Friday, May 16, 2014
Learning new words
My oldest son -- who turns 7 today -- loves making his own books. Part of writing is knowing the right words to use, and a great way to learn new words is to read other people's writing. You expand your vocabulary as you see words that are unfamiliar, and figure out what they might mean from the context. My kid loves a challenge, so as he's been thinking about learning new words, he thought maybe he should figure out the hardest, longest words possible, and make a word wall for himself of these new monstrosities. We also figured he could look through books with lots of unfamiliar words -- a dinosaur encyclopedia, for instance -- and choose new words as he came across them. This method produced "determine" and "intimidated," among others. This seems to me to be a more natural method of learning new words than flash cards or, as I once saw, a novel written around the frequent usage of SAT-type vocab words. Of course, it's probably still more forced than simply having conversations and learning new words as part of that. The last method has something going for it from a writing perspective. I do the occasional editing job, and often wish people stuck more to words they'd use while talking to someone. Often, a simple word is best. It's good to know a lot of words...and then not use all of them. Do you and your children have conversations about words and how they're used? Have you ever been surprised to hear them use words (nice words!) you didn't think they'd know?