Topic | How do you teach vocabulary?

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  • Steph3433
    Participant

    How do you teach vocabulary?  My children ages 17 and 13 are not very vocabulary wise?  I’ve tried some bits of programs such as wordly wise but nothing really sticks with us.  They listen to audio books and are required to read books daily but they have no drive to look up words they do not know.  Just curious what others do for this?

    Poppy
    Participant

    We use this program – Marie’s words – during our Morning Time. We add 2-3 cards per week (I just choose them randomly – we don’t go in alphabetical order). Twice a week we go over them orally and my oldest created a Quizlet review that they do once a week. It’s amazing how quickly they have learned new words. Even my 8 year old! For older students, I would do more than the 2-3 new ones each week but definitely keep reviewing the older cards.

    https://www.rainbowresource.com/product/sku/021838

    Tamara Bell
    Moderator

    Steph,

    Can you expand on what you mean by not very “vocabulary wise?”  Have you used the CM method for all of their school life?  A bit more info will help us have a more clear picture of your current concern.

    Steph3433
    Participant

    Tamara,

    I have not used CM methods fully.  We have been homeschooling for six years now and I feel like I’ve failed in so many ways.  I didn’t really start looking into CM until after our first year.  My kids, especially my son, has always struggled with reading comprehension.  He is also a very slow reader.  Trying to grasp narration for myself and then what should be expected from my kids was always a struggle for me.  So that was on and off.  Copywork and dictation was on and off thru the years also, but they did write at least a daily journal.  The one thing we stayed faithful to was read alouds and I always had them reading a good classic silently between 30 mins and an hour a day.

    I’ve spent tons on curriculum subjects only to switch out in a couple of months because they  weren’t getting it and so I’d look for something simplier.  I know now that was one of the problems.

    Anyway, my daughter for instance, was in 3rd grade when we began.  She could read.  So I just gave her books on her level and had her read.  Also, we did the read alouds, with me doing the reading. I thought everything was fine, she never questioned words or anything.  This year, as we read aloud together, there are many words she cannot pronounce or that she will say, “I don’t even know what that means.”  Her inflection is always slow and choppy because of unknown pronounciation. Of course they will not try to look up words on their own, that is too much work.  Yes, I guess you could say they are lazy.  I have been working outside the home since my husband left me three years ago, so being on top of everything is harder for me now.  My dreams were that I would have self learning and love learning children by now, but no, I don’t. I feel like I’ve killed that.

    So now, two questions:

    Once a child can read at a second grade level, do you just make them read aloud to you everyday for practice and learning new pronounciation.  Or do you continue with phonics to a certain level?  My daughter is in 8th grade now and I feel like it’s not to late for her.  My son is 17 in 11th grade and wants to go now and get his GED because he just wants to go to work and could care less about school.  He is not going to college as he has always been interested in working with his hands, another words; a trade’s person.

    Also, how do they learn the meaning of words they do not know.  Do you implement a system or are they just supposed to be interested enough to find out for themselves?

    Mom2Millie
    Participant

    You’re right, it’s not too late for your daughter! My kids have extensive vocabularies. In addition to reading aloud and listening to audio books I’ve never simplified my speech for them, and I’m always using whatever new word I just learned in our conversations. Not in a false sort of way, just when an instance comes up where my new word is a perfect fit. (I think it’s an adult form of narration for me.) So they’ve had a mom model using less common words when they fit more perfectly than the everyday word, but they’ve also had a mom model not knowing exactly how to say a word and use it anyway. We have mini conferences all the time in the middle of a conversation on how to pronounce a word that’s just come up. Usually someone will look it up out of curiosity. Sometimes we do the same if one of us isn’t 100% sure we’ve used a word correctly. I think it’s shown them that vocabulary building is a worthwhile, LIFELONG process. And while reading aloud (like CM says we are to do by carefully reproducing not ourselves but the author) comes naturally to me, I often have to pause and try a few different pronunciations of a word before I think I have it. And sometimes I’ve just modeled winging it and then looking up the pronunciation later. Or I may ask if anyone in the family knows the word, can explain it to the rest of us and help us pronounce it. Again showing how different life experiences and personal reading leads to us all knowing a different set of words. (In other words, there is no shame in having holes in your vocabulary.)  My son is more political and so geographic phrases and historic social studies type-words he usually has a handle on; while my husband was immensely helpful in Johnny Tremain when it came to some of the trade jargon.

    Our final ‘method’ of learning vocabulary has to do with context. We often talk about what we *think* a word means based on the rest of the sentence, paragraph, or conversation. Or we’ll compare it to all the similar words we know and decide it must be of the same vein. This has shown my kids that they really are capable of understanding words they’ve never had explained to them. Often after we discuss the context of a word, we will look it up to see how close we were. Tickled with ourselves if we did. Very rarely do we miss the mark entirely- but then we really do learn something new! And that’s just reinforced for my children how capable they are at deciphering our language. Oh, and we laugh off our errors. Each of us have funny little embarrassing stories of when we were using a word wrong, or pronouncing it in a crazy way. (Not uncommon to avid readers with a visual vocabulary larger than their auditory one.)

    We’ve never learned vocabulary as a separate subject from living life. I can think of nothing that would kill my interest in it more, let alone theirs, then looking up words or defining them as part of a program. Besides, I may never, or not for a long time, need the artificially posed word but the word *I* want to know has already proven itself useful. And why should we use any sort of program or list when we come up against new words almost daily on our own?

    One tip- we most often use our phones to look up words. It seems most natural to use the least cumbersome and handiest tool available while the audio pronunciations can’t be beat. And we are not an online, devicey family by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, as we contemplate further scaling back our already much limited screen time, I know the only way I can manage without a smart phone is if I have a pocket dictionary/thesaurus etc. (I just wanted to throw that in in case you envisioned us flipping open well worn dictionaries in the middle of a conversation. Nope!)

    My children are eight years apart. As I am re-reading books to my daughter that I read to my son I can see for myself how much my vocabulary has improved by using these natural methods. What’s good for the goose is good for the goslings! Your kids have decades of educational growth left in them; don’t panic by counting down the years left at home- this is just their start!

    Having your son want to go into a trade sounds like success to me!  I would be spending his last months at home helping him narrow that interest down and he will learn all sorts of vocabulary this year- words most of us don’t know the meaning of! It might be time for an internship, or classes at a trade school, or just lots of field trips and days spent shadowing various tradesmen. He will learn everything he needs to for a trade he loves and then some. And the seeds you planted with a cm education along with the shelter provided him will produce fruit someday- I promise. He will not sit idle while he watches problems in his children’s education, he will know there are options and be able to build onto what you started. Our son looks like an academic success to people, Ivy League test scores and all- but we would have counted it as a triumph had he wanted to pursue a trade- and you should too!  We did devote the last semester of his high school to an internship in a law office, because he’d worked manual labor on our farm for half his life and knew that path and the various branches well. Supporting him the way he’s bent has worked for us- just like my husband’s parents supported him when college was the last thing he wanted. My husband went to diesel mechanic school and that opened the doors and paved the way for him to begin his own farm. Twenty-five years later he’s one of our small town’s success stories- a city councilman, a respected member of many boards, and owner of several businesses. My husband could barely read Hank the Cowdog when he got out of high school. But when reading, reason, math, clear communication etc etc became necessary for his trade, he learned them. Your son will do the same!

    Peace be with you, sweet mama. Be proud of your son, grateful for how capable he is going to be (and all the things he’ll be able to fix around the house!) and enjoy these last few years with your daughter. My daughter and I are absolutely reveling in all the girly ways we are able to enjoy our homeschool now that my son isn’t dividing my attention. I hope after your work day, studies with your girl become a delight you look forward to.

    Steph3433
    Participant

    Thank you so much Mom2Millie for the time you spent on that response.  I truly had tears in my eyes as I finished.  I know, I have prayed and trusted God that He will fill in the gaps.  I just keep thinking I’m supposed to do more.  I’ve always known my son would be a trades person, and I support him in that.  I just wished he would have had more motivation in the things I felt he needed.  It is very true that they will learn the things they need when they need it.  Once again, thanks for the direction and encouragement, it meant a lot to me.

     

    Tamara Bell
    Moderator

    Wow!  I’m sitting here searching for words after reading Mom2Millie’s encouragement to you.  I don’t believe I could add more to what she’s shared. I agree with SO much of what she has written and we practice words like she does.  I, too, stumble occasionally while reading aloud.  I will look a word up (with my phone haha…my kids know HOW to use a dictionary but lets be honest…the phone is easier along with the audio pronunciation)  I am unfamiliar with.  Basically, I model what I want them to do.  Will they always follow my example?  No, but the model has been seen.  Sonya wrote a while back a brief bit about teaching vocabulary within a Charlotte Mason education.  You may find the article helpful.

    As for reading, Charlotte was not keen on intensive phonics.  When teaching reading she included basic phonics but beyond that, she believed all of the rules get in the way of a student reading well.  There are too many words that simply don’t follow the “rules” and then children are left struggling to read (thing cat, mat, bat, sat, what). Sonya used a term I love regarding this struggle “analysis paralysis”.  When my children reach a 2nd grade level of reading, we still read aloud together.  In fact, SCM generally doesn’t recommend having students take over their independent reading until 4th-ish grade so long as they are ready.  At this point, I have my 7th and 8th grader read aloud to me weekly.  In general it will be our Scripture reading or part of a biography.  I want to give them the opportunity to work on speech if you will.  Pronunciation, inflection, clear tone, etc.

    Ok.  I need to go back and read Mom2Millie’s post again.  So many wonderful truths are in her reply.

    Mom2Millie
    Participant

    You two are too kind. Mine was an obnoxiously long post- and really didn’t say anything terribly original, ha! I just feel such sympathy for you Steph- launching homeschooled children is gut-wrenching. May the Lord help us, have mercy on us, and bless our efforts!

    caedmyn
    Participant

    Is it possible that one or both could have a learning disability?  I have three dyslexic kids, and some of the things you mentioned, especially for your daughter, sound like possible signs of dyslexia.  There is a good list of signs of dyslexia at different ages at http://www.dys-add.com.

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