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?

4 comments:

Nother barb said...

My older son is a passionate reader, and even before he started reading he had a terrific vocabulary. But words he picked up in his reading, without ever hearing them? Our vocabulary conversations have more to do with correcting his pronunciation, and understanding pronuncation of foreign words. And often I learn pronunciation along the way. He just moved into his first college apartment, and it happened again, we both learned something about pronunciation, so we both appear to be lifelong learners :)

Susan said...

Poetry is great for finding new vocabulary!

Susan said...

PS Dictionary.com posts fun lists. As an adult I enjoy the quizzes. My son's elementary teachers laugh when he uses his big vocab in class conversations. When we learn a new word we sometimes practice using it in the context of a conversation.

Anonymous said...

When my son was in 3rd - 5th Grade gifted class he did a chapter of Wordly Wise every week (it was the book for three or four grades above his current grade). So every week the students would be mindful of the new words for the week and would say "WW" when a word on the list was used in conversation at school or heard on the media. Our family use to make a point of using the words in conversations at home too. It was fun trying to see who could use the most "WW" words in the same sentence. It added to the fun learning that the teacher would read the definition for the spelling test rather than just read out the word.

We have missed "WW" this school year but are planing to do it through the summer just for fun and to keep expanding our family vocabulary.