A phenomenon common to many bilingual kids is the narrower vocabulary they have in a language, though it is broader as it is spread on both (or more) languages.
Before Christmas, I got the idea to combine vocabulary broadening with dictionary search. The latter is a skill that is required by school from my eldest daughter (7), and I remember finding it hard as a kid. So maybe a little “game” on a daily basis involving our dictionaries and vocabulary could strengthen her skills.
Kids love surprise effects, so I drew on that. I selected (preferably short) words from our 3 dictionaries and wrote them down with a colour-code (one colour for each language) on small pieces of paper, which I mixed together in a basket left at my eldest’s disposal in our living room. Every day/on a regular basis, she would pick a word and identity from the colour it is written in the dictionary she has to look it up in.
It was a success with my eldest, who enjoyed the fun format. My little one also got interested and asked to have her own basket. For her, I did it with letters. With each one she draws, I ask the name and sound of the letter. A fun easy way to work on her phonics.
- Finding words that are appropriate to your child’s age and not too long if your child does not yet handle dictionary searches well.
- A basket.
- 1 coloured felt-tip for each language you are going to include if you are going to do it in more than 1 language.
- 1 children’s dictionary for each language.
- White sheets of paper.
- Scissors (optional).
- Cut/tear neatly a sheet of white paper in several little rectangles (to give you an idea: about 2cm x 4cm).
- Write down one word per square. N.B: if you are going to put words in different languages in your basket, use 1 colour per language, to help your child identify which language to read it in.
- Fold the little note in four and place it in the basket.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 for each new word.
- Place the basket at hand with the dictionary(ies) at hand, either in your living room or by your child’s desk.
- Put words back in the basket since vocabulary usually sinks in through repetition.
- Pick words your child asked about during a reading session (list them as you go on a piece of paper).
- You can include a draw of a couple of words with the daily homework routine.
- You might want to check beforehand that the word is in the dictionary to avoid your child’s frustration at not finding it and finding yourself in a sticky situation where you struggle to explain it.
- For toddlers, you can replace words with colourful alphabet letters (upper and/or lower case).