A person's vocabulary influences how well he or she writes and how well he or she is perceived by others. The words a person chooses to use also indicate that person's level of education, which can impact his or her success in school and in life. This is why it's so important to help children broaden their vocabulary at an early age, especially for elementary students who have learned basic language skills and can understand more difficult vocabulary words. Helping students with vocabulary acquisition and usage will help children set themselves up for success now and in the future. Here are a few ways you can help children acquire and use new vocabulary words in your elementary classroom:
- Feature a Word of the DayTaking five minutes of class to teach children about the Word of the Day is a quick, convenient way to ensure that children expand their vocabulary each day they're in school. Teach children how to say and spell the word, its meaning(s), its synonyms and antonyms, and how to use it in a sentence. Have children write down each day's featured word and related information in a composition book solely for the Word of the Day–children can create their own dictionary to refer back to and use when writing. You can also help students take an ownership role by giving each student an opportunity to provide the Word of the Day. You'll be amazed at the challenging words they choose to share.
- Issue a Vocabulary ChallengeChallenge children to correctly use at least three new vocabulary words in conversation or in a short story/essay assignment each week. Have them highlight or tell you the new words they used to help you keep track of who met the vocabulary challenge for that week. You can also incorporate a reward for students who use a certain number of vocabulary words or who complete the vocabulary challenge each week during the year.
- Encourage Children to Play Vocabulary GamesVocabulary games are a great way to teach children how one word or a group of words that sound similar can have different meanings and/or spellings. You can also use memory and matching games to help children learn to spell words correctly and to help them with vocabulary comprehension.
- Teach Children How to Use Context to Understand New WordsEncouraging children to read (as much and as often as possible) and use context clues to determine what a new word means is one of the best ways to help children acquire and use vocabulary words. Using context to figure out what words mean is a skill that children need to acquire if they want to read more challenging books or do well on major tests that assess students' vocabulary and reading and writing skills.
- Ask Families to Help Children Learn and Practice New Words at HomeAsking families to help children learn and practice new vocabulary words at home is a fun way to promote family engagement and also helps children learn new words outside of the classroom setting. Send home a list of vocabulary words for children to learn and practice at home each week/month. Offer parents helpful tips on the best ways they can help their child learn and use new vocabulary words. Suggest that they help their child make flash cards or play a fun vocabulary game. You can also send home a customized crossword puzzle or word find that includes the new vocabulary words for families to work on together.
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