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How to Build Your Child’s Vocabulary

Vocabulary plays an important part in learning to read. For example, when a beginning reader sees the word dog in a book, he begins to sound it out. When he realizes that he is very familiar with the word dog, he reads it with confidence.

How to Build Your Child's Vocabulary - From All About Reading

But what if the child comes across the word yak in a story? If he has never heard of a yak, he may try to sound out the word, but may then begin to second guess himself. Is this a real word? Have I decoded it properly?

A similar thing can happen with older students, too. If a student comes across the word bovine but it’s not in his vocabulary, he’s may become frustrated.

A large vocabulary is critical for reading comprehension. This article will show you how to include vocabulary development in your child’s educational plans, as well as some pitfalls to avoid.

Four Types of Vocabulary

When we talk about vocabulary, we are actually talking about four related vocabularies. In order from largest to smallest they are:

  1. Listening vocabulary (words we can hear and understand)
  2. Reading vocabulary (words we can understand when we read)
  3. Speaking vocabulary (words we use when we talk)
  4. Writing vocabulary (words we use when we write)

For younger students who are still learning to read, speaking vocabulary is generally larger than their reading vocabulary. But for older readers who are past the “learning to read” stage and who have entered the “reading to learn” stage, this is the typical order.

How to Build Your Child's Vocabulary - From All About Reading

There is a high correlation between the four vocabularies. Growth in one area generally leads to growth in another. But is it possible for you to influence this growth? The simple answer is YES!

So let’s look at how to increase your child’s vocabulary.

Two Main Approaches to Vocabulary Development

How to Build Your Child's Vocabulary - From All About Reading

Most vocabulary is attained through indirect methods:

Direct vocabulary instruction includes things such as:

Both indirect and direct methods of building vocabulary are important, but let’s look at what doesn’t work when trying to build your child’s vocabulary.

Five Common Mistakes in Teaching Vocabulary Words

Does this routine sound familiar?

It’s Monday–time to learn a new list of twenty vocabulary words. The children look up the words in the dictionary and copy the definitions. On Tuesday they will use the words in a sentence, and on Wednesday they will complete a fill-in-the-blank worksheet or even a fun vocabulary crossword puzzle. On Friday there will be a quiz on the twenty words. Then, whether they remember last week’s words or not, on Monday it will be time to start all over again.

Although many of us were taught vocabulary words this way, even the most compliant kids groaned inwardly at this demotivating routine.

Here’s the problem: the list-on-Monday, test-on-Friday approach to teaching vocabulary simply isn’t effective. It does, however, illustrate these common mistakes:

  1. Assigning too many new vocabulary words at one time.
  2. Teaching vocabulary words out of context.
  3. Expecting students to recall vocabulary words after a single exposure to the word.
  4. Making vocabulary development a boring topic that kids want to avoid.

And then there is a fifth common mistake:

  1. Skipping vocabulary development entirely.

And this is really where the rubber meets the road. Vocabulary that is developed naturally rather than taught using the more traditional method above is much more likely to stick with your child.

How Does All About Reading Teach Vocabulary?

Each story lesson in the All About Reading program includes direct and indirect vocabulary lessons that offer a variety of ways for your child to learn new words. The sampling below shows the range of vocabulary-building activities that can be found in AAR lessons.

Vocabulary words are illustrated and then used in the next story.

AAR Level 1 Story and Activity

Though this is perhaps the simplest type of vocabulary lesson, it is effective because it allows children to form pictures of concrete nouns in their minds. In this AAR Level 1 example, students are introduced to the words pug and bun before encountering the words in the story “Get Them!”

Download the Warm-Up Sheet from Level 1

Download Level 1 Story: “Get Them!”

The names of countries and world regions are introduced.

AAR Level 2 Story and Activity

This AAR Level 2 lesson introduces children to the mountain region of the Swiss Alps with an easy-to-make minibook and an engaging story.

Download a minibook activity from Level 2

Download Level 2 Story: “An Elf in the Swiss Alps”

Idioms such as “hold your horses” are explained.

AAR Level 3 Story and Activity

AAR Level 3 introduces twelve idioms in an activity called “When Pigs Fly.” Many of these idioms are encountered in “Chasing Henry” and subsequent stories.

Download an idiom activity from Level 3

Download Level 3 Story: “Chasing Henry”

Dialects used in other regions or by specific groups of people can present interesting challenges.

AAR Level 4 Story and Activity

The AAR Level 4 activity “What Does the Cowboy Say?” introduces children to vocabulary and regional idioms such as reckon and fixin’ to, which in turn allows them to fully enjoy the story “Cowboy Star.”

Download a dialect activity from Level 4

Download Level 4 Story: “Cowboy Star”

Greek word parts provide clues to the meaning of many words.

AAR Level 4 Story and Activity

And finally, AAR Level 4 includes an activity called “Borrow a Telescope” that introduces children to eleven common Greek word parts and related vocabulary words. Some of these words are featured in “Charlie’s Sick Day” and subsequent short stories.

Download a word building activity from Level 4

Download Level 4 Story: “Charlie’s Sick Day”

Other vocabulary activities feature homophones, concept maps, morphemic strategies, and words that have origins in other languages such as French, Spanish, and Italian.

Research shows that children also learn a huge number of words from engaging in conversation with the adults around them. So as a parent, how can you leverage this knowledge for your child’s benefit?

The Conversational Method for Teaching Vocabulary

The conversational method is a powerful way to help build your child’s vocabulary. It is an indirect method that is so simple that you can start using it right after you read this article.

In a nutshell, the conversational method is simply talking with your child and expanding upon vocabulary words that your child has not yet learned.

Step 1: When a new word comes up in conversation or in a book, provide a simple, age-appropriate definition for the new word.

How to Build Your Child's Vocabulary - From All About Reading

Step 2: Provide one or two examples that make sense to your child.

How to Build Your Child's Vocabulary - From All About Reading

Step 3: Encourage your child to think of his own example, or of the opposite of the new word.

How to Build Your Child's Vocabulary - From All About Reading

Step 4: Use the new word in conversation over the next few days.

How to Build Your Child's Vocabulary - From All About Reading


the-conversational-method-thumbnail

You can download this simple chart and hang it on your fridge to remind yourself of the four steps. Soon this method will become second nature to you, and your child’s vocabulary will grow by leaps and bounds.

Research Studies about Vocabulary Instruction

All About Reading is a research-based program, and I spend considerable time keeping up on the latest language arts-related studies. My job is to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to help children learn to read. There is a large body of research that backs up our claim that vocabulary growth is critical for reading, especially as students approach high school.

Click to read a sampling of research studies.
  • The size of one’s vocabulary is strongly correlated to how well text is understood, even at the high school level.
    Stanovich, K. & Cunningham, A. (1992). Studying the consequences of literacy within a literate society: The cognitive correlates of print exposures. Memory & Cognition, 20(1), 51-68; Beck & McKeown (2007). Increasing young low-income children’s oral vocabulary repertoires through rich and focused instruction. Elementary School Journal, 107(3), 251-271.

  • Growth in oral vocabulary development can predict reading comprehension.
    Elleman, A., Lindo, E. Morphy, P. & Compton, D. (2009). The impact of vocabulary instruction on passage-level comprehension of school-age children: a meta-analysis. Journal of Educational Effectiveness, 2(1), 1-44.

  • Adults’ conversations with children facilitate vocabulary growth.
    Mol, S. Bus, A., & deJong, M (2009). Interactive book reading in early education: a tool to stimulate print knowledge as well as oral language. Review of Educational Research, 79(2), 979-1007. Mol, S. & Neuman, S.B. (2012). Sharing information books with kindergarteners: the role of parents’ extratextual talk and socioeconomic status. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan.

  • Discussion about morphology (such as root words and affixes) improves vocabulary.
    Bowers, P. N., Kirby, J.R., & Deacon, S. H. (2010). The effects of morphological instruction on literacy skills: a systematic review of the literature. Review of Educational Research, 80(2), 144-179.

The Bottom Line for Building Vocabulary

When it comes to building your child’s vocabulary, here’s what you need to keep in mind:

  • Avoid the common mistakes in teaching vocabulary, as outlined in this article.
  • Teach specific new vocabulary words using direct instruction.
  • Discuss word parts so your child can learn word construction.
  • Read lots of books aloud to your child and have informal conversations about new words that arise.
  • And finally, have fun playing with words!

The All About Reading program walks you and your child through all the steps needed to help your child’s vocabulary grow. The program is multisensory, motivating, and complete, with everything you need to raise a strong reader. And if you need a helping hand, we’re here for you.

All About Reading Product Line

What’s your take on encouraging a larger vocabulary? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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Leave a Comment

Rebecca F

says:

This is great..exactly what I needed as always AAR!

tina

says:

great article. Thank you for doing all the work; and making this so easy for the parents.

Sharon

says:

This is a great eye opener into building vocabulary. I am doing AAR Level 1 with my daughter and so far so good. She knows a lot of words and can now say new ones much more easily. I will definitely implement this too. Many thanks!

Angel

says:

All About Reading has been so wonderful for my daughter!

Brandy Grossnickle

says:

As a reading specialist I’m always on the lookout for better ways to help my ELL students. These are ideas that are helpful and something I can easily adapt to.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Brandy,
We are pleased that we can help you help your students in this small way!

Marika Maršálková

says:

I really love this idea. It´s very usefull even for foreigners.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Marika,
You brought up a great point. This method of learning vocabulary is very useful for learning vocabulary in a second language as well. My sister-in-law is a native speaker of Spanish, and she is tutoring my daughter in it. My sister-in-law uses very similar techniques to this to help my daughter’s Spanish vocabulary grow.

Sheila

says:

I love how All About Reading teaches vocabulary! We just finished the story Wombat Rescue (level 3) with all those similes. :) Looking forward to the idioms in the next story (Chasing Henry) and the “When Pigs Fly” activity! Thank you for such great material and helping us to teach our children in such fun ways!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sheila,
Those are especially great stories, and they do make learning about similes and idioms much more fun than how I learned them (in high school Literature class that focused on memorization of literary terms and analyzing excerpts of literature without any of the joy of actually reading the entire work).

Kaylor

says:

I was doing it all wrong and it was extremely difficult for my dyslexic child. Thank you for your blog and excellent materials!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Kaylor. Please let us know if you have any questions or need any help for your child.

Roserin

says:

I really love your articles, they are very helpful. Thanks a lot.

Laura A

says:

Thank you for this article and the downloadable chart! Very helpful!

Heather

says:

Thanks for all the information and practical ways to implement it! This is my first year using AAR and AASpelling and so far it has been wonderful!

Whitney

says:

What a helpful article about building a child’a vocabulary. My oldest has always learned best through indirect vocabulary instruction. Those pesky lists never stuck…now I understand why. My 6 year old struggles with reading, and we are pretty sure he is dyslexic. AAR keeps coming up in all my desperate reading online. This article makes me definitely want to jump ship with our current phonics program! Thanks!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Whitney,
Please let us know if you have any questions or need help with placement or anything else.

Emma

says:

Thanks for the printable chart. I love AAR! You really did think of everything when you developed this program. My kids love reading and I love teaching it with AAR.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Emmma. I don’t know if we really think of everything, but we do try!

Bridget

says:

Thank you for AAR! We started Level 1 today and my 5 year old that doesn’t like to do school asked to do more when we finished the first lesson.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Bridget,
Did you say yes? I know sometimes mom has to do other things, but it would be hard to say no to a child asking to do more reading!

Ashley

says:

These are very good instructional tips! All of which I think would be very helpful to my Special Education Students.

Heidi

says:

This is a great reminder to not replace those unfamiliar words when reading to our kids. Thanks! ☺

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Heidi,
Definitely. It is appropriate to add easier words in, in addition to the hard one, but don’t skip the hard one altogether. For example, if the books says, “chagrin.” You could read the sentence as is, and then add the word “embarrassment” to help them with meaning.

Heather Pyle

says:

Great article!

Jennifer V

says:

Reading vocabulary…as a grownup I still locational he come across words that I read one way in my head but when I go to read them out loud to my children I do second-guess myself . PS your yak is very cute .

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jennifer,
I do the same, especially with words of French origin. It’s kind of a running joke here that mom can’t do French.

I agree about the yaks, thank you.

Amy

says:

I love the conversational approach to vocabulary with the reminder to reinforce words over a few days. I try to do this with my son who just turned 4 and I love it when he whips out a word like frustrated or challenging and uses them appropriately.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Amy,
Yes! I think big words in little mouths is the cutest thing!

Steph T

says:

I love it when my children master new vocabulary words!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Steph,
I also love it when little ones use impressive vocabulary! It’s too cute.

Courtney m

says:

I had forgotten the true complexity of vocabulary until starting my oldest child on AAS L1. She can read and understand so many words, but actually processing that onto paper is so much more challenging. We have loved L1 so much already and are excited to see the changes the following levels bring to her skills.

Heather Butt

says:

This information has been very helpful. Thank you.

Lillian Jewel Giangiulio

says:

I love your site and your program, although I have not used it yet! I am planning to order soon. Thank you for all you do.

Stacey

says:

I really would like to get this for my daughter. I believe she would really enjoy this much more and not feel intimidated by not spelling correctly than Abeka. I would love to get the alll about reading and spelling kit for next semester. Thank you!

Maya

says:

This article is exactly what I was looking for. Thank you!!

Rachel Kelly

says:

Great article, thank you so much.

Christine

says:

Thank you so much for this helpful post! Love the useful poster to print and peer at as a visual reminder until it becomes habit!! So grateful for all the work All About Learning press does to help parents and teachers truly understand how to help children enjoy and love reading!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Christine. I’m glad the poster will be so helpful to you.

munazafaruqui

says:

Very helpful informative article. Thanks.

Sheila A

says:

Thank for this article. I pinned it and will be refering to it again!

Jessica

says:

We LOVE AAS!

Aley

says:

Such good info thank you for sharing!

Renatta Welsh

says:

Thanks for the great advice. We read a lot of read alouds which helps with vocabulary for my dyslexic son, but thanks for the specific steps to teach words we don’t encounter in our reading. 😊

Charelle

says:

Can’t wait to start this program!

Kelli

says:

Love this program

Suzanne Robertson

says:

We love AAR and are excited to start AAS!

Katie Olson

says:

I love the chart provided in this post!

Stacy

says:

So much good info here!

Joanna

says:

My children have developed a large vocabulary through much reading and listening to audio books.

Martha

says:

I have been doing most of the activities and ideas you’ve listed but I’ll definitely be adding some of the others in. I’m glad not using those long vocabulary lists and tests each week won’t hurt us. I can’t imagine my son enjoying it.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

We’re happy you found something new to try in this post, Martha.

Porschia

says:

I’ve noticed their vocabulary is excellent with just the indirect methods, I’m excited to try your program to include more direct methods on a more regular basis! Thanks for the downloads, will be trying the different levels this week so we know where to begin!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great, Porschia. Let us know if you have any questions or have any concerns about placement.

Nichole

says:

We use this product for my son with tourette and it helps him a lot

Char

says:

Very helpful.

Emily

says:

Vocabulary always seems to be one of those things that gets out on the back burner. Thanks for the tips.

Laura Walton

says:

These are great ideas. I can’t wait to use them in my lessons!

Michelle

says:

Very helpful. Thank you for posting.

Meg Walton

says:

Your curriculum is thorough and gives me confidence that there will not be holes in my child’s reading (or spelling). Thank you!

Kerri

says:

This was a very helpful article. I remember being frustrated with vocabulary study throughout my years of school, and didn’t want to “go through the motions” with my children. I think I will mindfully practice these ideas with them, instead. Thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Kerri. I know what you mean about being frustrated with vocabulary work in school.

Yarid

says:

So helpful!

Stephanie

says:

Audiobooks have been so helpful in the times when I can’t get in as many read a louds (new baby season!). I get a lot of questions about words and wonder “where did THAT word come from?” Before I then realize it’s from one of the many audiobooks we have!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for the reminder that audiobooks are a great alternative to reading aloud, Stephanie!

Anne Perry Morrighan Crowe

says:

My son’s vocabulary is strengthened by our books before bed routine.

Andrea

says:

Great post thank you !

Erica Hamilton

says:

Good info! Thx

Allison

says:

I love vocab exercises with novel units. It’s great to read ahead and find out which words they’ll understand from the context and which will require definitions. From there, you’re able to purposefully plan teaching context clues and dictionary use. When the dictionary is necessary, you can still teach context clues by having the child decide which definition appropriately applies to the context. Some words, however, especially those with which the child has zero prior experience, will still need to be directly taught. For the rest, though, it’s really fun to see them become so empowered in their reading!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Allison,
Thank you for sharing how your do vocabulary with novel units. Fabulous!

Adrien

says:

Great read- very helpful!

Shannon S

says:

I never thought about the connection between vocabulary and spelling. Definitely makes sense,

Ann

says:

I have one child who has a large vocabulary and learns new vocabulary in a natural way. My other needs some direct instruction. This is a very helpful article.

Bree

says:

I have a child who has not picked up vocabulary from read alouds the way some children do. I’ve done a vocabulary program, without much success. I guess I need to be more intentional.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Bree,
One way to be more intentional is to find some sort of literature guide for your next Read Aloud. Most guides include vocabulary. You would then teach the vocabulary words for a chapter before reading it aloud (no more than 2 or 3 at once!), asking your son to listen for the words. After the reading, you could ask him to give synonyms or antonyms for the words. Later, seek opportunities to use the words in conversation.

jennifer

says:

All About Spelling Changed my son’s life.

Teah

says:

Looks like a good way to improve vocabulary.

Deb

says:

Consider the number of words a child is exposed to when the child is read to or reads 20 minutes/day compared to one read to 20 minutes a week. When one realizes 80% of vocabulary development is from read-a-louds, reading and audio books, this trajectory needs to be consistent.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Yes! Excellent point and reminder, Deb! Thank you.

Sabrina

says:

Thank you for your emails. They are very helpful and informative!

Mary

says:

Excellent information!

I have been searching for a good vocabulary program. Thank you! I am looking forward to this.

Esther

says:

Who is the author of My First Thousand Words ? I found a few and wanted to make sure I bought the better one :)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Esther,
First Thousand Words (no “My”) is written by Heather Amery and published by Usborne.

Karen K

says:

Can’t wait to get to some of the word analysis in AAR4.

Elize

says:

Very helpful. Thank you!

Linda

says:

Great information!!!

Latista

says:

Wonderful ideals, my 10 year old son is dyslexic and he is doing very well with this program. Thank you so much!

Lydia R.

says:

I’ve been using English from the Roots Up by Joegil Lundquist off and on with my 8 y.o. Whenever I teach him a new root (or we haven’t done it in a while), we review all the previous roots. So far he knows photo, graph, metron, tele, tropos and philia. We also do Rummy Roots sometimes.

Whenever we come across words that have related roots (hippopotamus, Mesopotamia, Hippolyta) I’d tell him/ask him to guess. “Hippo means horse; do you remember what potamus means?)

Semi-related: I’m always amused when he tells me about Internet abbreviations that he heard/read. Child, I’ve been active online for longer than you have been alive. My first blog was seven years older than him.
(P.S.: Last week he tried to pronounce “thx” phonetically, and it was awesome.)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Lydia,
Thank you for detailing how you are working on Latin roots with your son, and also thank you for the smile about a phonetic “thx”. :D

Sheilah

says:

Thank you for the reminder to be intentional in helping our children develop their vocabulary. Modeling this development as parent/ teacher is also key!

Christianne Sinclair

says:

Hi! I love this article! We are no longer a homeschool family but we want to continue with helping our son by supplementing his education with your curriculum. We loved your AAS and AAR levels 2 & 3. He is a fourth grader this year and I’m looking for ways to help with his reading fluency and vocabulary so this was good timing.

Thanks for all you do!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Christianne,
You are welcome!

Abbie

says:

Just the other day I realized it may be time for some formal vocabulary curriculum. My kids are all avid readers for their ages so I’ve kind of left it at that. But my 11 year old could benefit from something a little more structured.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Abbie,
11 years old may be a good age to begin instruction in word roots. The game Rummy Roots is a fun way to begin, as are our Word Trees.

Nancy S

says:

I myself love words, and that love has increased my children’s enthusiasm for acquiring vocabulary. My older son has a “word of the day” site that he visits and shares with me. My younger son also has a great vocabulary!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Nancy,
Yes! Modeling a wide vocabulary is a highly effective way of motivating students to develop a wide vocabulary of their own.

Karen Lewis

says:

Do you have any ideas for the high school student who is still getting those lists? Should he make a mini-book of his own to review? Thank you for breaking down the steps for us in teaching vocabulary, just as you break down the steps for spelling in your awesome All About Spelling Series!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great question, Karen.

If I had a high school student that was being assigned weekly vocabulary lists, I’d be inclined to modify the steps we outlined here for new words. The student should look up and read the definition, then try to come up with a couple examples of his own. He should try to make these examples as concrete and specific as possible. For example, if the word is glacial, a good example would be, “A glacial wind came off the iced-over lake.” A poor example would be, “The wind was glacial.” The first one includes the mental image of ice, which helps with retaining the meaning of the word. The second just has the mental image of wind, and that is not directly related to glacial.

Then the student can come up with some synonyms and some antonyms of the word. He should avoid using a thesaurus or digital resource, unless he is truly stumped. Coming up with a short list of synonyms and antonyms on his own will be more powerful for retention. For our example, he could write “icy, freezing, bitterly cold” for synonyms and “balmy, warm, tropical” for antonyms.

I recommend having the student do an index card for each word, but I don’t recommend copying the dictionary definition. Rather, his examples and synonym/antonym list would go on the card. If he is a visual learner, or is inclined toward art, he could even illustrate the card to help him retain the word. Then, when he reviews the cards, have him use the word in a new way, rather than just reading or repeating the example on the card.

I think this method of vocabulary study would not take any more time than the typical method of copying the definition and then doing flashcard review. Yet, it would be more effective because it requires the student to think of his own uses of the word, and it encourages him to attached mental (or in the case of illustrations, real) images to the word.

I hope this helps. I do know there are apps that allow students to make digital index cards. A teen might be more open to something digital than actual cards.

Debra

says:

Thank you so much for yet another great “tip” on how to help my children with reading, vocabulary, comprehension, etc. Your emails are just short enough to read quickly, but long enough to provide some great information and motivation!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Debra, and we are very happy to hear that our emails and articles are informative and motivating for you!

Sarah

says:

Thanks for your great tips!

Cara

says:

This looks very interesting. I have a struggling reader. I am using All About Spelling.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Cara,
If your student is struggling with reading, you may want to check out All About Reading in addition to All About Spelling. This article, What’s the Difference Between AAR and AAS?, details how All About Reading is geared toward helping students have success in reading. The article includes detailed samples of how one concept (the phonogram kn) is taught different in AAS and AAR, so that you can more easily see the differences.

Pam

says:

Very interesting and informative article. Thank you so much.

Sangiam

says:

Thank you very much. It is good for my children.

Twila

says:

Language arts is such a huge subject area. It can seem overwhelming to teach. There have been times I have felt it has been overtaking our school days and that we still might be missing things. With the All About Learning programs I have been able to lay aside that anxiety. Thank you! Because of the AAR program I have not felt that we had to do an additional vocabulary and reading comprehension program. What a gift!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Twila,
It’s great to hear that AALP programs have been able to allow your anxiety to lessen.

Vee

says:

This looks fantastic :)

Candace Duerksen

says:

This was a super helpful article. Thanks!

Swamini

says:

What a great resource for parents. Thankyou.

Susanne

says:

Thank you for all the great tips!

Tiffany

says:

Great tips…glad for the AAR resource for my younger kids. I dropped the ball in some ways with my older kids. AAR makes it a bit easier.

Thank you for these tips. They help me know what I’m doing right and what I need to work on.

Olivia

says:

For very young children, My First 1000 Words is a nice resource. Each spread illustrates a group of related words.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Yes, but not just for very young children, Olivia. My First Thousand Words is a fun book even as kids get older. It’s a bit like an I Spy book, useful for teaching how to read common words, and just fun to look at. After five kids, my copy is very worn.

Lauren

says:

Glad to hear I am doing something right and that it can be simple!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Lauren,
Yes! Simple can sometimes be all that is needed.

Kelli

says:

My son frequently asks what words mean during conversations that he listens in on at the dinner table, and I often get frustrated with stopping and explaining them to him! Now I’ll remember how important indirect conversational vocabulary instruction is!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kelli,
Yes, there is definitely a balance between allow a conversation to go on and stopping to explain what words mean. Both are important. Hopefully you can find the right balance for your family.

Cherryl

says:

Lots of great information! Thanks!

Allison

says:

I especially love read alouds for learning new vocabulary – good tips!

Hannah Costa

says:

Thank you for this! Sadly we’ve been skipping it altogether, I’m going to change that now!

Maranatha Maneval

says:

Thanks for breaking it down for us! Very interesting! I saw some things I’m already doing as a homeschool mom & others I need to be more purposeful about!

Abbey F

says:

Lots of great strategies! I’ll also add that meeting and getting to know people from different backgrounds, reading literature from other countries and cultures, writing to pen pals, traveling, and generally being a part of one’s community are also wonderful ways to develop one’s working vocabulary, on multiple levels.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Yes! Great examples of learning new vocabulary in context, Abbey. Every new context will have it’s own vocabulary, so the wider the experiences someone has, the wider their vocabulary!

Kelly

says:

This is very helpful

Cindy

says:

This has been so helpful. We’ve been trying to use examples and put new vocabulary into sentences for better understanding. I have noticed that my son now will make up his own example once he understands the meaning!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Cindy,
Thank you for letting us know how this method of learning vocabulary has worked with your son. It sounds like it is working very well indeed!

Jennifer Crystal

says:

This is great,and I love the poster. I’d like to give it out to the parents of the remedial readers I work with. I have a question that came up when speaking about vocab development with the parents. Many of “my” parents are not native English speakers. They don’t have the vocabulary themselves to help thier children. How do you suggest encouraging the parents when they don’t think they know enough to help thier child?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

This is a great question, Jennifer.

I recommend encouraging the parents to be willing to learn with their child. Many may have smartphones, and it takes but a moment to look up a new word on a dictionary app, or even to ask Google or Siri. Together the parent and child can immediately use the word in an example and think of words with similar meanings and opposite meanings. And together they can continue to use the word over the next few days.

Parents do not have to know everything ahead of time in order to be good teachers. They just have to know how to find the information the child wants to know. Also, there is a great benefit to showing the child that even adults need to learn new things sometimes.

I hope this helps. Please let us know if you have further questions, or need more ideas.

Heather

says:

Thank you very much for this article!

Katie

says:

This post was like a Christmas present with a vast amount of information and great tips. Thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Katie. Merry Christmas!

Abigail

says:

This is very helpful! Thank you!

Kacy Waites

says:

I’m always looking for ways to improve my daughters vocabulary! She picks up new words and incorporates them immediately! I am looking forward to using the 4 steps to improve it even more!! Thank you!

Bonnie

says:

Great article, thank you!

Sarah

says:

Thank you for the information!

Leah

says:

Very informative!

Karen Billar

says:

Dialects help is greatly appreciated.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Karen,
I’m not sure what you mean. Are you asking for more information about dialects? In regard to reading, spelling, both? We would love to be able to help.

Kaitlin

says:

Thank you for this! Saving to come back to.

Lana

says:

I haven’t done much direct vocabulary instruction with my children until this year. We are voracious readers so their vocabularies have been decent. This year they are learning vocabulary words in their IEW co-op classes. I have been impressed with how much their vocabularies are improving by adding some direct instruction.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Interesting observations, Lana. Thank you for sharing that direct instruction did make a difference for your children’s vocabularies.

Julia Minges

says:

Fantastic! I always look forward to new blog posts…… Great ideas for helping my students become adept readers and spellers.

Janet Akremi

says:

Very helpful!

Cherie

says:

I just started with AAS and really like it!! So simple, yet to the point and my kids love it. I am thinking about trying the AAR program too!

Lisa

says:

We love AAR and AAS!

Ainslie Laslie

says:

I love your spelling program, this makes me want to try your reading program too!

Jill

says:

I appreciate the way AAR incorporates new vocabulary with photos and continues to use them in future lessons. I like your ideas on how to expand my teaching of vocabulary with your 4 Steps. Thanks for the great helps!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Jill. Great point about continuing to use words too. To truly add a word to a child’s long term vocabulary, the child needs to see and use the word again and again.

Mayra

says:

My family absolutely loves AAS and AAR! This program has made it easy for my daughter to expand her vocabulary and she is understanding everything as we go along.

Aimee

says:

I love the direct correlation with AAS

Jillian

says:

This is why reading to little ones is so important! In addition, it helps to develop a “readerly-life” in them.

I recently introduced my 3rd grader to using a thesaurus. Even when we speak now, I try to use larger words followed by several synonyms he will recognize to help develop his vocabulary!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jillian,
I think a thesaurus is an overlooked reference book. At times they are easier and more straight forward to use than a dictionary, and are definitely more helpful when writing.

Melissa

says:

We have switched to AAS from another program and my son has progressed with leaps and bounds! I love the tips for not only incorporating vocabulary with the program but also using things that most of do most days with our kids anyway and making those (sometimes) mundane things more useful. Getting more bang for the buck!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

It’s great to hear that AAS is working so well with your son, Melissa!

Libby Pritchett

says:

We are LOVING the way AAR teaches vocabulary. I just mentioned to my husband the other day that my daughter (almost 5 and already half-way through level 1) is constantly asking “what does that mean?” when she’s reading through our AAR lesson. AAR has exposed her to so many new words that she’s now attempting to use in daily conversation. Such a great program!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for telling us how AAR’s vocabulary instruction is impacting your young learner, Libby. It sounds like she is really thriving with it!

Sherry Huepper

says:

I LOVE the AAR curriculum. Planning on purchasing the spelling curriculum with my Christmas money:-)

Lori A.

says:

We love your All About Spelling program. At the start of the fall my daughter was behind grade level & through your program of teaching she is now 1 grade level ahead. Only 4 months later! Thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Wow, what a fast progression, Lori. I’m glad we were able to have a part in your daughter’s spelling success!

Pauline

says:

It’s interesting to see how your program handles vocabulary lessons. Thanks for the tips and free downloads!

Samantha Shoemaker

says:

I love this curriculum!

Titilayo

says:

Hello, I am from Nigeria and I love your topics. This one is particularly striking because I am trying to put together a training for some teachers here about teaching reading. You made it so easy to understand. Keep up the brilliant work.
Would also love to get the series. Thank you

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m happy you found this article so easy to understand, Titilayo. Thank you for the work you are doing teaching teachers!

Anita

says:

I loved the instructions on vocabulary development. Thanks!

Meghan

says:

Great tips and reminders!

Aimee

says:

I love all the tips you give in your blog articles! You give such common sense, easy-to-implement advice, such as the above tip on how to teach a new word using the conversation method. That is so easy to work into every day conversation! And now I know I don’t have to feel guilty about not using vocabulary workbooks!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m happy that this article was so helpful and useful for you, Aimee. No guilt needed!

Kim

says:

Looking forward to helping my special needs child learn to read. Public school has failed my child, who at 15 still can’t read. After finding this, I have hope again.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kim,
Marie, the author of All About Reading and All About Spelling, has tutored teens successfully. Let us know if you have any questions or need anything.

Shaina

says:

I learned so much through this! We currently use All About Spelling for my older child, but after reading through this I definitely want to do All About Reading with my littler girls! My older daughter was read to far more often than my younger two and I’ve already noticed the differences in their vocabularies. I have been putting more effort into reading to ALL of my kids lately and encouraging conversation about these books and any new words we may have found in them.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sounds great, Shaina!

Dawn

says:

This is so true. I have come to see this in my 10 year old dyslexic daughter. Thanks for all the great advice!

Gale

says:

Vocabulary (oral at least) is I think the only thing I don’t worry about with my kids. My husband and I both have a large vocabulary, and my kids pick up all sorts of things. They don’t always use it correctly, but that gives us a chance to correct it.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Gale,
I think big words, used almost correctly, by little mouths is about the cutest thing ever. I grow all nostalgic when I think of my last little 3 year old asking me, “Mom, are we having a conersation?” “Yes, dear, we are having a conVERsation.” :D

Julie Taylor

says:

I am so excited to have found your programs! My son is a struggling learner. He is high functioning ASD and has ADHD. I have heard wonderful things about your programs from several friends. I can’t wait to try it out!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Julie,
You may find this blog post, Teaching Reading and Spelling to Autistic Children, helpful.

Let us know if you have any questions!

Lacy van Vuuren

says:

I gave my son, 10th grade this year, a sample ACT test from a book we checked out from the library. I was surprised that he did not understand the reading section very well, because he is an avid reader. I see from this post that writing down unknown words was a good idea for him, but that I need to encourage him to interrupt for definitions during read-alouds. I appreciate all the tips!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Lacy,
I’m glad these tips were helpful to you. Since your son is older, and needs to take the ACT or SAT for college, you might find focusing on root meanings to be the best help for your son’s vocabulary in a short amount of time. This blog post has printables to help teach some Latin roots, with additional resource ideas at the bottom for more. I found the card game “Rummy Roots” helped my son learn Latin and Greek roots very well.

bev russell

says:

Yes, too often kids memorize definition, but don’t really learn the words. Teaching vocabulary has to be relevant and done in meaning ways. My students like to play vocabulary charades and act out the words. This helps them learn the words.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Ooo, I may have to try vocabulary charades. My kids love charades. Thanks for the idea, Bev!

Barb

says:

My 5th grade accelerated reader still enjoys our evening “read alouds.” I flag vocabulary words with sticky notes and enter them into a worksheet later. After all, learning vocabulary in context is the best way. Thank you for new suggestions!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Barb,
My 16 year old still enjoys read alouds. :D

Camille

says:

My 13 year old is an avid reader. Once we started homeschool I realized there are a lot of words that he guesses their meaning incorrectly and he mispronounces just as many. Reading aloud and engaging in discussion continue to be important even for the older kiddos.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Camille,
Yes! Reading aloud, conversation, and discussion are more effective for building vocabulary than just reading, for just the reasons you mentioned. Avid readers often don’t bother to learn knew words, and even if they learn the meanings they may not learn the correct pronunciation. I know from personal experience. I thought subtle had the /b/ clearly pronounced, something like sub-til. It was super embarrassing when I was corrected in front of the whole class in junior high.

Melissa M

says:

Since my oldest is in third grade now, it feels like there are so many things that need to be covered word/reading wise, like spelling, vocabulary, and all the rest. Thinking about it, it really makes sense to teach a word in context rather than as part of a random list. I know it works for me. One less thing to worry about!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Melissa,
We all could use one less thing to worry about! I’m glad we could help you with that.

Tanya Area

says:

This article is so exciting to me. I certainly grew up with the Monday thru Friday vocab lists, and I dreaded them. Throughout high school I wondered why we couldn’t simply learn the words that we were reading in our literature. When I began homeschooling I searched out curriculums that taught in this fashion which is how I found both All About Reading and Total Language Plus. I’ve also always been an avid reader and love to read aloud to my kids. So many times people comment on the “big” words my kids use in their everyday conversations with people. All because we read them and make them part of our everyday conversation. Keep up the good All About Learning.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Tanya,
Thank you for sharing your experiences with this way of building vocabulary and how it has made a difference for your children!

Vicki

says:

We take our weekly vocabulary words and write a short fun play using the words. Then act it out, throwing together some easy costumes.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Vicki,
That sounds like fun, but I know my kids would grow tried of it after just a couple times. Do your children enjoy it every single week? If so, I wonder if they are natural born thespians.

Carlyn Canady

says:

I have drooled over AAR/AAS for many years! In our house, I don’t just give definitions, I ask how it applies to my daughter … how she can use that word in her every day life. I also just don’t spell words when asked … I ask her to at least get started, then I will help along the way!

Micha

says:

We love to play scrabble mostly with our own rules. And we have lists of words you can use instead of…And of course rhyming anything and everything. Love all about reading and spelling. Thanks!!!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Micha,
Okay, now I want to hear your Scrabble rules! Please share.

Jennifer Bruce

says:

I second that! I am always in need of new rules for old games.

Myra

says:

We try to pick read-alouds that will have a rich vocabulary and then discuss it as we are reading.

I love the ideas from this post. This is also to enter the drawing for $100 worth of products. Thanks.

Mother2Girls

says:

When we are out and about, we take the time to discuss unfamiliar words relating to what ever activity in which we may be participating.

Melissa

says:

When we are out and about, we take the time to discuss unfamiliar words relating to what ever our activity may be.

Jennie

says:

I have always just played word games with my kids. Anything from classic Scrabble to the new Banannagrams.We also read together – a LOT! Sometimes we take a new word and come up with as many synonyms as possible, then as many antonyms as possible and use them in the same sentence. For instance, we read “Piggie Pie”… a “passel” of piggies became a “bunch, huddle, group, hoard..it gets funny actually! Then, we flipped it to a “single” piggie, “lone” piggie, etc.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Jennie,
I love your idea for playing with synonyms and antonyms! I am soooo going to use it. I’m always looking for oral games to play when we are waiting somewhere, or driving, or whatever. Thank you for sharing.

Sarah

says:

Glad to see we are already using so many of these suggestions. My kinder is loving AAR and never hesitates to stop and ask for clarification if she’s unfamiliar with what a word means. She is milking the read aloud time into MUCH longer than 20 minutes. We are having a great time with the lessons and it is amazing to watch her read to me as well.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Sarah,
Our read aloud times are a lot longer than 20 minutes too. 20 minutes a day is our minimal recommendation, and it doable for most families. However, if you and and your children enjoy more, go for it!

Tanya W

says:

One of the things that really helped my child who struggled with reading to add to his vocabulary was using audiobooks. We’d often get out books digitally from our public library that were at or slightly above his reading level. He gained lots of new words this way and it often made it easier to read the longer books on his own later.

Kayla

says:

I didn’t realize that AAR included vocabulary. I didn’t buy a vocab curriculum this year. This is encouraging that I am on the right path with just using AAR and literature. Thanks!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Kayla,
I’m glad you are encouraged!

Karen

says:

I agree that read-alouds and using vocabulary words in conversation are the best ways to instill an understanding of vocab words. Even audiobooks are a great source for learning vocabulary. My children love the Boxcar Children and have about 30 audiobooks from the serious. In the books, Benny, the youngest character, is often asking what something is, and then it is defined. When the kids listen to the books over and over, the words stick!:) When I begin to define a word during our read-aloud of books from other series, they will sometimes say, “Oh, we are already know that word from the Boxcar Children”!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Karen,
Thank you for the recommendation of an excellent audiobook series, especially one that is particularly good with teaching vocabulary in context. We’ve done a couple of the Boxcar Children books, but not 30!

lizzie

says:

i have used some of your pointers for building vocabulary and it works. my 3 year old knows what it means to distract! thanks Marie. lizzie from Kenya

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Lizzie,
I got a big smile out of these! It’s pretty safe to assume that all 3 year olds know how to distract, but at least there is one in the world that knows what the word means! Thank you for sharing this.

Every new word my daughter write it on a vocabulary notebook with the definition. Then she draw and color it (she is a visual learner)

Rachel K.

says:

My daughter is a struggling reader and this program is helping! We love it!

Gwen

says:

Great info and tips!

Christine Nadolny

says:

Thank you for this article. I so appreciate your expertise, knowledge and understanding of children and how to teach them. all I can saw is “phew”, glad we don’t have to do vocabulary drills the old school way. You incorporating it within is brilliant!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Christine,
You are welcome.

Rachel Castro

says:

I’m glad to see AAR includes vocabulary in the reading lessons in small amounts in a natural way. Talking through new words, using them in everyday conversations and challenging children to use the words in the form of a creative family competition is effective, fast and fun, not to mention great for all the different ages in the family.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Challenging each other to use new words sounds like great fun! Thanks for suggesting it, Rachel.

Joanne S

says:

I can’t tell you what a relief it is to read this. This is our first year of homeschooling. We decided to home school because my son was so far behind in reading and spelling. We stared using both AAR and AAS and have seen improvement. The curriculum I purchased comes with vocabulary building/spelling, but I didn’t purchase it because we were already using this. Just a few days ago I wondered to myself how I would ever fit vocabulary building into his school day since he has some learning disabilities and takes longer than most kids to complete his work. Then I realized that AAR was already helping me to build his vocabulary because when we read the fluency sheets, he will often ask what a word means. And as he becomes more proficient in reading, I know his vocabulary will continue to build and he’ll be able to SPELL as well!!! Thanks!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Joanne,
I’m very happy you have found comfort in this post.

If you aren’t already, I do highly recommend you add reading aloud to your son daily in there as well, even if it is just 20 minutes a day and it means you have to cut something else out. Reading aloud is just as important as AAR for developing vocabulary.

Rebekah

says:

My husband and I always love opening our dictionary to a random word and then try to incorporate it into sentences throughout the day. Our kids now observe, hear and see us doing this and partake. My 3 year old loves to make up words. Ex. “Some people call a fork a jangle.” Not sure if that’s improving vocabulary but definitely improving his creativity! We find vocabulary just naturally comes up all the time. Like when we are eating navel oranges. Navel is another word for belly button, do the oranges look like they have a navel?

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Rebekah,
3 years old is a little young, but when your boy gets older you have to read Frindle by Andrew Clements to him. It’s all about how a made up word can become a real word through time and use by lots of people. It’s a great read aloud.

I started reading your article about learning vocabulary and immediately found myself back in 9th grade! I remember being given a list of words and asked to write their definitions! Each day was planned out just like you said! The funny thing is though, I only remember just a few of those words from the lists. Fast forward to today, I have a 9th grader myself who has been through the public school system. We decided this year (hopefully not too late!), to bring her home and try and help her get caught up. She is a poor speller and doesn’t like to read. She also misuses words from time to time. Reading this article gave me hope that maybe we can work together to not only help her with her word knowledge, but also with her spelling! Thanks for the encouragement!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Kristine,
I remember those lists of vocabulary words, but since I as a reader, I knew most of the words already and I always found the dictionary definitions that we had to copy to be lacking. I didn’t know at the time how to explain it, but it was the difference between denotation and connotation. Denotation is the straight up dictionary meaning of a word. Connotation is the subtle difference in words that otherwise have the same denotation. There is a difference between smile and smirk, and it is only in context that we learn these subtleties.

Anyway, let us know how we can help you help your daughter. It is definitely not too late.

Karen Catangay

says:

Thank you for these helpful tips. We have been doing it wrong and I’m glad to have discovered this method and program. Thanks for writing this post!

Laura Barnes

says:

My kids don’t like vocabulary lists, but they love learning new words through reading! This looks like a great approach for us!

Michael Fuller

says:

I love this approach. So many times people and parents think learning is confined to the classroom, while that is important there are so many conversations that have turned into lessons just because they asked the question and I took the time.

Druceal

says:

I love it when my kids will randomly ask me what a word means. I like to ask where they heard it… Then I can give the definition for the given context. Then we go over other definitions if it has it. We “play with meanings” to make it al seem silly. I try to use that word through out the next few days in every day life. It never fails, they also will use the word.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Druceal,
You hit on an excellent point. You ask where they heard the word. It is much easier to understand the meaning of a word in the context it is used, and sometimes the context can change the meaning completely. Thanks.

Yuna Park

says:

I hated vocabulary lists in school! My favorite way to learn new words was through books and stories. I love it when my kids ask what a particular word means during read-alouds.

Hope Wilke

says:

I love this product

Michelle

says:

Sounds like a great program!

Dianna Strachan

says:

My 4-year-old twin nephews have a remarkable vocabulary because the entire extended family involves them in their life interests. They are inquisitive and it’s lots of fun to talk with them! I’d like to be a fly on the wall in their Kindergarten class next year!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Dianna,
I think 4 years old is one of my very favorite ages for just the inquisitiveness you described.

Shanquita

says:

Thank you for this information. I was just about to start all the cramming vocabulary words and dictionary at my son thinking he isn’t learning it. After reading this he is getting it and we will continue to use AAR Level 1.

Sarah

says:

Thank you for this information… I was just thinking, “I need to teach vocabulary, but where do I start?” This was helpful and encouraging (I HAVE been teaching vocabulary, afterall!)

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Sarah,
I’m glad you found this timely!

Cher A.

says:

I have my iPhone app WordBook ready all the time to give more precise meanings, especially when I know how to use the word, but I can’t seem to explain the exact meaning. It also offers word origins that we like to learn about.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Cher,
I use The Free Dictionary app on my Android for much the same purpose, only I like that it has a link to pronounce words too (I struggle with many words with French origins).

Elizabeth

says:

It’s nice to see how the next levels will introduce vocabulary. We do read-alouds quite a bit and I can tell that this has made a huge impact. Thanks for the information!

lindsey

says:

love your program and suggestions.

Matt Sarr

says:

Love this. Great resources for a new homeschool parent.

Jenna

says:

Love this! Any advice on a good “first dictionary” for my 5 year old advanced reader? She loves to learn new words and would really enjoy being able to look up definitions on her own.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Jenna,
My five kids used my DK Illustrated Children’s Dictionary to death (literally, it fell apart when my youngest was about 6). Two of my kids particularly loved it, taking to bed with them or curling up in a comfy chair with it often.

Stacy

says:

Great post! This is exactly why I’m using All About Reading alongside my Sonlight curriculum. I just feel that the All About Reading and All About Spelling programs are well thought out and worth every extra penny. My goal is to make learning enjoyable for my kids starting now, in the early years. This example of learning vocabulary shows how All About Reading is different and fun!

Christianne

says:

Thank you! We have only been using your program for a year and a half, but as a parent I love it. I hadn’t even thought about teaching vocabulary, but realize we do in our daily conversations with our 8 year old son. Now I plan on using the tips and ideas from others on this post. Still feel like a brand new homeschooler even though we started when our boy was four. Thanks again! Excited to get learning.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Christianne,
Even as a veteran homeschooler, it’s good to get new ideas and a new look on things. It helps keep things fresh!

Great article! When in doubt, we always say just read to your kids. We also use “adult vocabulary words” with them and don’t speak to them like they are children. My husband reads to them every evening from books that are many grades above their level, which we also find helps with new vocabulary words and sentence structure.

Charity

says:

My girls love AAPre-Reading and AAR that we are using this year! Ziggy zebra is a huge hit that I have to incorporate him in my oldest’s AAR level 1 too! He is a great help with word card review. :-) I love this post and the helpful tips for vocabulary. We have found a great help in learning vocabulary through conversation with our children. My husband refused to speak baby talk with our kids and instead uses larger vocabulary words. It generates conversation and our kids will ask what words they don’t know mean and practice pronouncing them. Amazingly they will use that word a few days later in the right context, demonstrating understanding of the meaning. Thank you for all your work in language arts!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Charity,
Your husband is a wise man. And this sort of practice that works so well in the early years, works as well as they continue through school too.

Thank you for sharing.

Jennifer

says:

Wish I had used this when my kids first started reading! Thanks!

Katrina Chastain

says:

My daughter absolutely loves the AAR and AAS programs. She enjoys school again because of these programs! Thank you!

Wendy

says:

Yet another encouraging post reminding the homeschool mom about an important subject to be taught. I appreciate the easy to implement ideas for accomplishing the task followed by the research reminding me why my effort is important and how this subject relates to the big picture of education.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Eloquently put, Wendy. Thank you.

Tamara Abboud

says:

We like to use lots of read-alouds (classics and new ones) that don’t correlate to their age group necessarily (ie stage 1 reader). I love your program as well!

Lena Lindsey

says:

Great information and something to think about. We haven’t done much vocabulary review, but my kids do read a lot and I am trying to include more read alouds with all of us together.

Laura Simpson

says:

I friend told me about AAR and I am so thankful she did!! We love it! :-)

Stacy

says:

This is great information! Thank you! With several children who struggle with dyslexia, reading out loud at our house is a must. I have found they are more likely to ask what a word means when we are reading together.

Julie

says:

This is helpful. Thank you.

Samantha H

says:

Much better approach than the old copy it all out of the dictionary approach!! Thanks for sharing!

Alyssa

says:

Yes! Traditional vocabulary work, the few times we have done it at home, has been more like “going through the motions”/busy work. We do, however, love reading aloud & we stop & talk about new words as we go. Thank you for all the tips.

Amber Johnson

says:

This is my first year homeschooling and these tips will be very helpful.

Carol Gerke

says:

I loved the emphasis on Reading Aloud. I wish more teachers used this opportunity by reading more literature and non-fiction, not just the teachers favorite, to build the background knowledge and vocabulary for our kids who don’t have the opportunity to hear it at home or the skills to read it on their own..

Sara

says:

It’s nice to see that we’re setting up a good foundation with our kids. We do a lot of the informal conversation with them and it really does seem to work.

Pam

says:

My daughter will sometimes ask what a word means while we do her All About Reading. It works in very naturally!

Naomi G

says:

I like this method of learning new words. I have just started having my 9 year old write down words that he comes a cross while reading that he does not know. We then look them up and find out what they mean. It is very helpful to him.

Mary V

says:

We just started with All About Reading and I can’t wait to see how it helps grow my kids vocabulary!

Momstarr

says:

When I read aloud a book to my children I will make a list of words I found in our reading
for that day and go over them when we finish. I will ask “does anyone know what **** means?
Then they are to copy the list and use them
in their own sentences.

Sandra

says:

This was so very helpful and timely! We are about to start the new school year, and I didn’t think I needed to incorporate an extensive vocabulary curriculum quite yet for my little one. Now I have some great tips on how to teach her vocabulary without overwhelming her. Thank you!

Maria

says:

We have always read books aloud even with my older kids. It is great to incorporate learning new words from the material. I am excited to learn more from your specific program.

Teagon

says:

I’ve been loving the slow and easy addition of new vocabulary words in level 1! I was concerned about that before, so I’m glad to read this post. Thank you!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Teagon,
You are welcome.

Trishia Learned

says:

I could not agree more. My 6 year old has a great vocabulary. We often get comments on the big words he’s uses. My husband and I have always talked to him a lot like he’s a real person not just a child. Thank you for sharing!

Margaret M.

says:

As was said in the article, I honestly feel like one of the best ways to make vocabulary really stick is to use it. I don’t think it’s a mistake that our kids have a big vocabulary and generally know how to use it properly, because my husband and I have a big vocabulary that we use frequently around the kids. It’s a rare time that I water down my words, even for the youngest of them.

Melissa H.

says:

We do this at home, it feels good to have our learning habits backed up. I also love the new ideas given. We have been talking about roots and now, per a users comment, i’m on the look out for Rummy Roots!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Melissa,
Rummy Roots is fun, and even better it’s inexpensive. :D This post has reminded me to dig mine out again, as it’s been awhile since we have played.

Jessica Y. Kirdyashev

says:

I have always read aloud to my children and, even though I kind of talked “baby talk” to them, by using a sing-songy voice when they were little (much to my speech therapist uncle’s chagrin!) my kids have all talked like they were 20 years old from the time they did start talking. I have always used “big” words when talking to them and explained them as I went. To an extent, I think they talk the way they’ve been talked to. I also believe that the reading aloud has been pivotal in that, especially for my dyslexics, they were able to consume vocabulary at a higher level than their reading level. Read, read, read, even after they start reading on their own and talk in a way that is worthy of imitation.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Great advice, Jessica! Thank you for sharing.

Nancy A.

says:

i love the way vocabulary is presented in the AAR program!

Nancy S.

says:

Despite my son having tremendous struggle with written word (due to dyslexia), he has a great oral vocabulary. I know that once he conquers some of his challenges, his reading and writing will be peppered with delightfully delicious words!

Catherine H.

says:

My children beg me to do reading and spelling now!! It’s so good to have this curriculum it has been a huge blessing to our family!!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Catherine,
This is great! How odd, but completely wonderful, for students to beg to do reading and spelling!

Robin

says:

Recently my 22 month old starting “taking off” in her speech, even using several complete and comprehendable sentences. Then it dawned on me…We began consistently reading her books at nap and bedtime! Coincidence with her natural development? Hmmm…

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Interesting coincidence! Thanks for sharing, Robin.

Amy

says:

Spelling was always my worst subject, but this article helps me feel excited about teaching it to my kids! It also helps explain why I wasn’t “getting” it. Thanks!

Kristin

says:

Thanks! We are loving All About Reading so far!

Rhonda

says:

Thank you for the wonderful tips and advice!

jessica

says:

Thanks for the information.

Chandra Johnson

says:

Great article!! Love the ideas!!

Wendy C.

says:

Thank you for sharing such valuable information…my kids will be thrilled :)

Jessica

says:

Thanks for these great tips! I’ve been able to explain lots of word as we’ve worked through the Level 1 books!

Deanna

says:

I love the idea of teaching vocabulary in such a natural manner especially since my children love being read to.

Cindy

says:

what do you do if you have a child who doesn’t like to listen to read alouds?

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Cindy,
Choose different read alouds.

Listening comprehension is a struggle for some people, but it is still an essential skill and listening comprehension is directly related to reading comprehension. With children that dislike read alouds, it is usually because they struggle with listening comprehension. You can help build up this skill by choosing easier books to listen to and different subjects to draw them in. If you have been trying chapter books, try picture books. If you have only been trying fiction, try non-fiction. If you have been trying classic literature, try modern stories. Keep trying, and you’ll find something.

Also, what do you have the child do during read aloud time? Many people listen better, and therefore enjoy it more, if they can do something with their hands while they listen. Legos, coloring, knitting or cross stitching, or even just folding clothing are all activities my kids do while I read aloud to them.

Bribery is good too. Not money or food, but time. “You can stay up, as long as you listen to me read to you. If you don’t want to listen, it’s lights out.” Or, “You can have more Lego time if I read one more chapter.”

What is your child’s age? What kind of books have your tried? What time of day?

kaye herbert

says:

this sounds like a much more natural and fun way for me to teach and my kids to learn vocabulary. thank you for these tips!

Kellie

says:

We always talk about vocabulary when we read aloud, whether it is a novel or our history or science lessons. I think it has really helped my kids have a large vocabulary.

Nicole M

says:

My daughter and I love AAR…she is on level 2. Katie is the youngest in our family, her older siblings are 8 and 10 years older than her….it’s like living with four adults, and her vocabulary surprises all of us. I’m sure it has to do with all the grown up conversation happening around her.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Nicole,
I love little kids with large vocabularies. I think it’s super cute. I love it when they correctly use a long, hard word, but mispronounce it too. My 8 year old told me her brothers were “nippluating” her the other day (she meant “manipulating”).

Miha P.

says:

Very enticing curriculuM. What age should they start AAS? Do you advice AAR first?

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Miha,
We recommend waiting to start All About Spelling Level 1 until the student has finished All About Reading Level 1 or the equivalent reading level. This article, The Right Time to Start, explains this further. Because of this, students are probably 1st or 2nd grade when they are ready to start spelling.

Anna

says:

I am hoping to try AAR and AAS with my dyslexic daughter. Until then, these posts are so helpful. Thank you very much.

I love what Kathy Penn of Sound Literacy does with word matrices and other ways to connect words. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sound-Literacy/191819280832394

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Thank you for the link, Nancy. They seem similar to the Word Trees All About Spelling Level 7 uses.

Helen

says:

I enjoyed the comment about adult conversation. Guess I better improve on my own vocabulary to help my children.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Helen,
Read to your children regularly, in a wide variety of genres and subject matters. You’ll increase your own vocabulary as you teach them.

Jodi

says:

These are great ideas for young/ New readers. Do you have ideas for older readers 6th grade and up for vocabulary? We use Wordbuild and enjoy it because it is not the traditional vocab.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Jodi,
The suggestions in this article work for all ages of students. Learning vocabulary in context, through literature and in conversation, has a much larger impact on the student than looking up words in a dictionary and other workbook type vocabulary learning. Well-read people have larger vocabulary, likely because well-read people have been exposed to more words. Reading aloud to them, having them read themselves consistently, and encouraging conversations that challenge them will improve their vocabularies whether young or old.

However, once they are reading very well, studying the meaning of word parts is very helpful as well. Wordbuild does that. All About Spelling does it using Word Trees. Marie does like the book Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction by Isabel Beck.

Pat

says:

Your method is by far a more natural and pleasant way of learning the meaning of new words.

Brittany Markarian

says:

I am excited to teach my kids vocabulary in a better way than I was taught.

Teresa

says:

My 15 year old (who is dyslexic) loves vocabulary. Not studying it the traditional way but picking it up from his reading and other interactions. He loves to stump me with a new word.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Teresa,
My 18 year old is a total math and science geek, but has a minor passion for etymology (study of the origin of words). I knew I had succeeded in teaching him to love learning when he lectured me on the etymology of the word mummy when he was 14. It wasn’t an assignment; he simply was curious and found himself researching it.

It’s a wonderfully proud moment when things like that happen, isn’t it?

Bethany

says:

Thus far, I’ve really only used indirect methods. We read together a lot, and even from a very young age I consciously didn’t dumb down my language when speaking with her. There were lots of times I knew she didn’t quite understand, but when she was old enough to ask questions she would ask for explanations. She learned a lot of words that way, and many people comment on her wide vocabulary. For now, my plan over the next few years is to continue varied read-alouds with lots of new and advanced vocabulary for her age.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Bethany,
Yes, exactly! Keep up it up.

Linda

says:

We loved to read and talk about the story. It is such fun to talk with engaged children.

Reed

says:

Thanks for going over these tips.

Sharon Schoepe

says:

Great ideas to use with my son.

Jennifer

says:

I use AAS with my children and they have improved with their spelling. Thank you AAS!

Paula

says:

Thank you for this post! I’ve avoided vocabulary exercises/curriculum with my older son, who’s 12 now, because I really wasn’t sure how effective the traditional vocabulary exercises were. I remember memorizing definitions, but that didn’t mean I could use the words in sentences or that I’d remember the definition more than a few weeks after the test. But with my son getting older and me thinking about college entrance exams in a few years, I’ve wondered about this.

I realize AAR is for younger students (and my younger son is in level 1 right now), but do you have suggestions for vocabulary development for older students like my middle schooler? Is reading aloud still the best option even at this age? (We do have read-alouds in the curriculum we use, but I confess I don’t read to him anywhere near enough.)

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Paula,
Marie does like the book Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction by Isabel Beck.

Another recommendation would be to start teaching morphology to your middle schooler. Morphology is the meaning of word parts, such as bio means life, sym means together, and sis is the Greek version of the English word ending ing. So, put together, symbiosis becomes “living together”. Learning word roots, especially Latin and Greek roots, can go a long way to helping a student have at least some understanding of words they have never seen before. One of the ways All About Spelling teaches word roots is through Word Trees in Level 7.

And reading aloud and reading will still play a role in vocabulary development. Well-read people have larger vocabulary. I understand that it’s sometimes hard to find time for reading aloud. You could try putting it on your daily schedule so it’s not missed. Another option is to listen to audiobooks. Many public libraries offer a large selection of audiobooks free to download from home, with just your library card.

I hope this helps. Let me know if I can help in any further way.

Paula

says:

Thank you so much, Robin – this is helpful!

Leanne

says:

Reading new vocal words in context with AAR is essential and glues that connotation into my daughter’s mind.

Amy M

says:

I have been using AAS and AAR reading with my older child and this week I began pre-reading with my youngest. I can’t say enough good things about these programs! They have made such a difference in our language arts education.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Amy,
Thank you for sharing. We love to hear how AAS and AAR are making differences.

Melinda

says:

We’re on day 1 of AAR and AAS and I am already hooked. I’m a vocab nerd and I think there’s something incredible about having multiple ways to express your thoughts. COMPLETELY behind this program already and I would love to be able to get the next round of supplies. My 5 year old just started AAR today and the confidence boost he got from the first lesson and being able to sound out and read a few beginner words was absolutely priceless.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Melinda,
I’m so glad you had a great first day!

I love your description of yourself as a “vocab nerd”. I can so relate. :D

Kimberly

says:

I would love to try these programs with my kids.

Katherine

says:

Thank you for your All About Reading program!! I am using it with 2 of my children and wish I would have known about it for my 2 older children. I have 2 children with dyslexia and 1 that was slow to read. I began AAR with my kids and it has been wonderful to see their growth in reading!’ Thank you!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Katherine,
Thank you for sharing how All About Reading has helped your children.

Laura

says:

Great information!

stacey michals

says:

Great post!

Tamara

says:

The weekly lists only made sense if I already knew the words well but I never learned new words from them in school. Common sense approach… I like that!

Rebecca

says:

I would really love to try both All About Reading and All About Spelling!

Hannah

says:

Thank you for these posts. They are very encouraging!

Holly

says:

I have been using AAR and AASpelling with 4 children and my oldest will soon be starting level 4 while my 3 yr. old is working on AAR Pre-Reading! We read aloud to our children often and find them frequently asking about words that they are unfamiliar with. When they do this, I try to explain the word meaning by using it in another sentence and give examples. This seems like the most natural way to teach new vocabulary to our children.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Holly,
Yes, because it is very much the intuitive way we taught them language when they were very young. Adults just naturally say something, then rephrase it in another simpler way when speaking to 1 and 2 year olds. It makes sense that that sort of approach would work with older children just as well.

Lorna Seadore

says:

I have found that my daughter learns vocabulary more quickly when she encounters the words in lots of places. Using or hearing them in conversation excited her and shows me she really understands the meaning and how to use it in context.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Lorna,
Yes! I’ve seen it suggested that it takes up to 15 exposures to a word before it finds its way into a person’s vocabulary. So multiple exposures in multiple contexts would have greater impact.

MaryAnne

says:

Thanks for the reminder that I am doing what I need to be doing all I can to make sure my children have a strong vocabulary. Sometimes I feel like I should be doing those weekly lists ha/ ha.

Jill

says:

YIPES — great article. No wonder the vocab drills don’t seem to stick in my kiddos head.

Helene

says:

Yes, I believe that reading aloud is the best way for my son to absorb vocabulary and masterful use of language. Just remembering those long lists from my young schooling days exhausts me. Hooray for thinking and LEARNING outside the box!

Deann

says:

Very helpful!

Yvonne Pennington

says:

I’ve wanted to try All About Reading for a long time. I have two children with dyslexia and would really like to try it.

Becki

says:

My daughter recently completed AAR Level 1 and loves it. On to level two! Her reading fluency has made a huge jump already over the summer after working through Level 1. Thank you!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Becki,
You are welcome. I’m glad to read your daughter’s fluency has made a noticeable jump. Keep up the great work.

Nicole Poore

says:

Thank you so much for these great blog posts. So informative and helpful.

Lacey

says:

I have an all-in-one curriculum that I use, but instead of doing its reading and spelling programs I use AAR and AAS. The all-in-one has lessons for vocabulary much like the traditional example you describe above. (Though the words do come directly from their history readers, and so are at least tied into content.) My son cringes every time he has to do his vocab work. Are you saying that with AAR there is no need for an additional “vocabulary” subject on its own? Not that a little extra knowledge would be harmful…

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Lacey,
Learning vocabulary in context is very important, which is what your curriculum seems to be trying to do, but it should not be something unpleasant or cringe-worthy. Rather, consider changing up the way you approach your curriculum’s vocabulary. Briefly go over the words with your son before he does the reading. Do it orally, but possibly allow him to see the word in print by just showing him it in the teacher’s lessons. This pre-teaching will add an additional exposure to the word, and deepen his comprehension of both the word and the context he finds it in when he does the reading, but it doesn’t need to take much time at all.

Marie isn’t suggesting in this article that All About Reading will be all the vocabulary a student ever needs. Almost every subject has specialized vocabulary, so learning of almost any sort will require vocabulary learning as well. For example, it is only through History that you are likely to learn what circa and renaissance mean, only through Biology that you are likely to need to know what autotrophic and symbiosis mean, and only when you take up sewing do you need to know the difference between understitching and staystitching. What Marie is suggesting here is that learning vocabulary in context is much more effective for learning, and that All About Reading teaches vocabulary in context.

I hope this helps. Let me know if I answer any further questions.

Lacey

says:

Thanks so much for the tips! I’m definitely learning a lot as we go along this homeschool journey. Sometimes deviating from written plans is scary to me because I worry that my kids will miss out on something important. In this case, however, I think relaxing a little and doing it orally will actually help so he can focus on what he’s learning instead of the task of writing it! Thanks for taking the time to answer my question.

Katherine H

says:

Thanks for the tips!

Amanda Bombico

says:

Great article. I’m just looking into the All About Reading program for my son. We recently found out he is dyslexic, this program looks like it may suit his learning style!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Amanda,
Marie, the author of All About Reading, is a member of the International Dyslexia Association, and was an instructor for the graduate level courses in Orton-Gillingham Literacy Training offered through Nicolet College in Rhinelander, Wisconsin for 3 years. If you haven’t had a chance to watch their story about her son’s struggles, you may want to check that out. Quite amazing!

Let us know if we can answer any questions or help you in any way.

Kelly

says:

I purchased the card game Rummy Roots as a fun way to introduce my kids to Latin and Greek roots, with the thought that it will help them with vocabulary in English and Spanish over the long haul! Plus, they love to play games so it makes that aspect of learning new things fun and allows them to be competitive as well. :)

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Kelly,
Rummy Roots is a great game. I love that it can be played at different levels of difficulty, so the kids don’t grow out of it too quickly. Thanks for mentioning it.

Jaymie

says:

Thanks so much for sharing!! I’m excited to start AAS with my kids this year! Hope to do AAR too!!

Ruth Kershaw

says:

I have three kids who will be going through AAR and AAS. Two of them are currently in the Pre-Reading program, and this article makes me so excited for them to progress to the next level. And as a homeschooler I’ve been wondering how I should approach learning new vocabulary. This article is perfect and timely. Thanks!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Ruth,
You are welcome! I love those happily little coincidences when we post something that helps someone at just the right time.

Carol Bridges

says:

Thanks for your insights! Looking forward to using them on my son this year.

Jessenia Palmer

says:

Great article!

Laura Hubbard

says:

I love AAR and AAS!!!

Katherine

says:

I’ve found my kids pick up lots of new words just from the stories we read aloud. Plus it’s fun!

Renae

says:

Thank you for this resource. It is also good to know that All About Reading has some vocabulary built into the program. I had been wondering if I had to get an additional vocabulary product once my son was older. He is currently 4 years old.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Renae,
Read to your son, and talk to him. All About Reading does have vocabulary development in it, and by discussing the words and word parts (like suffixes) in All About Spelling that will help with vocabulary too. However, being exposed to rich language regularly over many years (through being read to and having conversations with adults) has the greatest impact on vocabulary.

Claire Simpson

says:

Reading aloud has completely changed and increased my son’s vocab, we never read without a dictionary to look up meanings

Catherine in MI

says:

So much great advice in this post!

My sons learn a lot of vocabulary during our read alouds. I strongly encourage them to “interrupt” the story if they are unfamiliar with a word. Over time and exposure, they learn so many new words and we start to hear them in every day conversation.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Catherine,
Yes, exactly! Reading aloud to our children, even well beyond when they begin to read themselves, makes a big impact in their use of language.

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