Enhancing Vocabulary through creativity- A simple but effective technique.
Is vocabulary just a list of words or does it evoke something deeper in our mind? Learning vocabulary can be tricky if we don’t know the ways of retaining it and understanding the root of every word.
Words are all around us – but taking them in and learning to use it appropriately takes time. As Parents, we generally buy thesaurus’, dictionaries and other resources to make word learning accessible to our children. However, unfortunately, vocabulary cannot be improved merely by encountering new words, it needs to be retained in the memory and should be actively used. We need to raise word consciousness by playing with words through games, songs and art.
One question that I am repetitively asked by many parents is ‘How should I bolster my child’s vocabulary for 11+. It’s just too vast so how do I bring the word list to a manageable number?’
Well, there is no magic trick to widen vocabulary, however introducing a new word creatively can make it easier for children to learn that word and thus can hasten vocabulary enhancement.
Children are born to learn through play and they learn best when they are engaged in their learning. During early years of their education, most of new concepts are taught through games and role plays then why does creativity start disappearing form the curriculum and classroom as they progress to higher levels of their learning.
According to Lecturer Tim Taylor “Children learn best when they are engaged in their learning, when it matters to them, when it’s contextualised in meaningful ways and when they have a sense of ownership and agency”.
Over the last two years, I have conducted more than 50 vocabulary enhancing workshops. In each workshop, various creative methods are used to introduce new words. I have often been amazed to see the ease with which a child grasps a word when taught in a creative way through role play, stories and wordoodle (art). The unique method opens up their imagination and often they devise their own methods to learn new words.
Luckily, games and creative ideas can be easily incorporated when it comes to learning a new word. It is a simple but an engaging approach that can be used to foster lifelong passion for new words in children.
The first rule of learning is to learn in small chunks. Brief bursts are better than one long blast. Two words a day is a good number to aim for. It’s best to collect words from reading, TV programmes or other resources that a child encounters every day. It’s imperative to arrange frequent encounter with new words. Make it visible. Put the words where they’ll see them as often as possible: on a wall, in a notebook, on their computer desk.
I must emphasise that children must engage with a word several times in different contexts before it is learnt. When you introduce your child to a new word, try to keep a mental note of it or make a note on your phone and use it again in your conversations with your child. Repeated exposure is one of the best ways to master new vocabulary words. Researchers suggest that children need to hear a new word 4 to 12 times before it is added to their vocabulary.
Try to encourage your child to draw connections between what they do know and unfamiliar words they come across. This will bolster their understanding of both the word. It could either be knowing its synonyms, antonyms, verb and adverb connections or root words.
Ask them to identify a ‘Root word’ in the new word. If they know the meaning of the root word, it’s easier for them to understand the meaning of the new word e.g. if they know the meaning of root word mal which is bad, they will be able to understand the meaning of the words containing it easily. Eg malevolent, malfunction etc.
Another method is to connect the word to a vivid visual image. A strong image sticks in the mind for a long time. It’s easy to create a picture in our mind when we see a phrase. The more vivid the image is the better they will learn. And remember our brain loves context.
For example: to link the word adept to its meaning, explain the meaning in your own words and say a phrase using the word. The phrase an adept piano player can assist them to visualise a vivid image of someone playing piano seamlessly.
We all know the more a memory is used, the more it will endure. My next tip is to engage in active repetition and usage through games. Let the fun begin! This is where you ask them to play with new words. Ask them to doodle or act out the words. For instance, ask them to enact the word Abashed or draw an expression on a piece of paper. They will easily get engaged in such activities and I assure you they will ask for more words to act upon.
Lastly, encourage your child to recall the words they have learnt and actively use them in day to day conversation. Inspire them to come up with new game or method to learn words effortlessly. We do not want our next generation to be users, we want to see more creators.
Overall, make the whole learning process joyful and fascinating for children.
At Author In Me, we aim to make learning an enjoyable experience to kindle lifelong passion for learning in children. Our ‘Vocabulary Enhancing Course’ has inspired nearly 250 children to learn words in a whole new way.
Monica is the co-founder of Author In Me, a company that specialises in conducting creative, vocabulary and emotional intelligence course for 7-12 years old. Monica has co-authored numerous education resource material for Author In Me and is actively involved in conceptualising, structuring and conducting the A-I-M courses.