At a glance
If you’re concerned about your child’s vocabulary, there are many at-home ways to boost it.
Kids who practice new words often do better with reading and at school.
Using new words and playing fun games can help your child learn more vocabulary.
There’s a strong connection between understanding words and understanding what you read. This means that kids who learn and think differently often do better at reading comprehension when they spend more time learning, practicing, and understanding words.
Here are some at-home teaching methods to try that will improve your child’s vocabulary.
1. Describe the word.
Provide a description of each new word you introduce. For example, maybe you’re teaching your child the word merchant, which is common in upper elementary social studies textbooks. You can talk with your child about the local merchants in your town. What kinds of stores are in your town? What do they sell?
2. Say it your way.
Once you’ve described a new word, it helps to ask kids to come up with their own way to describe it. For example, after explaining how fortunate you are to have such a nice family, your son or daughter might explain how fortunate they feel to have the latest video game.
3. Act it out.
By acting out a word, your child is bound to better understand it. This may be particularly helpful if your child has lots of energy and loves to run around. The new word frolic, for example, can come alive through jumping around like a puppy, goat, or lamb. Why not bring the fun outdoors as well? Frolic in the garden, yard, or along the sidewalk.
4. Quick draw.
Get some pencils and paper. Without using actual words, draw a quick sketch of what the new word is. For the word reluctant, you might decide to represent it by drawing a person standing at the edge of swimming pool with only one toe in the water. Your child, who is reluctant to eat vegetables, might draw a big bowl of broccoli and a frowny face next to it.
5. Analyze this.
Teach your child the meanings of common prefixes, suffixes, and . For example, the prefix multi- means many and the suffix -less means not or without. Geo is a root word that means earth, as in geology. Recognizing these patterns will help your child with word meanings and understanding.
6. Write a story.
Using a list of new words, ask your child to be an author and write a story. In order to do this well, your child will need to use all of the words correctly. Bringing words together into story form from a list will take imagination. Encourage your child to be creative and have fun.
7. Tell me once, tell me twice…
Use the new word all the time. So, if the word is essential, you might discuss what is essential to pack for a camping trip or talk about what is essential for happiness. A checklist of essential chores might help remind your child to walk the dog, do homework, and set the table before dinner.
Drawing, acting out, and writing stories will boost your child’s ability to understand and retain new words.
Practice the words over and over and use them all the time around the house.
Encourage your child to describe words when prompted and tell you about them.
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About the author
About the author
Ginny Osewalt is a dually certified elementary and special education teacher with more than 15 years of experience in general education, inclusion, resource room, and self-contained settings.