BEYOND THE TEXTBOOK
Text messaging has crippled our children’s use of language. Emoticons-or emotional icons-like smiley faces, have replaced rich, descriptive words like excited, disappointed and confused. It seems the only time kids are expected to spell correctly is in school. Good writing is not only needed in the classroom, but in the workplace as well.
Most employers seek candidates with excellent written communication skills. Unless children are language lovers who crave the spelling and meaning of new words, they will continue spelling because “cuz” and before “b4.” Therefore, parents must break bad habits created by text messaging.
Below are several strategies to use in order to broaden your child’s vocabulary, sharpen his spelling skills, and make her a more effective communicator-via text or loose-leaf.
Your child’s vocabulary development should begin before school. Before your child can talk, speak to him or her as you would an adult. Use complete words and sentences when interacting with your child. For example, say blanket instead of blankie or sore or wound instead of boo-boo. Children mimic what they hear, so be able to start your child off with correct terms. Use grammatically correct sentences when you speak to your child. It is very easy to fall into our language of comfort, saying, “I ain’t goin’ home” instead of “I am not going home.” But we must make our children comfortable speaking standard English. As a writing teacher, I have noticed that students who speak non-conventional English-or Ebonics-struggle more with writing than those who regularly speak standard English. If you start your child off on the right path by modeling appropriate word choice and sentence structure, that’s half the battle.
A word each day
Broaden your child’s vocabulary by introducing them to a new word each day. Several Web sites help with word-a-day training. One of the most popular is Dictionary.com. If you subscribe to their word-a-day service, Dictionary.com sends a new vocabulary word to your electronic inbox every day. This free learning service gives you the vocabulary word, its part of speech, and several examples of how the word is used in a sentence. It takes about a minute to subscribe. Sign up you and your child, and then study the words as a family. When you are involved in your child’s learning, your child will be much more motivated to learn.
Vocabulary from the street
Use your child’s everyday world to expand their vocabulary. Have your child learn the meaning of words you see on your drive to and from school. Point out words like exit, entrance, transportation and welcome. Car dealerships in our community display words like rebate, financing and interest. Currency exchanges in our community display words like licensing and processing. Talk with your child about these words. Have them write the words down, create synonyms for the words, and use the words in daily conversation. It is likely your child will see some of these words on a standardized test or a piece of writing in school.
Create a word wall
The great thing about children’s literature is that it creates a scaffold for word development by combining words on a child’s grade level with more advanced vocabulary that children can better understand alongside pictures and/or familiar words. Use children’s literature to point out these unfamiliar words to your child. Then talk about what the words mean. After your child becomes familiar with the words, hang them on your child’s bedroom wall alphabetically. Having these words on the wall forces your child to see the words they learn every day, which will encourage them to use them more often.
Text messaging offers so many great benefits, but better writing habits, it does not. Prepare your child for the future, as a student and a professional. Push the importance of clear and correct communication, so that your child can exceed in language and in life.