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There’s a strong link between understanding words and understanding what you read. Children with learning and attention issues do better when they spend more time learning words. Here are some teaching methods to improve your child’s vocabulary.

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Girl explaining something to her mother about her homework
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Describe the word.

Provide a description of the new word. For example, maybe you’re teaching your child the new 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?

Young boy reading with his mother and repeating words out loud
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Say it your way.

Once you’ve described a new word, ask him to come up with his own way to describe it. For example, after explaining how fortunate you are to have such a nice family, your son might explain how fortunate he is to have the latest video game.

Sisters dressed up as princesses dancing in the kitchen
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Act it out.

By acting out a word, your child better understands it. This may be particularly helpful if your child has lots of energy and loves to run around. The new word frolic can come alive through jumping around like a puppy, a goat or a lamb. Why not bring it outdoors as well?

Close up of a girl working at her bedroom desk illustrating a story
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Quick draw.

Get some pencils and paper. Without using words, draw a quick sketch of the new word. You might decide to represent the new word reluctant 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 of a big bowl of broccoli.

Close up of a young boy reading and taking notes
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Analyze this.

Teach him the meanings of common prefixes, suffixes and root words. 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 helps with meaning.

Close up of two children helping each other write a story
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Be an author.

Using a list of new words, ask your child to write a story. In order to do this well, your child will need to use all of the words correctly. Bringing words together from a list will take imagination. Encourage your child to be creative.

Close up of a father making a point while talking to his son
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Tell me once, tell me twice…

Use the new word often. For the new word essential, you might talk about what is essential to pack for a camping trip or discuss what is essential for happiness. A checklist of essential chores might help remind your child to walk the dog, do his homework and clean his room before dinner.

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About the Author

Portrait of Ginny Osewalt

Ginny Osewalt is certified in elementary and special education, with experience in inclusion, resource room and self-contained settings.

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