I’ve written before about one simple way to improve vocabulary.
Since that time we’ve gotten more word obsessed, and have added other simple ways to broaden our vocabulary.
Why are words so important to us? Why have we made this one of the main focuses in our homeschool?
I love this quote:
I want to give my children the gift of WORDS, THOUGHTS - the gift of a deeper life through understanding literature.
An interest in words can become a family culture - just something you DO. After a while your kids will look for many opportunities to learn words.
Some of these suggestions are easy to implement - you can start TODAY.
Others are larger strategies you might want to consider as you are teaching your children.
Make a Note of Unknown Words
Recently, my son was reading The Scarlet Letter. This book contains A LOT of words that were unfamiliar to him.
(Fun fact: In the 87,000-plus words that make up The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne used “ignominy” 16 times, “ignominious” seven times, and “ignominiously” once.) . source
I challenged him to highlight each word that he did not know. As we would discuss the book I would pull out some of the highlighted words and we would define them - put them back into the context of the story - and then discuss.
I tried my very best to use a few of these words in conversation after that. This requires some work on my part (usually I record the words in the Notes on my phone).
It usually became a game to see who could use words from the book in the course of conversation. Nothing formalized - just wanting to make words FUN.
Use Read Aloud Time to Focus on Vocabulary
I am a firm believer in reading aloud to improve vocabulary.
As we read aloud each morning we ask Alexa to tell us words we don’t know.
No matter your feelings about Alexa, I love that I can ask her to look up words we don’t know.
Sometime I will also just stop on a word I think might be unfamiliar, ask my son to spell it and define it as well. He loves spelling, so this challenge is a lot of fun.
We have recently encountered a couple of authors that use a beautiful, wide selection of words. Neal Bascomb and Steve Sheinkin write historical fiction and nonfiction books that have broadened our vocabulary.
Flash Cards and Curriculum
SAT/ACT Practice Words
Because we will be taking the PSAT, SAT and ACT in the next couple of years I’m trying to offer my son ways to broaden his vocabulary.
Do you know about Wordly Wise? This is a spectacular vocabulary curriculum that we’ve used in the past.
While I recommend it as a full curriculum, I have also purchased it the past few years just for the word lists. Last summer I had my son enter a list each week into Quizlet. His vocabulary grew by leaps and bounds over the summer!
This has been perhaps the BIGGEST investment that has improved my children’s vocabularies.
Studying Latin has gotten them investigating words, looking at word roots, and generally interested in words.
A gentle way to start with Latin was a book we used in Morning Time — Getting Started with Latin. This is a perfect precursor to your more formal Latin studies.
Additionally, my children used Word Up! when they were younger and learned SO much!
Sometimes we forget to PLAY during our school time, don’t we?
Playing games has been one of the most effective way of learning words in our family.
Words with Friends
I am indeed advocating you spend time on your phone or iPad during school!
Playing Words with Friends is such a great way to expand your vocabulary. Just by trying new combinations of words and looking up words others play against you grows your vocabulary.
There is a tool on Words with Friends that allows you to look up the definition of a word within the app.
Other word games we enjoy: