The Fast, the Furious and the Facts: Words Matter

The speed at which a student can convert words, from either text or speech, into meaning will determine how much and how quickly they comprehend. Knowing this can become incredibly helpful. Parents can give their children a huge advantage in school by helping them increase their “working” vocabulary.

The dictionary defines “vocabulary” as: A body of words known to an individual.
It has been documented, 70% of comprehension is based on vocabulary. Having a large vocabulary allows children to have a greater depth of understanding in both what they hear and what they read.

Get them racing down the proverbial “vocabulary” highway.

There are lots of ways to help your children build their vocabulary. The best time to begin helping them build vocabulary was last month. The next best time to assist them is now. There are lots of ways to assist in building strong and diverse vocabularies and it is easier than you think.

Most parents will read their children a bedtime story or perhaps you have family story time at the end of the day. Encourage children to ask about words they do not understand. Give them appropriate definitions (younger kids need simpler terms) and then ask them to tell you what the word means so you can check for accuracy. You can then ask them to use it in a sentence.

If you do not have story time every night perhaps you have a movie night where the family watches a movie together. Encourage children to ask about words or phrases they do not understand. Simply stop the show and clarify meaning. Remember to keep track of words so you can use them during the week.

Ensure there is no flag on the play!

It is a lot easier to help your child build vocabulary when it is a game and not an arduous, drill type activity. Make it fun!

University of Michigan Education Professor, Nell Duke, recommends the, “Goldilocks Principle”. When helping your children build their vocabulary don’t overdo it. Too many words causes overwhelm and too few is not challenging enough. You have to find the sweet spot or the “just right”.

A rule of thumb is to choose 5 unfamiliar words to work on each week. Science tells us a child needs to be exposed to a word 4 – 12 times before it becomes part of their vocabulary, so five words a week is plenty. Challenge the entire family to utilize those words throughout the week in conversation.

When kids are little, you can teach them the vocabulary around the house by labeling items in the house. Employing this strategy allows your child to see the printed word and this assists them in their word recognition skills.

The Finish Line

When our children were little, in addition to vocabulary words, we would have a weekly, “just fun to say word”. We would choose a word which is fun to say and challenge the children to work that word into the family dinner time conversation before the end of the week.

For example: The word, fortuitous. We would give them the word, give them a kid friendly definition and a kid friendly sentence and let them go to it. It was always a great way to build bigger words into their vocabulary. You could also post the “fun to say word” on the refrigerator for the week as a reminder.

Building vocabulary is a lifelong endeavor. If you make it fun when they are little, it will become a lifelong habit and they will learn to have fun playing with words.