or have your student think of a familiar compound word; then break it into its component pieces. Example: football = foot + ball. You can find many lists of compound words online. Challenge each other to see who knows more!
Whatever you do, the important thing is always be encouraging. When we’re young, we love learning new words. Encourage this as your student gets older by reading to each other and playing word games. It’s amazing how many new words you’ll learn!
Stay tuned for Part II of “Improve your student’s vocabulary” for more pointers. Happy Learning!