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It worked: Learning new vocabulary words

A resourceful mom shares her easy technique for helping her daughter master new terms.

GreatSchools Blog

By GreatSchools Staff

Name: Angela
State: Pennsylvania
Child's age: 10
Child's school level: Elementary
Area(s) child struggles in: Reading and writing

Describe a challenging situation involving your child's learning or behavior.

As the homeschooling parent of a child with dyslexia, I was always open to finding new methods to teach outside the box. I found that traditional workbooks were often a recipe for disaster with my child, but I believed different methods could still lead to success.

One of our best tricks for learning vocabulary words was to turn oversized index cards into vocabulary bookmarks. We would cut several bookmarks from each card, with enough space to write a new vocabulary word on each one.

As my daughter read, she would write any word that she did not know the meaning of on the book mark. After reading ,we would take a few moments to go over the word meanings. She would orally use the word correctly in a sentence, and check it off.

We then created a vocabulary list from the words she'd marked on her bookmarks. Every two weeks, I quizzed her orally (e.g., "Use this word in a sentence … ") or with a multiple-choice test. Her vocabulary comprehension improved dramatically, as did her reading speed.

Today she is in middle school, and she continues to use this technique with success.

Describe how you responded to the situation, including the actions you took or strategies you used to support or defend your child in the situation.

I responded by providing her with a new method of learning vocabulary within the context of whatever she was reading, instead of overloading her with an arbitrary list of words.

How did your child handle the situation?

Vocabulary went from being her least favorite subject to one she enjoys greatly. She also incorporates the words she learns into her daily speech and writing, which she had never done with other methods.

Describe up to three things you learned from the situation.

  • Children learn best if the teaching technique is relative (e.g., they have come across the word in a text).
  • New teaching methods can provide success.
  • Adapting teaching methods to a child's learning style is better than focusing on methods that are clearly not working.

Describe up to three things your child learned from the situation:

  • She has the ability to succeed.
  • Not everyone learns the same way.
  • Never be afraid to be creative while learning!

What do you wish you had done differently, if anything?

I wish I'd tossed the traditional vocabulary workbooks sooner.

What advice would you give other parents in this type of situation?

Be honest about what teaching methods work for your child. Consider this: If you purchased a sweater only to bring it home and find the neck was too tight and it was inches above your navel, would you try to make it fit? Why are we so unwilling to look at learning tools the same way? Make learning natural!

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

09/11/2009:
"Thank you for your effort and keep it on. "
09/10/2009:
"Thank you for these awesome tips to helping a child succeed. I will definitely be trying some of them for my child's success. thanks again"
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