8 Great Ways to Improve Your Child’s Vocabulary with a Vocabulary Tutor

8 Great Ways to Improve Your Child’s Vocabulary with a Vocabulary Tutor

If you want a surefire way to enhance your child's educational success, then you will want to expand your child's vocabulary.  Research has shown that children who
have large vocabularies are the most academically successful people.  Who wouldn't want that for their children?  Right?

We are going to take a look at the most successful vocabulary strategies that will skyrocket your child to success.  Before we do that, let's take a look at how children learn new words from a vocabulary tutor.

1.  Incidental learning

2.  Direct Instruction

3.  Multiple exposures through experience

The first way that children learn vocabulary is through incidental learning.  Just through being a human being on this earth we are learning new vocabulary words on a daily basis.  These are words that we just pick up by accident.  We don't need to be taught these words.

The second way that we learn vocabulary is through direct instruction.  This is where people take the time to explain a word, talk about words that have similar meanings, and sometimes we are then tested to see if learning of these words occurred.

The last way we learn new words are through multiple exposures through our experiences.  The likelihood of us learning these words without the experiences would most likely not happen, so the experiences themselves help aid in learning the new words.

If learning new vocabulary is to happen, it is important that we use the words that we are learning.  It takes between 7-10 exposures before we can actually learn a new word.  As soon as the child begins using that word in their own conversations, they will be transferring that word from their short term memory to their long term memory.

Here is a list of some of the things that you can do with your child to improve her vocabulary.

8 Great Ways to increase vocabulary

1.  Travel

2.  Talk at the dinner table

3.  Involve your children in your hobbies

4.  Read books with your child

5.  Sign your child up for a new class in your community

6.  Involve your kids in sports

7.  Turn off devices in your car once a week and read or talk

8.  Get your child involved at your local library

To learn more about each of these different strategies watch the video of a Hangout I conducted below.  We learn new vocabulary through conversations with others, so begin using some of these vocabulary strategies with your child to improve his/her vocabulary.

Visualizing: The 7th Habit of Highly Effective Readers

Well, it is that time of year again.  My kids are off to school, and I am excited to begin writing a brand new book.  I will be creating the book through this blog, and you will have free access to all of it’s content here.  This book/blog series is called Seven Habits of Highly Effective Readers and will give you information on what you can do to create an avid reader.


Its beauty seemed to strike the child dumb. She leaned back in the buggy, her thin hands clasped before her, her face lifted rapturously to the white splendor above. Even when they had passed out and were driving down the long slope to Newbridge she never moved or spoke. Still with rapt face she gazed afar into the sunset west, with eyes that saw visions trooping splendidly across that glowing background. Through Newbridge, a bustling little village where dogs barked at them and small boys hooted and curious faces peered from the windows, they drove, still in silence.

This is an excerpt from one of my favorite books called Anne of Green Gables.  This was also the very first passage where I was hooked in reading because of how vividly I could picture the scene above.  I was not a highly effective reader as a child.  I struggled with comprehension and one of the big reasons that I struggled so much was because I specifically could not see the movie in my head.

Highly effective readers can see the movie all of the time.  They read something and then they can tell you what they read because it is like pressing replay on the remote control.  It is easy for them because they just replay it in their mind and tell you what happened.

Other readers struggle all of the time or some of the time, just like I did.  So how can we help readers see the movie in their head?

1.  Increase their vocabulary

2.  Eliminate distracting thoughts

3.  Be alert when reading

4.  Ask the reader what she sees

First, if there are too many words that a reader does not know the meaning of, then this will hinder a movie from happening in the mind.  You can try doing a word of the day program to increase words, but even if you are consistant that is only 365 words a year.  So implementing this with teaching the child how to figure out words on her own will be highly beneficial.  This strategy is known as context clues.  The child uses the words and sentences around a word to figure out the meaning of an unknown word.  For example, in the passage above is the word rapturously.  Some clues to this word are given by the way the girl is holding her hands.  The passage says, "hands clasped before her."  It also talks about the splendor of her surroundings.  From this I can picture a girl that is wide eyed and paying close attention to detial.

Once the reader has used the details around the word to get a feel for it, then she can look it up if she needs more details.  She can do this using a physical dictionary or an electronic dictionary in the form of an app or the internet.  I personally like to type into google, define rapturously, and the definition is the first thing that comes up.  The definitions are pretty kid friendly most of the time.  When I do this I see that the definition is ecstatically.

Also a reader should pay attention to how many words are unknown to her.  If there are 5 or more on a page, then the book is too hard for her and she should look for a book that will be a better fit.

Another thing that hinders readers from understanding what they are reading are distracting thoughts.  I know you know what I am talking about.  It happens to all of us.  You spend 5 mintues reading only to realize that all of a sudden you don't know anything that you have just read.  When this happens, most people go back and reread if they feel it is necessary.  The key though, is to name what is happening so that you can do something about it quicker.  If you know that you are having distracting thoughts, like what am I going to have for dinner, then you can stop having them as frequently.

Readers's are always able to make better mind movies when they are alert vs. when they are tired.  So, when your child is reading, make sure to do so when she is alert.  It is easier to be distracted  when you are tired and it is makes it much more difficult to pay attention and create mind movies.

Lastly, talking about the mind movies you see can make them even more vivid.  You can talk about details that are there as well as details that are not in the book, but you see anyways.  If your child just says they don't know or they can't do it, then have the child read what she has read again and talk about it together.  Begin to paint the pictures for her so she can see how the words in the books create pictures in her mind.

Visualizing is the habit that will make and break effective readers.  You absolutely cannot be an effective reader without being able to visualize.  This is why there is so much emphasis on this strategy in schools.  So if you want to aid visualizing for a child, then help increase their vocabulary, help them identify distracting thoughts, make sure the child is alert, and ask them to describe in their words what they see.

What are some things that you do when you realize that you are not visualizing?

Highly Effective Readers Figure out Meanings of New and Unknown Words

Highly Effective Readers Figure out Meanings of New and Unknown Words

Well, it is that time of year again.  My kids are off to school, and I am excited to begin writing a brand new book.  I will be creating the book through this blog, and you will have free access to all of it’s content here.  This book/blog series is called Seven Habits of Highly Effective Readers and will give you information on what you can do to create an avid reader.


You can just tell when a highly effective reader does not know the meaning of a word.  They have developed strategies to figure them out.  If they are reading with an adult, they may just ask what that word means.   As I was reading the book Slime Wars by Debbie Dadey with my daughter Katelyn, she said, "What does tarred Image 10-22-13 at 10.29 AMmean?"  She had never heard of that term before, but the best part was she didn't just keep reading.  She had the desire to know the meaning of the word.    This is what highly effective readers do.

You might be thinking, yah when kids don't know the meaning they ask.  Well kids who are not effective readers have not developed the skill to always ask.   In fact, they will just keep reading and miss part of the humor of the book.  When I asked Katelyn what her favorite part of the book was, she had mentioned when the girls were tarred and feathered with honey.  She never would have had the opportunity to fall in love with that part if the meaning of tarred had just passed her by.

Another way that kids are able to figure out meanings of new words is through context.  They are able to read all of the words around it to see if they can figure out the meaning on their own.  If they can, they keep on reading.  However, there are times when they can't, and they need to utilize other tricks.

Here are some of the other tricks that they can utilize.

1.  Go to google and type "define tarred and feathered".  Yes, you can type phrases for a definition.  This is very helpful.

2.  Click on the down arrow to see synonyms and antonyms.

3.  Click on images to be able to actually see what it looks like if you would like.

4.  Look it up the traditional way in a physical dictionary or on an iPad.

5.  Look for prefixes and suffixes to see if you can gather meaning clues.

6. Keep a notebook of all the new words that you see and write down their definitions and the context you found it.

Kids who are not highly effective will just skip the word, and this is going to impede their comprehension.  Kids need to be able to widen their vocabularies on a daily basis so that they can expand their word knowledge.  The larger their word knowledge, the more they will understand when they come to new texts with those words in it.

Our language can be complex, especially when you take into account the multiple meanings of words.  Not only that, but words also have connotations, and different feelings associated with them.  Talking about words with all readers can only help them to become the most highly effective readers that they possibly can be.

What do you do to promote learning new words with your readers?


How Do you Know what to Teach Kids that are Struggling with Reading?

I get asked this question all of the time.  Well, even though each child's reading difficulties may come in many different forms and in different areas, I am able to look at how they succeed with the 5 pillars of reading.  If there is an area that they are specifically struggling with, then I provide instruction in that specific area.  I love being able to help all kids who struggle with reading and make it easier for them.  Most kids who I have worked with has had a strong desire to get better.  This makes instructing them extremely easy.


Here are more details about each of these pillars.  Does your child struggle in any of these?



The 5 Pillars of Reading Instruction

Explore more infographics like this one on the web's largest information design community - Visually.

Top 10 Reasons Your Child Should Read in the Summer: #1 Increasing vocabulary

Welcome to the top 10 reasons that your child should read series.  This is a series motivated to inspire you to encourage your child to read.  There are many reasons why you should encourage your child to read over the summer, but I am just going to focus on the top 10.

The first one we are going to delve into today is a big one.

Encouraging your child to read over the summer will increase your child's vocabulary.

Last summer, I started to research all of the words that were in books to find out if books have changed today compared to when similar lists where made 20 years ago.  One of the most interesting finds that I came across wA that every single book had at least one word that was never found in any of the other books.  Now, these were easy reader books that I was looking at.  So imagine how many new words that your child has never seen before that are in chapter books, it could be hundreds.

There are three ways that we learn new vocabulary.  One is through everyday interaction with others.  Another is through direct instruction and the last way is through books.  If you take away books, then your child will automatically be 1/3 behind their peers reading books.  That can equal up to a 3 year instructional gap by 10th grade.  There aren't too many parents that would be happy with this educational gap and the easiest way to overcome it is by having your child read something of interest to him/her.

Some parents say, "But my child doesn't like to read."  Well, there are some kids that don't like to eat, but you don't stop feeding them.  If you are consistent with reminding them and make it fun, they will get on board.  If you make it seem like a chore, then they will hate it.  Just keep providing lots of opportunities and fill your house with books and ebooks.  If your child won't read on their own, then you read to them.  They will still get the same vocabulary if you read to them 15 minutes a day to a half hour as they would if they would read on their own.  Or, maybe you want to share the reading where you read one page and your child reads a page.

If your child is below grade level, then a great book called 31 Days to Become a Better Reader: Increasing your child's reading level will be a great tool.  It is available on Amazon and I wrote it after many parents asked me what they could do with their child at home to help him/her become a better reader.

Things to keep in mind about your child's reading and increasing vocabulary.

1.  Kids with bigger vocabularies go to college.

2.  Kids with bigger vocabularies have more opportunities available.

3.  Kids with bigger vocabularies get better jobs.

Open up doors and opportunities for your child and have him/her pick up a book.  I dare you to grown their vocabularies.


Day 21 of the 31 Days to Become a Better Reader Challenge: Suffixes

Day 21 of the 31 Days to Become a Better Reader Challenge: Suffixes

One Day 14 we took a look at the most common prefixes, now we are going to focus on the most common suffixes and why they are important.  When kids are reading, one of the biggest mistakes I see as a reading tutor is that kids will leave the ending off. The ending has a big meaning.  It shows when and how something happened.  It is similar to this loaf of bread.  You can't make a loaf of bread without the two end pieces.  You may not like them, but you still need them.

When I am tutoring students I have to continually draw my student’s attention to the ending of the word and have him/her try again.  The confusion is that these suffixes have multiple pronunciations, which adds to their complexity.  For example, the ending –ed is pronounced as /d/, /t/, and /ed/.  It doesn’t have one rule.  So I specifically ask my students to think about which ending sounds right.  They try them out and they always seem to pick the correct one.


So the most common suffixes are as follows.  These suffixes make up 93% of the suffixes that your child will find in books.


S, es ing ly Er, or Ion, tion, ation, ition
Ible, able Al, ial y nes Ity, ty
ment ic Ous, eous, ious en er
Ive, ative, itive ful less est ed


Does your child leave off the ending of the word?  Does your child always know how to pronounce the ending of the word?  These are things to think about.  But here is the critical key, what meaningful purpose do these endings really have.  Discuss this with your child so they can see the importance.  Below are the meanings.

  • -S, es – means more than      one
  • -ing – action word
  • -ly – characteristics of
  • -er, -or, - person      connected with
  • -ion, -tion, -ation,      -ition – act or process
  • -ible, -able – can be done
  • -al, -ial, - having      characteristics of
  • -y – characterized by
  • -ness – state of
  • -ity, -ty – state of
  • -ment – actin or process
  • -ic – having characteristics      of
  • -ous, -eous, -ious –      possessing the qualities of
  • -en – made of
  • -er – comparing
  • -ive, -ative, -itive –      adjective form of a noun
  • -ful – full of
  • -less – without
  • -est – comparing


P.S.  Don’t be concerned if your child is leaving off the ending, just have him/her look at the ending and try it again.


Day 14 of 31 Days to Become a Better Reader Challenge: Most Common Prefixes

Day 14 of 31 Days to Become a Better Reader Challenge: Most Common Prefixes

Some of you may be thinking, what do the most common prefixes have to do with increasing reading comprehension.  Actually, they are extremely important and here is why.


Studying the etymology of words can help with understanding their meaning.  What I like about studying the 4 most common prefixes is that they make up 97% of prefixed words.  These prefixes once understood, can help begin to make sense of an unknown word.


The three most common prefixes are dis, re, and un.  Re means again and dis and un mean not.  The fourth actually has four different versions.  They are in, im, il, and ir.  They also all mean not.  If you are serious about increasing your child’s vocabulary, then whenever you see these in a book point out re, dis, un, and in.  These will start getting your child into the habit of looking at the word and scientifically diagnosing it to see if there is anything that he/she knows about the word to understand it’s meaning better.  This will in turn ensure that your child will become a better reader and increase reading comprehension.


If you happen to know the meaning of other prefixes and want to bring that to the attention of your child, feel free to do so.  I am all about getting the most bang for you buck.  However, it is not necessary.  With all of the other tools that you are learning here we want to somehow manage to keep it all simple.  Once we make reading difficult for the child, they will begin to disengage with us or possibly the text.


Another thing to consider is the age of your child.  Obviously a high school student would be able to get deeper into analyzing word part meanings more so than a first grade student.  So take your audience into consideration and enjoy this one on one time with your child.

Day 8 of 31 Days to Become a Better Reader Challenge: Word Collection

Day 8 of 31 Days to Become a Better Reader Challenge: Word Collection


At this point we have seen how increasing vocabulary and improving reading fluency can get in the way of understanding what we are reading. Today we are going to take a look some more reading tips on how not reading a word correctly can get in the way of not understanding what you are reading. Then you will learn how review words with your child in order to increase their reading comprehension.

As you know by now I like to provide you with real examples so that you can see how not knowing how to pronounce a word can detract from the meaning of the text. This example is also from Hello, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty MacDonald.

Just then Mr. Carmody’s car turned into the driveway. Immediately Phillip jumped up into the wotbin and yelled, “Watch me, Dad. I’m goin’ to stand on my head in the wotbinow. I’m go to stand on my head and say the alphabet basteds.


Are you able to get a good visual picture of what is happening in the story? I know that I can’t. I’m missing a critical piece of information in order to understand what the paragraph is about. I need to know what Phillip is standing in and I can’t figure out that word. I also don’t know what he is doing with the alphabet. I am so lost at this point in the book that I don’t even want to continue reading. But look at all of the words that I got correct. I was able to read 40 other words. I only messed up on three, but it has severely gotten in the way of my understanding of the text.

There is a simple solution to this. Write down on a piece of paper the words that your child does not read correctly. If you have tried the “Try it Again” strategy and he/she still does not know the word, put it in a word collection notebook. You can review how to read some of these words before your child reads again. I usually have about 10 words that I am working with my students that I tutor in reading at a time. As a reading tutor I never want to have more than that because it is too overwhelming for the child. You may even find that 5 words is better. It really depends on the child.

As time goes on your child will be able to read more and more words, just like they now know the meanings of more and more words and are reading more and more sentences correctly. Great work sticking with this process and creating a better reader, it is totally worth it.

Day 6 of 31 Days to Become a Better Reader Challenge: Vocabulary

Day 6 of 31 Days to Become a Better Reader Challenge: Vocabulary


By now you are very much into a great book with your child.  The bonding time is priceless and I hope that you are enjoying that.  Today’s strategy is going to increase your child’s comprehension.

You many be wondering how increasing vocabulary can aid in comprehension.  Here’s the thing, if your child only understands 97% of the meanings of words that he or she is reading, the more likely it is going to decrease his/her understanding of the passage.  That is amazing if you think about it.  If a child struggles with 3% of the words meanings they come across, then the entire meaning of the text will be lost and the purpose of reading disappears.

However, the solution is really simple and I want you to see the amazing benefits.  So, if when your child is reading or when you are reading when it is your time to read and you take a second to talk about that word, you will drastically increase their vocabulary each year.  For example, if each day for one week you pick out a word to talk about, then you will increase your child’s vocabulary by 7 words.  If you committed to do this for an entire month, you would increase your child’s vocabulary by 31 words, and if you did for an entire year you would increase his/her vocabulary by 365 words each year.  This will automatically be putting your child at the top of the class compared to the other students, because there are not many parents that are taking the time to do this.

So now that we know the importance of picking out one word during our readings, let’s take a look at how to do that.  If you were reading the book Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald and you ran across the word glanced, then you can simply ask your child if he/she has ever heard of the word glanced.  If your child says no, then you can say, “Glanced is when you quickly look at something.”  Then you want to keep reading.  Throughout the rest of the day see how many times you and your child can use the word.  With this particular word you could look quickly at your child and say, “I glanced at you,” and then quickly look away.  I guarantee that both of you will be rolling with laughter with all of the great ways you can use these words.

A child needs to use a word 7 times before they can actually own it, so get him/her to use it in fun ways and you will increase their vocabulary in no time.  Remember to have fun with this and you will have great results.

Vocabulary Building Strategies Walled Lake Michigan

A picture about the spring.

Image via Wikipedia

I was back in Walled Lake, Michigan again today.  I don't know about you, but I am ready for Spring.  I can hear the birds and I am ready for the warmth.  I asked the kids in Walled Lake, MI today what they like best about the Spring.  Their answers included taking walks, riding bikes, and longer days.  I even had a little boy who goes fishing.  Some of the students live right on a lake.

The reason why we were talking about Spring was because we read the book Everything Spring by Jill Esbaum.  This is a National Geographic book that has some pretty amazing pictures in it.  It describes the weather, the outdoors, and baby animals.  What really brings my attention to this book is the ability to increase tier 2 vocabulary.  Beck and McKeown described three tiers of vocabulary back in 1988.  They described tier 1 words as words that everyone knows.  Tier two words are words that are what I like to call, juicy words.  Tier 3 words are content specific.

Some of the words in this book that I love are slumbering, tiptoes, nudges, unfurl, silken, and rippling.  These are what I like to call juicy words.  They are not words that we use in our everyday language and they are often the kinds of words that trip us up when we are reading.  They can confuse or they can clarify.

One of the strategies that I use when I am reading a book to a group of kids is to provide them with additional information about the words when I am reading them.  I finish the sentence and then I talk about the word to make it come alive.  In essence I am giving them more background information for them to understand the word.

Just by talking about words you can increase a child's vocabulary.  However, a child needs to actually use a word 7 to 11 times on their own before it becomes a part of their vocabulary.  Therefore, it is important to get a child to use the word in their own contexts.

Currently I am tutoring a boy in Seattle whose main focus is on increasing his receptive and expressive vocabulary.  When we come across words that he does not know the meaning of we learn more about that word.  We go to dictionary.com for the definition, the synonym, and the antonym.  Then, we think of an example of when it would be appropriate to use this word.   We save these words on a PowerPoint and review them.  Then, I try to embed the vocabulary words into our conversations.  When a character is acting like one of the vocabulary words, I use complete sentences to explain that.

Take a listen to my skyping session with Ms. Bonds class to hear how I expanded on the vocabulary in the book.