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Homeschool Reading Activities and Games that Teach Vocabulary

teach child vocabulary

Homeschoolers know that building a large vocabulary is an important part of reading instruction. As a child’s vocabulary expands, so will their ability to read fluently and comprehend the meaning of texts.

There are many fun activities and games homeschoolers can do that focus on building vocabulary in a highly motivating and rewarding way. Here’s what you can try:

1. Letter Hunt

This word association game is a highly effective way to help children learn and memorise new words. Write down a word and ask your child to write down as many related words as they can. For example, for the word ‘animal’ they can list ‘dog, cat, horse, pig’ etc., or for the word ‘bathroom’ they can list ‘shower, soap, shampoo, water’ etc. This game is a great way for children to expand their vocabulary as writing words around a common theme makes it easier for them to commit these words to memory.

2. Complete the word

Playing with compound words is another great strategy for building vocabulary. A compound word is the result of two words being joined.

For this activity, create a list of compound words, for example, ‘armchair, nothing, stovetop, fireworks’ etc. As you read the list out to your child, only read the first part of each word, for example, ‘arm’ in ‘armchair’, and ask your child to work out the rest of the word. There are many compound words that start with the same word and end in different words, for example, ‘anybody’, ‘anything’, ‘anywhere’, so if your child guesses one of these, challenge them to try and list others.

3. Labelling game

Cut pieces of cardboard paper and write the words for common items found around the house. These can include things like toys, clothing, cooking utensils and furniture. Read each word aloud and ask your child to place it on top of the correct item. As your child improves, begin writing words for adjectives to describe household items. Include new adjectives that your child may not know and help them find items that can be described using that word. Encourage them to say each word aloud and even think of some of their own adjectives.

4. Role-play

Role-playing is not only fun, it helps children take new words they have learned and put them into context. Even something simple like playing with sock puppets to re-enact scenes from a favourite story can be a powerful way to practise new vocabulary.

You can also use costumes and props (or imaginary ones!) to role play scenarios that involve different characters and introduce related words. For example, if you pretend to be a shop attendant, include as many related words as possible, e.g. ‘till’, ‘cash’, ‘change’, ‘receipt’, ‘exchange’, ‘purchase’.

5. Word chain

Building on the words and language your child already uses is an easy way to strengthen their vocabulary skills. Cut pieces of cardboard paper and write the words for different nouns and verbs your child is familiar with. Then write the words for different adjectives and adverbs. Help your child make a ‘word chain’ using one noun or verb and as many adjectives and adverbs as possible. For example, if the word is ‘car’, you may select words like ‘big’, ‘fast’, ‘red’, ‘shiny’ or ‘noisy’ to create a word chain. Building language can also be incorporated into everyday situations. For example, if your child says the word ‘cat’, you can say, ‘soft cat’ or ‘sleepy cat’.

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