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12 Ideas for Improving Vocabulary

By Rachel Lower

12 Ideas for Improving VocabularyImproving Vocabulary Idea #1
Use Vocabulary Software

One of the most effective ways to improve your vocabulary is to use vocabulary building software such as Ultimate Vocabulary. Software has many advantages over older methods, such as books and audio courses. For example, software can use many different learning strategies, rather than being limited to reading or listening. Also, software is great for keeping track of which words you want to learn. When you come across a word you donít know, I recommend adding it to a list in your vocabulary software. C'Moms has tested and recommends this Vocabulary Building Software.

Improving Vocabulary Idea #2
Crossword Puzzles

You can find crossword puzzles for a variety of ages. For older children I would suggest the basic daily crossword puzzle in the newspaper, with the help of mom, dad or an older sibling. Or all three! They will pick up on many words, some of which crossword puzzles tend to use often. It also provides for a good memory and possibility a habit or hobby that keeps them sharp when their hairs turn grey and they need false teeth. When there are missing words no one can pin point they could search for the answer online or off line, or just wait until the answers come the next morning. If you don?t get a newspaper, there are many good crossword books. Just make sure to look through them first and see that the questions are not to hard and the answers not to obscure.
For older children and adults:
The New York Times Daily Crossword Puzzles
The New York Times Easy Crossword Puzzles
Especially for younger children:
Children's Word Games and Crossword Puzzles, for Ages Seven to Nine
More Outrageous Crossword Puzzles and Word Games for Kids
Bible Crossword Challenge, Big Print Bible Puzzles: 23 Crosswords Uses a Good Mix of Scripture Clues and General Knowledge Clues
My First Crossword Puzzle Book
For when you get stuck:
Webster's New World (TM) Crossword Puzzle Dictionary
The New York Times Crossword Puzzle Dictionary

Improving Vocabulary Idea #3
Word Search

Word search puzzles are a great way to increase vocabulary. Since the words presented in each puzzle have a common bond, they will be chained together in your memory. The definitions will be learned in that way. Next time you think of chrysanthemum, you'll think of dandelion and rose and remember it is a flower. You can find word searched for all ages. Preschoolers can look for 'dog' or individual letters. You can easily make your own. You could present a spelling list or vocabulary list in this way. This, like crosswords, may also become a habit that will keep the mind sharp in old age. My own grandmother does this. I remember her word searches when I was a little girl and last time I visited her she pulled her booklet out and started one. Good habits these are. You can find specialized word search books, i.e. presidents, animals to go along with your lesson plan.
The New Mammoth Book of Seek-A-Word
The 2nd New Mammoth Book of Seek-A-Word
The Original Mammoth Book of Seek-a-Word
The Jumbo Bible Wordsearch Collection
Especially for younger children:
Great Word Search Puzzles for Kids
Easy Search-A-Word Puzzles (Dover Little Activity Books)

Improving Vocabulary Idea #4
Online Word Games (Many cool puzzles)

Improving Vocabulary Idea #5
Note pad

Your child may find it handy to have a pen/pencil and pad of paper next to her when she reads. This way, she can write down any word (w/page number) that she does not know. When she is done reading she can define them, go back and read them in the context the book gave them and hopefully have some or all of them stick in her head. She could make it a point to include them in any projects surrounding the novel.

Improving Vocabulary Idea #6
Off line Word Games

English Teachers Book of Instant Word Games
Mensa for Kids: 75 Word Puzzles

Improving Vocabulary Idea #7
Board and Card Games

There are many brilliant board games that focus on vocabulary. The most popular would be Scrabble. TIP: If the cost is daunting, perhaps you and a few other home schooling moms can work together to form a game library OR you could try making your own versions. Just look for directions to these games on the net and you can come up with your own ideas. Balderdash, for instance, you can picks words out and make fake definitions just as in balderdash. Then reading the word and the definitions -- the player must pick out the real definition. With some cardboard and markers you could make a scrabble game. Here is a fun filled list of vocabulary building board games:
Scrabble * Scrabble Jr. * Balderdash * Wheel of fortune * Finish Lines * Scatt * Upwords * Bethump * Outburst * Boogle * Smart Mouth * Guesstures * Comotion * Mad Gab * Bible Outburst * A to Z * Outburst Jr. * Quiddler * Password * Boogle Jr. * Concentration * Malarky * Hangman (Great way to teach the word Aardvark -- that's how I learned it!) * A to Z Jr.

Improving Vocabulary Idea #8

Don't forget that the first words your child ever said were from hearing YOU say them. That principle with keep on throughout life. When we hear someone saying a word again and again, it sticks. So don't forget to work on your own vocabulary -- and talk to your child! Have conversations. Get them talking. They will be listening. Ah! And don't forget to watch your language. Kids pick up on bad words just as easily.

Keep Reading

Improving Vocabulary Idea #9

Reading does increase vocabulary. Don't forget to enrich your children's lives with a love for reading. Also reading newspapers and magazine articles can help improve vocabulary.

Improving Vocabulary Idea #10
Latin and Greek Roots

The idea is to learn Latin and Greek root words. In this way, many words your child will run into can be "figured out". "Evince", they will recall evidently and evidence, "evi" seems to be a connection.
What do those words have in common? Proof. Having some knowledge of how words are built and Latin roots can increase vocabulary and the ability to figure out what a word could mean when they don't have a dictionary handy. This is definitely more for older children, but when you start teaching vocabulary it can be introduced to their own level in small doses.
graph (Greek) to write graphic, photography
audi (Latin) to hear audible, auditorium
English Words from Latin and Greek Elements
Ntc's Dictionary of Latin and Greek Origins: A Comprehensive Guide to the Classical Origins of English Words
Dictionary of Word Origins
The Merriam-Webster New Book of Word Histories
Chambers Dictionary of Etymology

Improving Vocabulary Idea #11
"What's that?"

A young child will often ask, "What's that?!". Besides your answers, books like LeapStart Vocabulary Book: Richard Scarry Things To Know or videos like Bee Smart Baby, Vocabulary Builder 1 would certainly be of interest. Before they start asking, you can come out and tell them yourself, explain what they are doing ("you're eating cheerios"), sing to them, talk to them, makes all sorts of noises with them to help them develop the ability to speak certain syllables. For the older kids Vocabulary Cartoons: Building an Educated Vocabulary With Visual Mnemonics provides the same kind of visual aids. The library would have many. Later on, "What's that?!" still applies though the child may be less likely to ask. The idea is to provide opportunities for them to ask or simply be told. Something as simple as a field trip to the zoo. You can tell them, or have them read the signs, which animals are which. They will learn reading about the animals, words like "habitat", "diet", etc. They can learn names of animals, along with basic zoology. Museums also increase vocabulary. When you read the labels you'll find many tidbits. If you haven't painted much with your child yet and trip to the art gallery can have them learn words like "oils" "acryllics" "impressionism". Historical museums will introduce old tools and their names along with history. Exposing children to new places full of new things will kick of the "What's that?!" in them. My husband even asked me at the zoo, "What are those rabbit like animals over there?" Even we adults have this innate curiosity. Last year I learned many tree and plant names, and can identify many of them still, just by browsing the local garden centers.

Improving Vocabulary Idea #12
Text Books and Quizzes

You can find a whole range of vocabulary work books to learn from, such as Vocabulary Workshop: Level A. These would be best used for the soon to be college bound teenagers. They are not as much 'fun', but short and productive word lists and quizzes. The word quiz in Readers Digest is a good example of a text book - like quiz. You can make your own 'fill in the blank' and 'match the word to the definition' quizzes. You could have your child make them, in fact, and then a week later have them answer them to see if they remember. The process of making the quiz is how they learn the word. Makes your work easier! I actually learned my Latin prefixes and suffixes from a work book. If I recall correctly it had twenty words in each lesson. I had to define them and then fill in the blanks into sentences. I enjoyed them. I was fifteen then.

Improving Vocabulary EXTRA:
Word of the Day

Word of the Day is a handy FREE tool from If you sign up you get a word of the day in your email, every day as the name implies. The word, how to pronounce it, definition, examples and origins are included in each email. The archives can be found at The words ranging from more common words such as 'aggressive' to left often used words like 'tocsin'. The general age range would be around twelve and up. As an adult, I have enjoyed improving my vocabulary with these emails. I recently caught myself using a word I had memorized from the Word of the Day in my everyday conversation.
Other online words of the day can be found at: Merriam-Webster and
If you want to pick out your own word of the day I would suggest browsing through the archive, the dictionary or finding words in the Thesaurus to use. A good book to take words from is Word Smart: Building an Educated Vocabulary.
It only takes two or three minutes to absorb the information. You and yours will find yourselves using some of the words.
Remember, they will probably only "stick" if they are used.

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© Rachel


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