One of my favorite methods to teach is through the use of Vocabulary. Now, I admit this could go wrong… very wrong if not done in the proper manner. However, using vocabulary to teach other subjects besides building language skills and reading vocabulary is not a common choice. Yet, the research does support the use of vocabulary to enrich and solidify instruction in other subjects.
Dr. David Chard, a consultant with Houghton Mifflin Math says, “While young students learn how to “do” math, they must also learn how to articulate what they are learning. Children must learn to recognize and answer why questions in order to develop problem solving skills. And for teachers to accurately assess student progress, children must first need to acquire the means of explaining how they solve problems as well as what concepts might not be clear to them.”
You see using vocabulary instruction for other subjects simply enriches and increases a student’s understanding and ability to communicate within that subject. In fact, at the Vocabulary Spelling City website, you will see not just vocabulary to increase literacy skills, but also vocabulary to assist in learning science and even math vocabulary. Yet, I hope you realize that that isn’t all you can use vocabulary with. I love using vocabulary to polish and build foreign language skills, study social studies, and develop geography skills. So, the next time you start developing a homeschool unit of study – make sure you add vocabulary to your instruction. You might be surprised at how quickly your student’s start putting it all together!
What do you think of when you hear the words… vocabulary words? It conjures up mental images of sitting at my desk and writing till I had a blister on my finger. I can also see those boldfaced words in my science and history books… you know… those words that we had to look up and define. Ugh! Those were the days, right? Well, how do we teach vocabulary to our students? Is it the same mundane way? You know, it is a tradition…
I have to say that the fundamental way to teach vocabulary in America has been to write the definitions or use them in a sentence. Hey, we’ve been doing it for decades… so what’s the big deal? Well, I have to say that just writing and using them in a sentence doesn’t go far in helping the student understand the concept. The key to learning is understanding. So, with vocabulary words as well as other types of learning students need to make connections between the new knowledge and the prior knowledge. These connections can make all the difference in understanding. Prov. 14:6 says, “Knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth.”
Secondly, just using our eyes or ears alone doesn’t enrich us with great meaning. I teach my education students that using as many of a student’s senses as possible increases their ability to understand and retain the knowledge that they are learning. So, as you are teaching vocabulary use as many senses as possible. That means draw a picture, or act out the word (play charades), make up a song to go with the word, ask questions about the meaning such as “is it living or nonliving“, and play games. Using many senses in the acquisition of knowledge allows it to more firmly be seated in our understanding.
Third, the vocabulary word does no good unless it is used. The application of knowledge is also key to retaining that knowledge. Understand the vocabulary word, involve senses in practicing the meaning of the word, and then use it daily! We’ve all heard the rumors that if we do something more than 14 times it becomes a habit… well, use those vocabulary words more than 14 times and they’ll become part of your personal vocabulary.