This is my first blog article ever and I’m pretty excited about it. The topic is teaching vocabulary to your kids to give your child a head start before they begin school. I should probably disclose to you that I don’t have any children of my own. I am, however, the oldest of four children with a 15-year age gap between the youngest and myself. I know, pretty crazy right! I was also raised by my mom and grandma who are both educators and I have been tutoring kids at my mom’s learning center since I was 10. This being said, I have witnessed and experienced many incredible teaching methods which I would like to share with you because they work!
When it comes to building a child’s vocabulary there are two ways to do it, direct instruction and indirect instruction. Through indirect instruction, a child’s vocabulary increases through exposure. The more words they hear and the more times they hear them the better. Kids figure out the meaning of these words by observing the people who use them. Basically kids fake it till they make it!
Direct instruction is a more hands-on approach by a teacher or parent who takes the time to teach the child as many words as possible directly, in other words explicitly telling the child what the word means. This method accelerates their comprehension abilities to better prepare them for their education and life!
Studies emphasize the importance of building a child’s vocabulary even before they even start reading. There are a couple of different things you can do with your child that I have seen work with many children, especially my baby sister.
Every day, point out things around your child and explain what they are. You should also be demonstrating how things around you work as much as you can. Repeated exposure of words, what they mean, and what they do enhances vocabulary development. As the child’s vocabulary grows you can then introduce more words and define them by using the words that they already know. These are some basic tips on how to help build your child’s vocabulary but don’t be afraid to branch out and use different vocabulary building games. The National Reading Panel stresses the importance of a variety of vocabulary instruction so have fun with it!
Reading to your child is also a key source of vocabulary building.
Read with expression
Use different voices for the characters
Even act out the story to keep your child engaged
Define new words as you go along
Skip reading words you cannot explain easily
Be aware of your child’s body language and facial expressions to help you figure out when they are confused and when you need to define a word for them.
Start chapter books as early as possible to help your child get used to imagining what’s happening in the story. It also gets them used to reading a book over a period of several days, or even longer. (My mom started reading chapter books like Doctor Dolittle to my sister when she was three.)
Lastly, have fun! If you are excited about learning new words and reading your child will be too! When your child uses a big word tell them how wonderful it is!
“Wow Johnny! You used the word hurricane! That is a big word! And you are right! It does look like a hurricane outside!”