13 July 2009 03:32 PM

Summer Vocabulary Tips for Kids

by Dr. Rick

Let’s continue with our summer theme of the past few weeks – keeping kids’ brains active and learning through summer.  Summer’s a time for slowing down, not shutting down.


We’ve had tips for reading (15 June, 2009), writing (2 July, 2009), spelling (7 July, 2009), and math (10 July, 2009).   Today we’ll concentrate on vocabulary building.


Words are the building blocks of language.  The more words we have at our disposal, the better we area at expressing our thoughts, ideas, feelings, and beliefs.  The more confident we become in school and work.  The more we understand.  The more facts we learn, knowledge we accumulate, references we recognize, cultures we discover, jokes we “get.”  (See my blog of 27 March, 2009, “Fun Ways to Increase a Child’s Vocabulary.”)


Here are some tips to try at home.

  1. Keep reading.  Reading opens up many doors – imagination, curiosity, discovery, knowledge, maturity, confidence – so you want to indulge your child’s natural interest in new things.  As you read together, stop occasionally to explain unfamiliar words or to help him figure out their meaning by their context, by accompanying pictures, by their roots, or by their prefixes, or suffixes.  Talk a little bit about the words.  No lessons, just parent-child conversation.

  2. Reward often.  When she correctly uses a word you’ve discussed or read together, reward her with praise.  Kids love to be successful and feel accomplished.  Just like us.

  3. Create word lists.  Make lists of words you’ve learned together during the summer.  Write them in your summer journal, make a “chain” of words out of construction paper and drape them around the room.  Or create a “word wall” that shows how much you’ve learned.  Make flashcards – good, old-fashioned, low-tech flashcards – of these new words and have “word sprints” to see how many he can remember in a one-minute period.

  4. Make the dictionary your friend.  Surely I can’t be the only person who enjoys browsing through the dictionary and picking up a bonus word as I’m looking up another.  Develop this habit – it’s like getting two words for the price of one!  It’s also a good way to reinforce alphabetizing.  Eventually “graduate” to the Thesaurus.

  5. Use the words.  Now that you’ve learned new words with your child, use them often to reinforce their meanings and develop comfort and fluency.  Pronounce them, explain them when necessary, and give examples of how the word can be used.

  6. Talk often.  Conversation is the best way to learn any language, so make plenty of time to share talks with your child about just about any subject.  Summer is full of fun topics like play, travel, the beach, sports, vacations, favorite family stories, memories of relatives, your own summers . . . You get the picture.

  7. Memorize.  Memorization is an important skill for school and for work.  Make a game out of it.  Memorize poetry, song lyrics, even short scenes from a favorite play or movie.  It’s good brain exercise.

  8. Play.  Have fun with words.  Play word games, do crossword puzzles and word searches, compete in low-stress family spelling bees.  Get a laugh out of tongue twisters.  (I love them.  Here are two of my favorites.  “The skunk sat on a stump and thunk the stump stunk.  But the stump thunk the skunk stunk.”  And, “She stood at the door of Mrs. Smith’s fish sauce shop welcoming him in.”  Google others or make up your own.)

  9. Create themes.  Make up summer word themes for new vocabulary.  Concentrate on baseball, say, or Olympic swimming, sand-castle-building or favorite hobbies.  Learn as many new words about the theme as possible.

  10. Have a study buddy.  You’ve heard me advocate for study buddies in many, many blogs.  When it’s time for your student to start studying for spelling and vocabulary tests again, encourage him to have a study buddy who’ll support, challenge, and celebrate with him.

We’d love to hear about your family’s summer vocabulary building activities.  Please share with us by clicking on Comment below.




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