How do you grow your child’s vocabulary and literacy skills? Do you read aloud? Do you do weekly spelling tests? Do you play Scrabble? There are so many fun ways to challenge our kids to learn and today I’m going to share one of my favorites with you!
I don’t have a name for this activity, but it’s essentially learning by context clues alone. It’s a wonderful exercise and is helpful in many ways, but my kids just think its an awesome game and they always ask me to keep going! So let’s get down to it!
I will include original passages I’ve wrote for free on my FREEBIES tab, but it is so simple, you’ll easily be able to make your own! The activity is a passage based around a theme-just a few sentences about something basic. The catch is you exchange the theme word for a nonsensical word (which the kids think is hilarious) and they have to solve the mystery of what that word is supposed to be based on the context clues.
My favorite animal is a tithik. Tithiks are reptiles and don’t have any arms or legs. They can have beautiful colors and patterns. Tithiks eat rats or mice. Some Tithiks can be venomous.
Can you guess what a tithik is? That’s right, it’s a snake! The customization options are endless for this game. Changing the amount of clues or sentences will affect how difficult the riddle is to solve. Using nonsensical words in place of more challenging vocabulary words helps the activity to grow with children as they age. We love to start with a few of these in the morning to get our brains working and thinking creatively for the day and I hope it inspires you to write your own!
We are also a book-loving family and do read-alouds daily. Studies show that reading aloud is the best way to grow children’s vocabulary and grammatical comprehension. There’s an interesting article that discusses how adults have become lazy talkers in our everyday communication. Conversation is wonderful for critical thinking, but it is no longer enough to grow our children’s literacy base and word mastery. The article also reveals some helpful information about kids’ books, like that the fact that most picture books are two to three times more likely to contain rich words that are not part of the 5000 most commonly used words when compared with parent/child conversations.
We’ve also recently started a new routine which includes reading chapter books daily. My good friend (who is a homeschooling momma to 4 children, a speech therapist, and a superhero) advised me on the benefits of reading aloud books to kids with NO pictures! She said this method effectively grows vocabulary, increases reading comprehension, and establishes good listening skills. A lesson in patience and a lesson in listening is something we all can benefit from (not just children.) We started with our tattered 1970 copy of The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and it has been magical.
We read a chapter or two in the morning and a chapter or two (or three) at night. We’ve been coming together as a family, but I don’t make my kids sit still or stay on the couch with us. They are free to wander around the room, roll around on the floor, or build at their Lego table in the room. At first I was apprehensive, I thought the kids’ minds would wander without any pictures to look at and I thought they may get bored by some of the more ‘formal’ language in the text. Boy was I wrong! Even though they were not looking at me and were busy constructing Lego structures, they were completely paying attention! When I read something shocking, they gasped! When I came to a sad passage, they awwwed! When the story took an unexpected turn, they asked questions! Their little brains were even connecting the dots when they heard an unfamiliar word, “Mommy, hoax means trick!” They asked questions that pertained to the storyline, “What happened to Mr. Tumnus, did the witch take him?” And they predicted what was going to happen next in the book, “Aslan’s going to make all of the statues come back to life!” I was so thrilled to see the growth of listening skills playing out right in front of me. I think it’s a wonderful attribute to have and a nice break from this ever-stimulating world. This activity is simple, free, intimate, and is proving far more beneficial than any worksheet by providing my children with a well-rounded experience. As much as I have enjoyed the nostalgia of exploring the world of Narnia with my family, I’m so excited to move on to our other chapter books as well! Here is a list of children’s novels that are great to start with:
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Adventures Of Huckleberry Fin by Mark Twain
Charlie And The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Little House On The Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Adventures Of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
I’d love to hear from you-how do you jumpstart your brains in the morning?