Thursday, 2 May 2013

Fun Vocabulary Practice!

Vocabulary practice can be a pain. It can be an enthusiasm-killer. Especially to a child so young who understands-not, why he has to do so. Children in lower primary mostly find that if the way they speak and write is easily understood, it is good enough. Children of this age have vague comprehension of the importance of varying their choice words (in the way they speak and write) once in awhile. They may not necessarily relate regurgitating those bombastic words forced upon their memory banks to better grading of their written work. In fact, some children may not even be that interested in the scoring rubrics.

Vocabulary practice to them is not exactly as interesting like reading books. Vocabulary practice to my kiddies can mean sheer boredom. Seriously! You can literally tell from the looks their faces like they're telling you... "Here we go again."

Reading brings meaning to them even if they are unsure of what some words may really mean. They can somehow just go on guessing the meanings of some of the difficult words based on the genre of the story books they read when I go, "It is more interesting and meaningful when you actually know what the words really mean." The worst that can happen is that they will reply with a curt, "So, how about a quick one here mom... errr... what does 'impatient gesture' mean?" Frustrating. I know.. I am forever going to be treated like a walking dictionary if this keeps on. I wonder sometimes why I actually got them dictionaries.

To children... a word is just a word. The variation of words thrown at them for variety's sake are a waste of their precious free time, because in actual fact, the words they are forced to learn mean the same with the regular ones they have been using all this time aniwaes. So why bother, right?

Here are some stuff I concocted to work the kids around those vocabulary practices.

Show, not tell.
Whoa yes, we have heard this once too often. But nope, I'm not going into that kind of showing in writing. I'm referring to showing what those words really mean. Here's one way.

Playing charades. 

Yes. Charades are fantastic organized games encourages children to concentrate on facial expressions and gestures and at times even hinting winks, to get the right answers. There is also the element of familiarity based on what they have seen, read or heard to get their answers spot on.

Say you need em' brats to use other words other than "said"...

You can print out some words (that you wanted them to learn) on colourful paper, or just write them down on whatever scrap paper you can find for impromptu study breaks.

Here's a sample I am using to share this game.

My first attempt to get them guessing these words will be to show gestures.. to act out.. For example, in the case of the word "accused".. I might raise my arm and gesture it pointing to someone beside me with my eyes glaring and my eyebrows in a frown.

If the children cannot get it at the first attempt, I would use a sentence or two as hints. Using the word "accused" once again, I might say something like this, "I did not do that! Gosh, how could you?" while simultaneously still repeating the same actions I did at the first attempt.

For the word, "begged".. well, this is super easy. Just go on bended knees and place both hands into a tight fist in the centre of your body and rock it forwards and back in a pleading puppy-eyed expression or easier still go to one of your kids and go for the killer action of all actions. Hug Buddha's leg action!

If still blur then just wail, "Pweeeeze!" 

For the word "confided", you can pretend you were listening to someone whispering into your ear, nodding softly then put your arm around a an invisible shoulder assuringly and pat it or give a comforting rub with your palm without saying anything.

Hints can be a liner like this. "I didn't realize it was going to turn out badly."

Words you dish out can be from resource guides, from a class spelling list, from challenging words picked out in story books they are currently reading or from school passages, etc. You decide if you want to make the words known first especially for younger children - like write up the list of words on the wall prior to starting the game. For older ones they may not need a list. They can just shout out words they think you are describing.

Switch it!

You can take excerpts from paragraphs in good story books and even good articles from the newspapers to do this activity.  The idea is to replace words or phrases with the new words you want them to learn. You can even provide the answers in word strips for them to place over the bolded words/phrases in the passage or paragraph that you chose to work on.

As the child reads the paragraph and comes upon a bolded word/phrase, tell them to shout switch it! Then, you go... "Switch that to......" until they found the appropriate words to replace the ones in bold and shout yeaiy! Well, I am a tad animated in character. You can omit the "yeaiy" cheer if you are the serious type. Read : boring. 

I have many more under my sleeves to perk them up from a slouchy draggy afternoon of assessment-drillings where even I get super unmotivated and shhhh... sleepy. When I get begin to get those tear-yawning moments, it is a sure sign to get everyone to snap out of revision pronto.

One sure fire way to learn new vocabulary is to play Picture It. It is exactly like how you play pictionary but you decide the words you wanna play. Here are some we drew...

Can you guess which word 
best describes each stick-man?

Aniwaes, chin-up ya? If your child is already guai (good & well behaved) enough to even sit through revision time with you without complaining, (despite already attending supplementary and tuition programmes) it just reflects that they are still keen learners and we must recognize that effort. I always award my kiddies "A" for effort, not so much results. After diligent efforts have been put in and sheer consistency of revision (in school and at home), any stellar results they achieve are all bonuses to me. 

I understand that parents are worried about children not producing the results that commensurates with the amount of work and drillings they put in. I do too, well, even if I don't really show it... (all the time)... It is just that every child learns differently. Unfortunately some teachers may not have the flexibility or the skill to allow for other learning styles to be incorporated into their teaching, hence only placing auditory learners at an advantage. 

Many may not know that a child has more than one learning style that helps them sail through school. Teachers and/or parents may not know or may not have the time to execute other learning methods in the ways they work with children. Through my years of growing up, in school or at work.. I have recognized that I am pretty much a kinesthetic learner. I reorganize notes and my thoughts with doodling the same information the way I can remember. With these learning experiences, I try to replicate and also create fun doses of learning activities for my children when the motivator-scale remains at a stand-still for too long. 

Knowing full well how long the education journey is, it is imperative in my opinion to encourage a love for continuous learning in my children for as long as I can hold out, instead of anticipating a buzz-kill. I prefer my children to enjoy the process... but that's just me.

A child who enjoys the learning process CAN produce quality work. In fact, I am loving the results I see thus far.

The above draft was done during

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