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November 2014 / Bronx/​Riverdale Family / Brooklyn Family / Long Island Family / Manhattan Family / Queens Family / Staten Island Family

Increasing your children’s vocabulary

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Dear teacher,

Please give me some ways to help my children increase their vocabulary.

Dear parent,

Your children’s success in school is definitely related to the size of their vocabulary. Students with the larger vocabularies usually do better in school.

The single best way to increase your children’s vocabulary is to have them read beyond their school assignments. The more they read, the bigger and better their vocabularies will be. Plus, your reading to them will also increase their vocabularies, as they will be exposed to words that are not typically used in everyday conversations. Just be sure to briefly explain any new words that are encountered. The next best way to increase your children’s vocabulary is by talking to them, especially about new experiences, places, things, and people.

Success in content subjects is tied closely to knowing the specific vocabulary of that subject. Textbooks make this easy by typically having a list of new vocabulary terms for each chapter. Besides making your children aware of this, you can help them learn these words and use them in your conversations.

Undeniably, today’s children are totally enchanted and dedicated to electronic devices. Reading can be encouraged by securing materials — both fiction and nonfiction — that are online. Be sure to investigate what free materials the local public libraries have available for downloading.

Here are some websites that we have discovered that are designed to help children increase their vocabularies. (Do e-mail us with the names of additional ones that you have found.) There is www.freerice.com, which has 60 levels of vocabulary words. It also has the laudatory purpose of donating 10 grains of rice to hungry children for each correct answer. Another very effective website is www.vocabulary.com. Here, a personal list of important vocabulary words that children do not know is developed, and these words are reviewed to ensure that they are learned. On our website (dearteacher.com), you’ll find lists of vocabulary words children should know at different grade levels under “Skill Builders,” then click on “Reading.” At readingrockets.org under “Reading Topics A to Z,” look for solid advice on ways to build your children’s lexicon under “vocabulary.”

Tips for motivating a middle schooler

Dear teacher,

My sixth-grader is totally unmotivated in school, and his report card grades definitely reflect his lack of effort. He is very bright and articulate; however, his grades are all C or lower. Nothing works! Do you have any suggestions on how to help us teach him how to raise his grades?

Dear parent,

Parents, along with teachers, play an important role in motivating children to learn. The teacher is in charge of the classroom climate, and when it is a caring, supportive environment where all the students are valued and assignments are challenging — but achievable — students will flourish. You need to talk with all of your son’s teachers. Be sure to take your son with you to the meeting so that he can hear directly what the teachers think are his strengths and weaknesses and reasons for not achieving.

Not doing well in school is not always a case of a child being unmotivated. With the teachers and your son, dig deeply into how he approaches studying for each class. Could poor and ineffective study skills play a role in his lack of effort? Many students can rely on their natural brightness to do well in school until the material becomes more challenging and requires concentrated effort for success. Is it possible that your son now feels stupid because content mastery is no longer easy for him? Ask him directly how much time he is putting into his schoolwork. Find out how he thinks he might be able to do better in school. Also, put on the table the possibility of a learning disability.

At the conclusion of the meeting, make sure that there is a plan that can turn things around for your son. Also, be sure to schedule another meeting within a month to six weeks to check on whether progress is being made. One thing that could help is using a homework contract, which ensures that he will do one hour of schoolwork each day in your presence. You will find one on our website, (dearteacher.com). Another possibility is considering the need for a tutor.

How to find extra help for a child having problems with math

Dear teacher,

Where is a good place for my son in fourth grade to get some extra help in math? He is already falling behind the other children in his class.

Dear parent,

Work with the teacher in finding ways to help your child. Find out if the teacher offers before- or after-school help in math. It is best to accept help from the classroom teacher first. Also, the teacher is a good resource for finding tutors. In addition, the local high school, college or university may have reasonably priced or free tutoring done by their students.

You can also look online for the Khan Academy, www.khanacademy.org. Every class is free at Khan Academy. It is a not-for-profit organization where students can learn almost anything, including math. Many homeschooling parents and some private schools are using Khan Academy to teach their students. The website has more than 4,200 videos. The videos are instructional and could help your son improve his math skills.

Parents should send questions and comments to dearteacher@dearteacher.com or ask them on the columnists’ website at www.dearteacher.com.

©Compass Syndicate Corporation, 2014.

Distributed by King Features Syndicate

Posted 12:00 am, November 23, 2014
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