Activities for the Week of Sep 01

Dino with Notebook_lIt’s never too early to build a strong vocabulary. Let’s take some time this week to have some word fun!

Pre-K Crowd: All the big kids are back to school and there they are — the peewees at the bus stop. If you have older kids in the house, they’re bringing home papers and books and homework. It used to be enough to have my youngest in tears. So give your little guy some “homework,” too.

The big kids are talking about happy. (See Grades 3-5.) Make a booklet out of plain paper and ask your preschooler to draw pictures of happy, excited, content, satisfied… You’re going to have to help him/her understand the differences. Too much? Have your child draw happy, excited, sad, sorry, fast, slow, big, small, etc. Then write the word in dotted lines on each page and let your child connect the dots. You can also read, “Today I Feel Silly,” to bring it all home!

Grades K-1: These kids are new to school. They may work with more than one teacher each day. They’re learning what each teacher wants, how to get to gym and lunch, where to go at the start of the day, what they need to do to get home … This week, pick a book each night that’s just fun (I love Henry and Mudge for this group.) and snuggle up and read to your child. If he or she wants to read along, great. If not, just enjoy the moment.

Grade 2: Have your child carry a small spiral notebook and pencil in his/her pocket when not in school this week. Any time a new word comes up, have your child write it down. No, we’re not going for a Rosalind Russell Auntie Mame moment here. We really are trying to do something positive! If no new words come up, why not check out synonyms and antonyms in a child’s thesaurus. Start with the word “happy,” and use the words you find this week when speaking to your child and others. That should fill up a page or two in the little notebook and lead to a great opportunity to talk about the shades of meaning of the words.

Shades of meaning not quite making sense? Try showing your child how many different shades of red there are in a big box of crayons. Then explain that there are shades of meaning with words, too. Keep it simple if you’d like. Just go for happy, excited, sad, unhappy, hungry, and starving. They’ll catch on pretty quickly and then see where it goes from there. (See Grades 3-5 for more.)

Grades 3-5: Kids in these grades have plenty of writing to do for their classes. It’s also likely they have reading and spelling assigned each week. There’s no point in adding what they’ll view as busy work. (You wouldn’t appreciate that and neither will they.) Still, it would be nice to know they’re working the muscles that will serve them well on the PSAT and SAT, as well as for the reading they’ll be doing in middle school and beyond. A strong vocabulary will certainly help them with all of the above. The problem is, vocabulary work can either be drudgery or fun. For this group, fun is key!

One way to make it drudgery is to memorize lists and break out flashcards. One way to make it fun is to try to make it a process of discovery. You could delve into the Latin and Greek roots of words — making yourself as popular as an ant at a picnic. An approach I prefer is to help kids to appreciate the nuances of the English language.

Start by taking one word and a handful of crayons in the same color family. Explain that red is red, but pink, coral, rust, etc. are all shades of red. Ask your child to tell you all the words that are “shades” of happy. Words like ecstatic, thrilled, content, and satisfied should come up. If your child can’t think of any words, break out a children’s thesaurus — online or in hand — to help. Explain that if you need to say someone is very, very happy, or a little bit happy, chances are good that there is a word that means just that.

Have your child add the words he/she discovers to a personal thesaurus. It’s actually fun to watch it fill with words, and it will result in a greater facility with words for your child.

It’s never to early to build a strong vocabulary. The KidWrite! kids love to be Word Detectives. You’ll find Word Detective activities in the KidWrite ClubHouse!

See what else we have for you!

Building Your Child's Vocabulary

Are you a reader?  Do you have a large expressive vocabulary – in English or another language?  Do you spend time asking your child about her day, prompting with questions that encourage her to add more detail?  Do you speak about words and their meaning?  How will your kids know these things are possible, let alone important, if you don’t?

Think about it.  Your kids are watching every move you make.  The more varied your vocabulary, the more varied your child’s will be.  If you’re reading a book after dinner, chances are good they’ll be curious about what’s so interesting.  The same thing with words.  If you take the time to talk about words and explore new words, they’re going to find words of interest, too.  The kids will follow your example.
I find the best times to talk words is at a meal, when driving in the car, or right at bed time.  It’s easy enough to start the discussion.  If it’s bed time, make up a story.  If you’re all at the table or in the car, just challenge your kids to think of five different ways to say the same thing.  For instance, challenge them to come up with five ways to describe a person crossing a room.  The possibilities are endless but chances are good they’ll at least come up with walk and run.  It’s up to you to introduce other words.  Words like amble, perambulate, skitter, hop, dash, jump, gyrate…  You get the idea.
How are you going to do this if you don’t have a great vocabulary?
Get a good thesaurus for kids.  I like the Scholastic Children’s Thesaurus I wrote about in an earlier post.  You’ll find it in KidWriteBooks or at your local bookstore.  This thesaurus includes definitions and is good for starting out.  (The Scholastic Student’s Thesaurus is excellent for middle school kids with a good basic vocabulary.  It doesn’t include the definitions but it does have words that aren’t included in the Children’s Thesaurus.)
Pick a word family.  All the words for fear or all the words for anger, for example.  Go over the words until you’re certain you have the nuances firmly in mind.  That way, when you’re talking about the words with your kids you’ll be able to help them get just the right word for what they’re trying to say.
Be dramatic.  Kids love when their parents are a bit goofy – as long as their friends aren’t around!  Act out the words with them.  Make the definitions memorable.
Relax.  You’ve got nothing to lose and if you succeed, your children will have richer vocabularies as a result!

Developing Word Choice to Help Your Child Become a Strong Writer

Writing is an essential skill for this generation.  Email, texting, written reports …  A facility with language can only be a good thing. Since strong writing shares several traits, the good news is that even if writing isn’t your thing, there are still many things you can do to help your child become a strong writer. We’ll take them one at a time over the next several weeks.

One of the simplest traits of good writing is WORD CHOICE. The better your child’s vocabulary, the more words they have at their disposal. Think of it like crayons for the color blue. You want your child to have more than one hue. You want her to be able to use navy blue, sky blue, indigo, azure… The more colors, the more nuance, the more powerful the writing will be.

With young kids, start by reading books like, Big Words for Little People or Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons. Be sure to talk about the words while you’re at it.

Where to start with the older crowd? Explain that words are just containers for ideas and concepts. They get us close to what we mean but not all the way there. “Angry” is a good example. We can use “angry”, “very angry,” or “so angry I couldn’t believe it.” Wouldn’t it be better to know words like “angry,” “irate,” or “furious”? Words that give us just the right shade of meaning?

A good thesaurus like the Scholastic Children’s Thesaurus has synonyms and definitions.  Pick a word and make a game out of using the synonyms.  The more often you do this, the stronger your child’s writing will become.