Remember those times when you were at home during the long summer days? You saw or heard a new word for the first time, but you weren’t at school to learn more about it. Of course, you asked your parents for the meaning of a word. You probably had to learn how to pronounce it, too. Maybe you even tried to remember it because it sounded so good!
In school, there were (and still are) the ever-present and seemingly never-ending vocabulary lists, tests, and essays in which you had to use a given number of the new vocabulary words all through school and even in college. Did you ever wish you could have had a different way of learning and understanding how and why vocabulary is so important? Why vocabulary is a lifelong reality for everyone—everyone? Now, as a parent, you have the opportunity to enrich your child’s vocabulary in fun and new ways. And the summer break is a great time to do so!
From the moment we enter this world, words surround us. Words—read, spoken, written, sung, illustrated, heard—words—all around us—experienced for the entirety of one's lifetime. Just this realization alone illustrates how important vocabulary is to humanity, but there’s more. College and career, work, play, education, culture, religion, driving, voting, entertainment, sports, hobbies, health, technology, food, restaurants, media, social media, globalization—all require and depend on specific vocabularies. The necessity for our possessing elastic knowledge and mastery of vocabulary actually supersedes every facet of our lifelong education and literacy, for vocabulary is the foundational building block of basic education.
Although we acknowledge that vocabulary is a lifelong necessary skill, many parents struggle with knowing how to help their children learn vocabulary. How and where should they begin? And, can they make it fun?
Using a summer-related WordTree is a great place to start! Every moment can be fun, engaging, unstressed—a real, substantive, fun family learning moment—anywhere you go, anytime you choose. By using words that naturally come up during the summer you can help your kids relate vocabulary to the world around them.
WordTree is comprised of two elements, or “branches:” vocabulary themes, and an accompanying activity, DYK (Did You Know), comprised of new terms, events, and new ideas your children will encounter as you explore WordTree together. The following activities contain four completed Summertime Vocabulary Activities, four blank summertime vocabulary activities, and two accompanying DKY term sheets. Each activity includes a list of vocabulary words and asks students to define the word, identify a synonym, and use it in a sentence. DKY presents a list of terms, locations, or concepts your children might encounter over the summer. For example, the image below shows a completed word tree with the summertime theme weather.
The vocabulary terms reference what your kids will learn as you explore the themes together- terms such as drought, stand-by, reunion, passport, Frisbee, and whitecaps. At the same time, you can share DYK concepts your kids may wonder about this summer such as: Where is the Painted Desert? Whose faces are on Mt. Rushmore and why? And, what happened at Ft. McHenry in Baltimore?
You can download and print blank forms for each activity to complete the game together with your kids. Here are the blank activity sheets:
And the "Did You Know" sheets:
With the WordTree every moment can be a fun, engaging, no stress, family learning moment.
Jocelyn Chadwick is a Parent Toolkit expert and the Vice President of the National Council of Techers of English. John Grassie is an author and education researcher and lecturer.