Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Vocabulary Building: A Family Affair

One hallmark of a great writer is the ability to choose the exact right word and put it in just the right spot in a sentence to maximize meaning, tone, and emotion. Word choice can make the difference between a dull, ordinary sentence and a spectacular one that stands out among the masses.  This sounds simple enough, however word choice depends upon the existence of an excellent vocabulary. The more words a student has in her personal lexicon, the more likely she will choose the perfect one.

The good news is that growing a personal vocabulary does not have to be as boring as memorizing words from a grade level list and regurgitating it back on a test.

Instead, make vocabulary building a family affair! 

Learn words together and use them in ordinary conversation until they come easily and often.  In our house, we have a family word of the day. I write the word and its definition on an index card and tape it to the microwave door. As we file through the kitchen to pack lunches and eat breakfast, we talk about the meaning, laugh at funny pronunciations, and try silly sentences. Over the course of the day, we see who can slip the word into casual conversation or test it out on unsuspecting friends! We began by rewarding each person who successfully used the word in a sentence with a Hershey Kiss. But after only a week, the fun became its own reward and our word of the day habit has thrived ever since.

This sort of family learning accommodates all of us from my seven year old all the way to my 16 year old and beyond. It is a real and meaningful way to introduce excellence into our family speech and vocabulary. In fact, our vocabulary word of the day even became a hit with my children's friends who would come over and try to work the word into conversation with me throughout the day!

Kids are naturally inquisitive and eager to learn. But it can be overwhelming to learn 10 or 20 new words at a time. And it is pointless to memorize a bunch of words and not be using them or hearing them in conversation. The family word of the day demonstrates practicality and usefulness in a fun - and in our family, sometimes competitive - way. 

To get started, find a challenging vocabulary list or subscribe to the dictionary.com word of the day and have a word e-mailed to you each day!
Two of my favorite words that we have learned from our word of the day index cards are pied and panoply.
Pied: having patches of two or more colors (often relating to birds or other animals) ** as in the pied piper**
Panoply: a wide ranging or impressive display **as in a panoply of baked goods**
Are these words part of your regular speech? Perhaps they should be the first words of the day for your family!

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