Friday, 12 September 2014

Build Your Child's Vocabulary

Words are so very useful. I love them. I love the way that a particular cocktail of written words can stir the emotions, raise a belly laugh or reduce me to tears. I love how the taste of the words lingers in my mind when clever authors create believable characters, situations and worlds that leave me feeling bereft when I turn the last page of a book. I love the books that change the way I see the world that I inhabit, that make me look at other people and myself with new eyes; books that leave me with the feeling that I have learnt something new.

Pretty much every time I read a book to my children they learn something new, even if it is only the meaning of a new word :) Reading a wide variety of books from different time periods and of different genres really helps to build their vocabulary. And a bigger vocabulary enables them to understand more of what they read as well as helping their writing to become more vivid. But sometimes, much to my regret, I have realised that I don't always answer the question of what a particular word means. Usually it's when I don't really know myself how to define it, or when I know that I am guessing from the context the word is in, and sometimes, it is because it is late or because the question interrupts the flow of the story.

Writing and using Picture Book Explorers has helped me to develop better habits in building my children's vocabulary. I'd like to share these new habits with you :)

On the first day's reading, I just read the book through to them and ask them to listen carefully and not interrupt. Even though I have already read the book a number of times, I want them to hear the story uninterrupted, complete with silly voices and everything. It also stops my older child getting frustrated by her younger brother's questions when she understands the words that he doesn't.

On the second day, I make sure that I have a piece of paper and a pencil to hand so that I (or they) can make a quick note of any words that they ask about. I tell them to let me know when they hear a word they don't understand. At the end of the book, we look at the list of words and then :-
  • Sometimes they will sort the words into alphabetical order, sometimes not. We use an old Pocket Oxford English Dictionaryto look them up. 
  • Spellings are corrected where necessary before they write the words and definitions in their Logbooks. 
  • If the definition is long, or complicated, they may choose to write a sentence using the word instead. 
  • If they have already done some writing that day, they may just write the actual words in the Logbooks
  • We take it in turns to verbally create silly sentences using the words
  • We verbally make up a story between us, each taking it in turns to make up the next section, passing the story on once one of the words has been used and ticked off  the list
  • They act out the word. Sometimes, this turns into a game of charades where we have to guess which word is being acted.
I will be including vocabulary activities more regularly in Picture Book Explorers from now on. I hope they will be useful to you and your children.

How do you help your children build their vocabulary? It would be fab to hear your suggestions :)