Archive for the ‘Teach Your Child to Spell’ Category

Tips on Teaching Your Child Vocabulary

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

I’ve been tutoring a sixth grade student in math.  Last week, he asked for help with a list of vocabulary words  for his English class.

For vocabulary lists, it is easier to remember words when you classify them by parts of speech.  I divided a legal pad in three columns, a column each for adjectives, nouns and verbs.  We took each word and put it in the proper column.  Sometimes a word was both a noun and a verb such as signal or a verb and an adjective such as lavish.       

We combined these words  into sentences, trying to use as many words from the list in one sentence.  Then we  “personalized” the words by using them in a familiar context such as:  “The liquid ambers in the garden look luminous.”  It’s spring and with the sun shining on the leaves, the trees indeed looked luminous, full of light.   

It was also helpful to find out about the origin of the word, the root word.  Luminous comes from lum , meaning light.  Other words in this family are:  luster, illuminate, and translucent

I recommend parents have on hand Instant Vocabulary by Ida Ehrlich.  Did you know secretary literally means “one entrusted with secrets”?   Secret means “a thing apart, hidden.”  The root SE means “apart, aside, without.”   Other words in this family are seclude, secure (to set aside carefully, to protect), secede,  sequestration, select, segregate and separate.  See how much easier it is to “decode” the meaning when you know the root word?

As a parent you are your child’s teacher, a hometeacher.  Always be learning.  Share what you learn with your children.  Communicate to them your passion for learning. Remember you are your child’s first and primary teacher.  Education starts at home.

Teach Your Child to Read

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Often parents ask me for tips on teaching their children to read.

My recommendation:  find books on subjects that interest your son or daughter.  What is she/he passionate about?  In the 3rd grade, my son was into karate and loved the movie, The Karate Kid.  I bought the novel, which is not too long and fairly easy to read.  So over the summer we read it page by page.  I made a vocabulary list of the words he had trouble with and put these on flash cards for review.
English spelling makes reading difficult. To read proficiently, children need to develop word recognition/decoding skills..  They need to know the vowel blends (oa, ea, ou etc) and consonant clusters (ch, sh, tr etc).  They should also associate the word with word families:  pack, lack, tack, etc.  Teach them about “silent e” at the end of a word.  Look at not/note, cut/cute, rat/rate, bit/bite, pet/Pete.  The silent e makes the vowel sound long. 

When reading out loud, if your child does not know the word, have him/her read the entire sentence and see if the context tells what the word is.  Vocalubary lists are hard because the word is in isolation. Let’s say your child can’t read the word: elephant.  But if it appears in a sentence, she/he most likely would be able to read it:  The circus had lions, tigers and elephants.  Context makes all the difference.  
Children need to recognize word patterns:  “right, bright, flight” to build proficiency in reading and spelling.  Also good is to teach them to  recognize prefixes, suffixes, base words and their meaning.  Fortune and misfortune?  Does the meaning change when you add the prefix?  What about like and dislike? Keep flash cards or have a “word wall” in your home.
Sit next to your child and take turns reading paragraphs, run your finger along the sentence so your child can see the word you are reading.  Some children read better if they use a bookmark under the sentence.  This helps with focus. 

 Make copies of your child’s book so you can mark up the text.  Try one color for vocabulary words, another for the main idea, another for difficult words.  What I did for my son, was to buy a set of school books for home.  You can buy these through the publisher or through Amazon.  So this way, there was never any “I forgot my book at school.”  Also we could read ahead and, of course, mark up the text.  Textbooks are not inexpensive but consider them an investment in your child’s future.  They are cheaper than tutoring or failing assignments and developing poor self-esteem. 
Another idea:  which movie is your child’s favorite?  Go to and look for these.  You can download scripts for free.  Description is quite brief and the rest is dialogue. Have your child play different roles. Most kids would find this fun.  Or buy a subscription to a magazine that would interest your child. Have your child write his/her own book.  Reading with your child pays enormous dividends.  A child who is a proficient reader is likely to be a good writer.  There is a direct link between writing and reading.