A good education along with a well developed vocabulary is an important component to children’s educational development. As a writer, mother and grandmom one of my ongoing challenges is introducing new words into our granddaughter’s word base. As a former university administrator it concerns me how the popularity of texting is limiting younger children’s ability to spell and speak well.
We bought her a Learn a New Word a Day calendar. She loves it. A third of the words are beyond her current grade level. She is able to sound out the words and pronounce them correctly. To help her understand the more difficult words we use them in sentences or phrases. However, the next day when we would use the word in a phrase in casual conversation she had no clue what the word meant. She remembered the word but not the definition or how to use it in a sentence. I realized it was a word retention issue and not a learning issue. After much internet research and brainstorming with educator associates, I developed a few tips of my own to help our granddaughter increase her word base, retain complex words and in turn increase her vocabulary.
Subjects of Interest: Ask your child about their interests in regards to hobbies, travel, science, etc. Select one or two words per day from their favorite category and/or subject.
Definition: Ask them the meaning of the word. If it’s a compound word allow them to break the word into syllables. For example: CARBONATE, car-bon-ate Use the syllables in an entertaining sentence, “The CAR took BO and Nate to the soda shop.” If the word is CARBONATED the same memory process can be used, i.e. “The CAR took BO, NAT and ED to the soda shop.”
Retention: When the child has remembered the definition you may choose to reinforce it with a tangible surprise like sparkling cider to illustrate carbonation.
Usage: Ask them how the word is used in conversation, i.e. instead of using the word soda, ask them to use the word carbonate and/or carbonated. “We enjoyed our carbonated cherry beverage.” Or, “We added flavored seltzer to carbonate our juice.” Carbonated beverage would be the two new words added to their vocabulary to describe soda.
These simple techniques help children with word associate and broaden their word base. Increased vocabulary will also help stimulate their interest toward creative writing. An element of our granddaughter’s homework is writing a story that integrate her weekly spelling words. I was amazing at the volumn of new words she is now able to retain and recognize. From compound words to the simplest of words she is able to maintain an understanding of the words and incorporate them into her daily conversations.
In today’s society speaking well is as important as ones professional presentation. Words and a well developed vocabulary are the foundation to ensure our children’s future success as well as personal empowerment and self esteem.
Deb Martin-Webster, former Director of Student Life
and Services – Temple University/Tyler School of Art