By Lee Binz
The HomeScholar

When Play Your Way to a Great Vocabulary. The HomeScholarchildren have reached the point of reading and writing well, working on vocabulary development can change from previous years. I have a variety of ideas for vocabulary development that can help you with your teenagers. Read through them, and see if you can find suggestions that will help you with your child, in your unique situation.

SAT preparation book

The SAT is an important step in the college admission process, and a good score can improve chances of financial aid. You can pursue a good vocabulary for studying for the test, and kill two birds with one stone. There are many options for SAT vocabulary books and workbooks. We like the vocabulary cartoon books.

There are also some fun "flip books" for vocabulary that some kids like. I thought it was pretty easy to use and fun enough so that it wasn't painful to study words.

There are also a wide variety of workbooks that are geared toward SAT preparation. If your child is always on the computer, then consider having them do the SAT "Word of the Day" 

Studying words alone may not put the words in context for children. When they see and hear a word being used, it's much easier for them to understand vocabulary. For that reason, reading books with a good vocabulary can really improve vocabulary development in teens. Unfortunately, not every book in popular literature has great vocabulary words in it. If you are trying to work on word use, look at a reading list for the college bound, and choose books that have great vocabulary. I like

Read real books with vocabulary building purpose

Reading real books can help, but kids aren't always perfect about looking up a book in the dictionary when they see a new word in print. You can find some editions of college bound books that have the dictionary build in. We used the Kaplan Score Raising Classics as our read aloud books during the school year. They have the text of the book on one side of the page, with the vocabulary words in bold print. On the other side of the page, the words in bold are defined. We would sit together and the kids would read over my shoulder while I read to them. Using a vocabulary-building book, they could read the definitions of vocabulary words as I was reading them aloud. Here is an example:

There is also a publisher that provides vocabulary for the plays of Shakespeare. If you would like to learn vocabulary and you are studying Shakespeare, look at this publisher for great help.

Listen to The Teaching Company Lectures Seeing real vocabulary in print, while reading real books, can help a lot. It can help even more when children can hear other adults using great vocabulary words. The Teaching Company provides college level lectures on audio and video. Because they are college level, students actually HEAR the vocabulary that they learn about in books. We had our children listen to lectures in subjects they enjoyed. At first, we used the course "How to Listen to and Understand Great Music." I was SO impressed to hear the vocabulary the professors used! One way to get great vocabulary into your children is to have them listen to The Teaching Company lectures, and hear vocabulary used in a real college setting. Here is the course that we started with:

Study Latin or Greek Roots

If you haven't started a foreign language, then consider starting with Latin, because it's great for vocabulary development. We used Latin Road to English Grammar and both kids excelled at the vocabulary portion of the SAT. Studies have proven that the study of Latin can dramatically improve SAT scores, and I have seen that happen with my own children, so I'm completely convinced.

There is a workbook called "Vocabulary from Classical Roots" but we didn't enjoy the format of that workbook, and we did better by using a real Latin program.

If you are already doing a Latin program, or if you aren't interested in Latin, then consider using Rummy Roots, the card game. Rummy Roots is a great start, and you can really expand your vocabulary when you play the games - plus it's not a difficult subject, it's sort of fun.

Rummy Roots isn't the only game for vocabulary, though.

Study Vocabulary with Games

My children thought it was hilarious when I would "assign" games for our school day! But really, games are a GREAT way to increase comprehension with out beating your children up with school subjects all day long. As adults, we increase our vocabulary with games, so why can't children? Consider working on crossword puzzles, or doing scrabble, to increase vocabulary skills. There are other games that are more schoolish, but can still be more fun than a workbook.
Look through your game closet to find other fun ideas for vocabulary building games.

When your child is already reading and writing well, and you are simply expanding and developing an already good vocabulary, then that is one subject that you can make as fun as possible. After all, it's the love of learning that will last the longest, so keep in mind your long-term plan!

Our staffmember, Jill, tried Syl-la-bles with her family.

She says Syl-la-bles is super fun!

Lee Binz, The HomeScholar helps parents homeschool to college. Check out her homeschool online free minicourse. You can find Lee online at

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