If you can make learning fun for children, they are more likely to experience success and develop a love of learning that lasts a lifetime. Vocabulary words are often difficult for children to learn well. Some of the words can be intimidating, but they are important for reading comprehension as children progress through school. If you use techniques that are fun for the children, they are more likely to absorb the information and remember it in the future.
When your brain learns new things, it can remember them better if it connects the information to something you already know. Connecting vocabulary words to things you already know helps you remember them. Instruct the children to write the vocabulary word in the center of a piece of paper. They should then draw lines out in different directions from that word. At the end of each of these lines, ask them to write something else that they think of when they hear the word. To make things more interesting, compare the class's different word webs.
Similar to the word web, come up with real-life connections to help children remember the meaning of the words. For instance, if the word is an adjective that typically describes people, such as "friendly," "ambitious" or "confident," ask them to think of a person whom that description fits. When children hear the word, they think of that person to help them remember what it means. This can be done with many words, especially new words for common objects or ideas, connecting the word to a more common object to help remember the meaning.
Vocabulary games, where students must match a word with its meaning, are important tools for teachers. While the reward for these games is a stronger vocabulary for students, you can also provide extra incentives. For instance, when you play a vocabulary game, offer the top five students a small prize, such as a pencil or sticker. If you want to include the whole class, offer a prize to anyone who gets at least 80 percent of the questions correct. Children are often motivated by small prizes, which can even include a few extra minutes at recess.
Use the Words
For older children who can write well, vocabulary words can better be learned through usage. Select a theme or topic for the students to write about. Give them a list of vocabulary words they should use in their stories. Let each student write a story that uses a set number of the vocabulary words you are working on. This also ties the lesson into other areas of school. Each student can then read their stories to the rest of the class.
Create a Song
Music is a useful memory tool that can help you learn information more quickly. Think about how easy it is to sing along to a familiar song on the radio. Set vocabulary words and their meanings to a simple childhood tune, such as "Itsy Bitsy Spider" or the alphabet song. Teach the song to the children and sing it daily for as long as you are working on those particular words. The more often you sing the song, the easier it becomes to remember the words.
Flash cards are commonly used in classrooms, mostly to teach math facts, but you can also use them to teach vocabulary words. To make things more fun for the kids, help them make their own flashcards. Write the word on one side and let the children draw their own pictures on the backs. Add the definition to the cards, to enhance the ability to learn the vocabulary words from the cards. Children will enjoy using the cards they have made themselves over standard-issue flash cards.