How to Build a Better Vocabulary

Building a better vocabulary is a long-term process. Your child can read and study parts of words to expand his or her vocabulary, but you can help by doing activities at home and making vocabulary practice an everyday habit.

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Vocabulary-Building Techniques

As your child understands the meanings of more words, he or she can read challenging books more easily and use more complex vocabulary when writing. Encourage daily reading in order to learn and remember vocabulary words. When your child encounters an unfamiliar word in a text, he or she may use the context to figure out the word's meaning. This helps your child absorb the word's meaning and know what it means the next time it appears.

Breaking down words into parts may help in the recognition of unfamiliar words. If your child knows the meanings of common prefixes, suffixes and roots (or base words), he or she may potentially define thousands of words. Search online to find a list of word parts and their definitions. Print it out and ask your child to brainstorm every word that comes to mind for each of the prefixes, suffixes and roots on the list.

Multi-Level Activities to Teach New Words

Use Your Words

If your son's teacher provides a list of vocabulary words, look it over and incorporate the words into your discussions to get him used to using these words in everyday conversation. Once he has mastered them, build on this foundation by looking up the vocabulary words in a thesaurus to find words with similar meanings.

Play Scrabble

If you have Scrabble, Boggle or a similar word-building game, count out a certain number of letter tiles and give your daughter a piece of paper and a pencil. Encourage her to think about how many words can be spelled from the available letters and then list them on the paper. See if you can add any additional words. Once all the word possibilities are exhausted, select different letters. You might want to switch up the number of letters you use.

Choose a Word of the Day

Write the names of all your family members on slips of paper and put them in a container. Have your son pick a name. The person who is chosen should find an interesting word in the dictionary, and everyone else gets to guess what they think the word means. The definition should then be read aloud, and each family member can write a sentence using that word. Whoever comes up with the funniest or most unique sentence gets to choose the next word of the day.

Visualize the Word

If your daughter likes to doodle, pass out some drawing supplies and choose a vocabulary word. You may want to find an unfamiliar word, but be sure to clearly define it. Your daughter can draw a picture related to the word. Encourage her to write a short story to accompany the picture, being sure to include the word as many times as possible.

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