In our blog on strategies to build children’s vocabulary, we mentioned that for a new word to become a part of our regular vocabulary, we must be exposed to it at least 12 times, in different ways. This means that simply doing 1 or 2 textbook exercises to learn new vocabulary words is not enough. Children must get the opportunity to read, write, speak or use a word at least 12 times.
Word Wizard is a great game to play at home with your children to ensure that they are learning new vocabulary words all year long! Here is how to set is up:
Step 1: Choose books to read with your child
Identify at least one text that you will read with your child every two weeks. Look through your bookshelf, your newspaper/magazine rack, your e-reader or even great articles for kids that you may have come across while surfing the internet. Make a rough schedule, which may look something like this:
July Week 1 and 2: The Velveteen Rabbit
July Week 3 and 4: Encyclopaedia pages about rabbits
August Week 1 and 2: The Magic School Bus: Inside a Beehive
August Week 3 and 4: Article about disappearing bees
Step 2: Identify vocabulary words to focus on
As you choose these texts, skim through each and identify vocabulary words that you would like to focus on. Here are two points to keep in mind while choosing words:
1. Is understanding the word necessary to understand the whole text? For example, if the book ‘The Magic School Bus: Inside a Beehive’ talks mainly about beehives but also mentions pollination in a sentence, your child will still understand the text well without knowing the meaning of the word pollination. In such a case, you may not choose this word. However, the article about disappearing bees might mainly talk about their role in pollination, and in this case, you must choose pollination as one of the words you will focus on.
2. Is the word a sophisticated synonym of a common word that the child already knows? For example, if a book talks about commotion and your child already uses the words noise and confusion in everyday conversations, you should choose this word to focus on. However, if a text talks about independence in passing and your child doesn’t already use the simpler word freedom in everyday conversation, you may not choose to focus on this word.
Choose approximately 7-10 words from each text in this way.
Step 3: Set up the Word Wizard game
The main objective of this game is to encourage children to use the chosen words in everyday conversations and activities, so that these words become a part of their vocabulary. Setting up this game will require a few steps:
1. Draw a table with 7-10 rows (depending on how many words you have chosen from the text) and at least 13 columns. You can do this on a piece of chart paper or even on two A4 sheets.
2. Write the name of the book/article at the top of the sheet. Fill in the words you have chosen from that book in the first column.
3. You now have 12 columns remaining – 1 for each time your child uses the word in an everyday conversation or activity.
4. Display the chart/sheets at a place where your child can easily read them.
Step 4: Play the Word Wizard game
The Word Wizard game will be played all year long! Reading books and using the new vocabulary words in different ways are the most important parts of this game. Here’s how you play it:
1. Read the chosen book with your child, as per your decided schedule. As you read, talk about the new words. Each time you come across a new word (from the list you have already chosen) in the book, ask your child what she thinks the word means. Give clues from the story to help, and then explain the meaning of the word. Ask your child for real-life examples of the same word. For example, if you are discussing the word pollination while reading the article on bees, ask your child if she can think of another insect that goes from flower to flower and so may pollinate them. Encourage your child to use the word pollinate when she answers: I think that butterflies pollinate flowers too! At this point, your child can get one star (or tick, smiley, wizard’s hat) on the Word Wizard chart for the word pollinate – because she just used the word in conversation!
2. Set up a few vocabulary activities, like Bingo (you read the meaning and your child strikes out the word on the Bingo card), Memory (turn over Memory cards to match each word with its meaning) and so on for your child to practise using the new words. You can also set up simpler activities, like telling a story using at least 5 of the new words or writing a paragraph using 6 of the new words. Each time your child uses a word from the Word Wizard chart correctly, she gets a star!
3. Finally, encourage your child to start using these words in everyday conversations too. For example, if she sees a bee near the flowerpots in the balcony, she can say: Look, the bee is here to pollinate the flowers! She gets a star for using the word in conversation! (If she uses the word while she isn’t around you, ask her to keep it in mind and tell you about it later.)
4. A month after reading the book, check the chart along with your child to see if she has used each word 12 times. If yes, she is declared Word Wizard!
The game works well if played as a competition between siblings or even between you and your child! If you are a teacher, convert your Word Wall into a Word Wizard Wall and play the game at a class level to build a culture of vocabulary among your students!
The Vocabulary Box is a carefully created educational activity box to expand knowledge of word meanings through conversations and games, and comes with 3 storybooks, 6 hands-on vocabulary activities, and worksheet exercises!