Learning new vocabulary words is part of everyone's education. Both beginning and advanced students need to learn vocabulary to improve writing skills, and to increase reading comprehension of academic reading. Some adults learn new words for the pleasure of dealing with language. Such learning can seem very tiresome, but there are ways to increase your retention of word meanings and increase the pleasure of study.

Word Puzzles

Using crosswords puzzles, word searches, and word scrambles adds the "fun" factor to vocabulary work. The best part of all these options is that they work well for a wide range of individuals. Young and advanced students alike readily tap into the thought process necessary for solving these types of word puzzles, and they can be solved the "old-fashioned" way with paper and pen. They can also be played on the computer.

"Concentration" Game

The game "Concentration" would be very effective for learning words according to their parts of speech. On a set of index cards, write a group of even numbered words -- say, ten to twelve -- and place the cards face down. Pair words that match, such as nouns with nouns, verbs with verbs and so on. For younger students, including a picture illustrating the part of speech would be helpful and keep them engaged. Coloring books are a good source, as are paperback children's books with small illustrations. Gluing the pictures together with the words or otherwise attaching them helps younger students make stronger connections with word meanings.


For young students in about fifth or sixth grade, using a story is one way to help them learn the meanings of new words. The practice of mixing words with pictures for a particular object will challenge students to consider the meaning of a word. Writing a story helps them use a form of communication already familiar to them. Taking new vocabulary words and requiring they be represented in a picture (or in the text with pictures of other objects) helps them internalize word meanings. Advanced students benefit from taking a group of words and using them in writing. Stories that help expand vocabulary can be creative or non-fiction.

Reproducible Materials

Some teachers have managed to publish a good variety of word puzzles based upon themes such as "Holiday Words" or "Explorers," and have designed their own puzzles with words specific to their chosen theme. These are generally used in the public school classroom, but those who homeschool can use them just as well. One example is Ruth Rice's "English Teacher's Book of Instant Word Games." It is available in paperback and the copyright allows for reproduction of a class set. Other books are available through educational publishers and book distributors, either through a paper catalog or online.

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