Expanding vocabulary
          On the last day of school, one of my students brought me a gift. She said, “I have a flower for you,” and I realized that she didn’t know what kind of flower it was. I responded by saying, “Thank you for the beautiful carnation.”

          This got me to thinking about nomenclature, and how common it is for children to understand general categories of words, but not necessarily specific ones within each category.

          Parents can pay attention to the vocabulary that they use in conversation with their young ones. In helping children with more specific words, they can guide their children to:

          * build a larger vocabulary
          * compare and contrast qualities among similar items in the same classification
          * understand that there is more to know in almost every field of interest
          First, identify what it is that you know best. If you begin with your own area of interest and strength, this will be an easier exercise for you. Before you know it, based on your own use of words, your child may be able to identify:

          * not just dogs, but golden retrievers, poodles, cocker spaniels, and Jack Russell terriers.
          * not just flowers, but roses, daffodils, impatiens, irises, and tulips.
          * not just birds, but egrets, mourning doves, robins, and seagulls.
          * not just bugs, but spiders, ants, beetles, and millipedes.
          * not just trees, but eucalyptus, oaks, ash, and pine.
          * not just breads, but ciabatta, sourdough, pugliese, and baguettes.
          * not just cars, but Fords, Chevrolets, BMWs, and Volvos.
          * not just metals, but copper, silver, gold, and iron.
          * not just pasta, but macaroni, fusilli, penne, and angel hair.
          * not just blue, but teal, turquoise, navy, and perriwinkle.

          The important thing to do is capitalize on the fascination with words while the child is young. When children are acquiring vocabulary, they want to learn as many words as possible. In so doing, they engage parents in discussions about the differences and similarities among the different varieties, which call into play their observational powers.

          This column has been incorporated into Teach Your Children Well: A Teacher’s  Advice for Parents.

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