Strategies for Unfamiliar Words

So our kids are reading their class book or listening to NPR (that’s what kids do for fun nowadays, right?) and they come across a word or phrase they don’t know.

Do they…
A. panic
B. ignore
C. figure out the new word

Even though we WANT the answer to be C, the reality is they most often choose B.
Sure with us by their side, they can work through these new vocabulary words with thought-provoking followup questions…

but my kids need tools they can whip out in the middle of class or worse…. standardized testing. Furthermore, they need an easy way to remember these strategies.

So here we go. A 2-step strategy for conquering unfamiliar language *WITH HAND SIGNS* (wahoo!) as a memorization strategy. So many of our kids will remember the motor plan or pneumonic given to them before they will remember the strategy itself. When we make it goofy, we make it memorable. Adding multiple modalities (I’m counting cheesiness as a learning modality) will only increase our friends’ success.

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Step 1: Think When

Think when you have heard this word or phrase before.
Perhaps you can remember the situation in which you heard it? That may give you insight as to the definition.
Maybe you can think of another word that sounds similar- one you do know the meaning of?

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Point to your head, then point to your invisible watch.

(I guess we could also point to our head and then unlock our invisible iPhone? Or we can keep our fingers crossed that watches are still relavent enough that kids have at least seen them in movies.)

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Step 2: Try Out

Try out different words in the unknown word or phrase’s place.
Help your kiddo figure out whether the word serves as a noun, verb, or adjective.
Find a possible synonym for the unknown language and try it out!
If it makes sense, you win! If it doesn’t make sense, keep trying out new words.

The good news is even if you didn’t find the exact synonym or meaning, you likely have gotten close.

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Hold your imaginary “puzzle piece” and keep sticking a new piece in your “sentence” until you find the right match.

 

And there you have it! My kids have had a lot of success with this strategy so far- I hope yours find success too! They can use these gestures and concepts on vocab words, figurative language, and any other ol’ piece of language our kids come across… AND they can do it without you. That is the best part.

Have fun with it!
Lindsey