We’re spending a couple of weeks this summer at the Dr. Rick Blog talking about ways to keep kids’ brains active and alert for the beginning of the school year. Unchallenged brains quickly turn to mush – who needs that? So far, we’ve discussed reading, counting, writing, and spelling. Today it’s expanding vocabulary.
Summer’s for slowing down, remember, not shutting down.
Some easy, fun, and free tips for building vocabulary during the summer.
- Keep reading. Just as your kids will keep up their reading during the summer in order to maintain their writing and spelling skills, so will they sharpen their eyes for new vocabulary words as they read. Reading really is the fundamental skill. Don’t forget Book Adventure for fun and free reading suggestions. And prizes, too.
- “Discover” new words. Kids see and hear new words all the time. Make it even easier for them by using one or two new words a day and challenging them to point out the new words, to ask for their meaning, or to figure out the meaning by the context of your conversation. A little prize (an extra snack, a little later bedtime, some extra time in the pool) is always welcome. Try to find words for each letter of the alphabet.
- Use the new words. When the kids use new words, congratulate them on their vocabulary growth. You use the new words, too. Help with pronunciation and how the words are best used.
- Create word lists. Come up with categories of words your kids would like to learn during the summer. Sports words. Game words. Words connected to favorite subjects, hobbies, animals, superheroes, dinosaurs, trains, dolls, or other topics of interest. See how many you can accumulate. Extra points for spelling.
- Make it fun. I always challenge little learners by telling them that when I use an unfamiliar word they should give me a secret signal – a finger alongside the nose is my favorite because it makes them giggle a little. Then, I stop, pretending surprise. We talk about the word. I write it on the board, printed and cursive. We try to figure it out by its context in the discussion. Then I make a big deal about how well they listen and figure out the meaning. “Who knew you were so smart?” Beaming smiles, new words learned, and rising confidence all around.
- Make flash cards. I’m a big believer in flash cards, especially when the kids make their own. I advocate for flash cards for math, spelling, social studies, vocabulary-building – just about any subject. The kids’ brains are active as they think of what they’re going to put on the cards, as they make the cards, and as they challenge each other (and you) with them.
- Decorate a word wall. A summer word wall that grows as the weeks progress is a perfect and tangible way for kids to watch their vocabulary literally grow. Print the words in colorful crayons, markers, or even paint. Use construction paper or 3x5 index cards. Another way to watch words “grow” is to write them on colorful strips of paper that form a “word chain” that drapes all around the room.
- Sing. Make up songs about the words you’re learning together. Sing the alphabet song. Sing about a word for each letter. Maybe the words can all be animals, say. Any silly tune will amuse the kids. “K is for kittens, all fluffy and purring.”
- Cut up old magazines. Good for a rainy afternoon. Search for words you’ve learned this summer. Find new words. Paste them on construction paper. Cut out fancy colorful letters and use them for the words on your word chains and word walls. See who can make the coolest ones.
- Use whipped cream. Creative teachers often ask kids to write their names in the sand on the playground. Or to “air write” new spelling words. See how many other fun ways kids can write new words. With alphabet soup. With cut-out letters from magazines. With spaghetti. With Legos. With whipped cream. With seashells.
Keeping their vocabulary skills active during the summer can be fun and helpful when school starts again. No reason why summer learning has to be dull.