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!