One of the reasons I love being around kids so much is because they are such sponges. They are hard-wired to absorb the world around them: the language they hear, the things they learn, the experiences they have.
Because I know that young kids are soaking up everything around them, I intentionally use big words around kids starting at a really young age. We don’t give kids enough credit sometimes. They understand much more than we think, particularly when they’ve heard a word a few times and understand the context of what is being said. (And besides, how adorable is it to see a 3 year old appropriately use the word compromise at a playdate??)
There are certain words that are used often in elementary school classrooms – words that are a part of the academic language that our kids will regularly be exposed to, use and need to understand as they move through their scholastic career. Kids who understand these words and the concepts surrounding these words tend to do better in school.
So I’m starting to use this academic language now with my kids even though they aren’t even in Kindergarten yet. And in the short time doing this, my son already displays comprehension of these words and uses them independently! Kids are sponges, I tell you!
Whether you have a toddler or a 5th grader, you can start incorporating academic language into conversations with your kids today. This will give them a huge step ahead in the classroom... whether they are in 5th grade now or a couple of years away from even starting school!
Okay, so how do you start? Regardless of the age of your child, first model the word. Just use it appropriately around your child and you will notice that they will soon start to use it as well. After you’ve modeled it for a bit, you can begin to ask them questions with the word. You don't need to ask your child to use the word. When they are ready, after they've heard it enough from you, they will!
There are 3 examples of academic vocabulary in particular that I use ALL THE TIME in conversations with my kids. I think these words are a great place to start introducing academic language to young kids. Drumroll please...
In the classroom, your child is going to be asked to make observations a lot. Teachers and parents want to raise children to be people who are curious about the world, notice things around them, think about the things around them. For this reason, we ask them to make observations all the time. About experiments, their reading, social situations, and more.
How can you use this word at home? Instead of saying "I see", just say "I observe!" You're not going to be doing anything new, you'll just be using a fancier word. You may say,
- Wow! You are great at making observations!
- What observations do you have about that?
- What do you observe on this page?
Especially with the introduction of the Common Core Standards in US classrooms, this word is used A LOT. In math, teachers are encouraging students to use different “strategies” to solve problems, to show their “strategies”, to explain their “strategies”, to come up with a different “strategy”. All of this because we know that kids that are able to think through problems, instead of just following rote rules, do better in math. In reading, we also teach kids reading “strategies” that proficient readers use.
How can you use this word at home? Pretty much any time you see your child doing some kind of problem-solving task (building a tower of legos, trying to figure out how to construct something, trying to fold their clothes, trying to figure out… ANYTHING!), you have a chance to use this word. You may say,
- What an interesting strategy!
- I like the strategy you are using to solve that problem!
- Is there another strategy you can try?
- Can you tell me about your strategy for putting together that model?
In classrooms, we are constantly asking kids to make predictions. That’s because teachers know that effective readers are constantly predicting as they read. (Predicting is one of our top reading strategies. Sorry – I couldn’t help it.)
How can you use this word at home? We use this word most at home while we are reading. Nearly every time I read a book, I stop at some point and ask my kids to predict what they think will happen next. Even if we’ve read the book before! You’d be surprised how many times the predictions are still not accurate. ;) There are many other times throughout the day that we can get our kids into the habit of making predictions. Maybe your child asks what you are cooking for dinner? Instead of telling them, ask them to make a prediction! (Bonus points: tell them to look at all of the ingredients you have on the counter and to use this evidence for their prediction.) You may also ask your child to predict what their teacher will have set up in the classroom as you drive to school.
In addition to Prediction, I also often use the word Hypothesis. Although I know there are differences between the words, for the purposes of introducing my young children to them, I use them very similarly. I just tend to use the word Hypothesis more when we are looking at things in nature or conducting some sort of experiment.
That's it! Pretty easy! How many of these words can you use in front of your child today? Let me know how it goes!
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