5 tips for teaching vocabulary

LearningVocabulary is empowering.  Building a strong vocabulary makes children better learners and more confident members of society.

How do you teach vocabulary?

First, don’t confuse building vocabulary with building dictionary skills.  Don’t simply say, “Look it up!”  Think back to your childhood.  Did you “look it up” when prodded by teachers and parents?  Me, neither.  Who wants to interrupt a great book or fun conversation to  consult the dictionary?

If a child does get around to researching the word, he’ll probably encounter a dictionary-style Voice Mail Jail.  Each word refers to another word, each definition is more and more confusing, until the child forgets which word he set out to research.

There’s a better way!  Here are 5 tips for teaching vocabulary at school or at home:

  1.  Give the definition.  This can be in writing or just verbally.  Don’t make the child look it up in the dictionary unless you are there to help.
  2.  Have the child repeat the word.  This lets the child make the word his own, and helps to cement it in his memory.  Repeating the word also gives you the chance to correct mispronunciations.
  3. Use the word in context.  Give a sentence or example that shows the word’s meaning.  After hearing your examples, the child might like to give her own to show she understands.
  4. Discuss root words or other forms of the word.  Once a child understands “sympathetic,” then “sympathetically” and “sympathy” can be easily added to his vocabulary.  (Extra credit if you explain pathos!)  Learning other forms of the word helps children understand parts of speech.
  5. Reward the child for making connections.  My students love to make connections, and it is gratifying when they find vocabulary words in books or everyday conversation.  Making connections shows children how their newfound vocabulary gives them a better understanding of their world.

 

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