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Activities for Teaching Vocabulary

Valorie Delp
Reading out loud improves vocabulary!

Looking for some new and creative activities for teaching vocabulary? Developing vocabulary is an important part of increasing reading comprehension. However, vocabulary development is not an exact science and there are many ways to help your child increase his/her vocabulary.

Reading Out Loud as an Activity for Teaching Vocabulary

One of the best activities for teaching vocabulary is to read out loud to your child. Choose books that are slightly above his/her reading level stopping frequently to ask questions about what has happened and what might happen in the story.

One of the benefits of working on vocabulary this way is that it helps the child hear the word in the context in which it might be used. This helps create a mental picture with which to 'tag' the new vocabulary word - thus making it more easily remembered.

Try using any new or unfamiliar words in daily discussion. It might sound a little silly at first but just think of it as being the necessary precursor to creating excellent and articulate writers!

Dictionary Drills

Choose a word from your child's reading and have him or her look it up in the dictionary and write down the definition. Have him write the word, its definition, the guide words on the page on which it was found and a sentence or paragraph in which the new vocabulary word is described. You can adjust the difficulty based on the age of your child but this activity helps build valuable reference skills as well as just exposing your child to additional words.

Word of the Day

This is a fun game to play in which your child is rewarded for remembering to use an appropriate vocabulary word without being prompted. Keep a small chart on the refrigerator with a set of stickers nearby. Each morning give your child a new word and challenge him to find a time to use the word in its correct context. Each time your child uses the word correctly, place a sticker on the chart and when your child has used the word five times, give a reward. You will have to adjust the activity and expectations based on the age of your child. A younger child may need to focus on one word per week rather than a new word every day, for example.


There are few activities that build vocabulary skills as well as working on some analogies. Not only will your child come away with stellar vocabulary, but analogies really help kids use those critical thinking muscles.

For something extra challenging, try to have your children create their own analogies using some of their vocabulary words.

Vocab Games

Building vocabulary doesn't have to be boring. To really maximize your child's efforts, use a variety of techniques rather than just one method to improve vocabulary skills. Play a game one day, do a dictionary drill the next, or pull vocabulary out of something you're reading out loud. There are a variety of games out there that you can buy to help build vocab skills:

  • Pick Two is a unique word game that is similar to scrabble but without a board. Players race to build a crossword puzzle by picking two tiles at a time. The game is fast paced and can be played with up to six players. The game is recommended for ages eight and up, but don't let that stop you from pulling out the tiles and letting your little ones have a turn at making words.
  • Free Rice is an interesting take on computer vocabulary games. The more vocabulary words you get, the more rice the site donates to the United Nations Food Program. The questions are self-correcting and self-adjusting so that if you get one wrong, you get an easier question and if you get one right you get a harder question. Also, your children should be able to play it with little help from you.

Resources for Building Vocabulary Skills

There are a variety of resources that homeschoolers can use to build those vocabulary skills. Aside from the typical workbooks, here are a few unique exercise books to try that are fun enough that your child might actually ask to do vocabulary!

  • Vocabulary Cartoons - What child doesn't like cartoons? Using clever mnemonic devices, these vocabulary cartoons help your child put visual pictures along with the vocab they are trying to memorize. This is a great way to prep for standardized testing.
  • Word Roots is another great product put out by the folks at the Critical Thinking Company. Learning word roots helps build vocabulary exponentially by defining parts of words rather than whole words. Then when a child runs into an unfamiliar word in context, he can use his knowledge of the roots in the word along with the context to deduce the meaning!

Working towards building a better vocabulary helps create articulate students. Striving to achieve a good vocabulary might take patience, but it will create better readers and writers!

Activities for Teaching Vocabulary