One of my favorite aspects about teaching creative writingis vocabulary. I have always loved different words, their origins, and meanings; and now that I’m on the other side, I love teaching new vocabulary!
It makes me happy to hear my kids use words that their peers don’t know. 🙂
As with most of our school, we take a somewhat organic and simple approach to vocabulary. Since Monkey is just in third grade, we haven’t had any reason to use a vocabulary program, but in the next couple of years, I’m planning to introduce a curriculum that teaches the various etymology, root word, and prefix and suffix tags to dramatically increase her vocabulary. If you’re not quite ready for the full etymological study, Dynamic Homeschool has a cool vocabulary program that teaches suffixes and prefixes.
I like to take things to a practical level, so I’ve collected a list of ways that we use to teach vocabulary in our home. I believe vocabulary is one of the most important literacy topics that children can learn as it will benefit them in every single aspect of their adult lives. Speak well and people will treat you well! Not to mention, you will do much better on college entrance exams, essays, and job interviews.
Use these practical tips for teaching vocabulary at home.
This is one of our favorite games right now. At any point during the day, I may ask Monkey to use a synonym for a more common word. We often like to play this game while driving, just like our math games. We also play this game while doing boring jobs like laundry or dishes. Usually, I just ask, “what’s another word for ___?” and she tells me her answer. If she doesn’t know, I supply a response. If I don’t know, then we look it up in a Thesaurus and we both learn a new word.
This task is for you. One of the reasons I have a larger vocabulary than most people is because my parents spoke with a large vocabulary. My dad in particular was really good about using the rarer words in everyday conversation. My husband and I try to do this as much as possible.
In fact, my husband is known as the vocabulary guy at his office. His co-workers sometimes try to stump him with vocabulary words they look up but almost never manage it.
You can easily expand your own vocabulary by installing a Word of the Day app on your phone or simply visiting Dictionary.com, which I believe posts a new word of the day each day. Your kids will naturally pick up the words you use.
I love modern literature for kids as much as the next person (you’ll find a lot more bookish stuff on my other site, Daily Mayo), but one thing that many kid’s books today lack is a varied vocabulary. Older books have a whole range of words that children would never encounter otherwise. We read almost classic books exclusively when I was growing up, and most of my vocabulary knowledge comes from there.
My kids don’t seem to have as much patience for reading classic books on their own, but they do love it when I read older books to them. Some of our favorites are Winnie-the-Pooh, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and The Story of Doctor Dolittle.
I didn’t make her do this, but Monkey loves reading Encyclopedias (similar to this one), the Dictionary (we have this one), and the Children’s Thesaurus (the one we have is out of print, but this one is similar).
We use Shurley English, and I love it for its varied and comprehensive English program. It has a vocabulary section about twice a week where children learn four new words. So far, two of the words are synonyms and two are antonyms. Later on in the week the book has the children use the words in their writing assignments.
If you need a little help finding vocabulary words, here are some of our favorite resources:
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