In seventh grade, I had a class one semester to boost my SAT vocabulary. We learned words like flout, exacerbate, and garrulous – basically, words you’d never need to know in real life.
I forget my teacher’s name and most of what we did in that class, but I still remember one project with the utmost clarity.
BECAUSE I GOT TO DRAW.
In seventh grade! How awesome is that?
This was the assignment: We were given sheets of paper with nothing but blank boxes on them. In each box, we were told to draw our depiction of a word’s meaning.
For flout (v.tr. to show contempt for; scorn), I drew a face with a tongue sticking out.
Super creative, I know.
Because guess what I found?
Paper with empty boxes.
For DRAWING in.
Does Drawing Teach Kids to Read?
I had a fleeting urge to print a bunch of pages and whip out an SAT word list, but I glanced over at Abby zoning out on Wreck-It Ralph and wondered if we could use the storyboard pages to exercise that brain of hers.
According to the National Institute for Literacy, research shows that:
Children learn words best when they are provided with instruction over an extended period of time and when that instruction has them work actively with the words. The more students use new words and the more they use them in different contexts, the more likely they are to learn the words…The more children see, hear, and work with specific words, the better they seem to learn them.
In other words, yes – if your child draws pictures of word meanings and writes the words below the pictures, they’ll be actively engaging with the words. Most important of all, they’ll be having fun learning new words.
How to Use Storyboard Pages to Teach New Words
Here’s how we used the blank storyboard pages. Abby loved every minute of it!
Print a few blank storyboard pages.
- Find a book.
Ask your child to pick out a book. A book that you’ve read together before would work best, so your little one is somewhat familiar with most of the words already. An easy reader works well for this – we adore the Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems, like There Is a Bird on Your Head!
Read the first page of the book and ask your child to listen for a word they’d like to draw a picture of.
Help your child pick a word they can draw, then ask them to draw a picture in an empty box.
For example, if they pick the word day, they could draw whatever comes to mind when they think of the daytime – a blue sky, a yellow sun, a playground. Feel free to share ideas to get them started, but also remember to sit back and enjoy seeing how their little mind works!
Under the picture they drew, ask them to write the word, and help them along as they figure out how to spell it.
Here are some extra tips for how to foster their “phonemic awareness” in this step, which basically means teaching kids to notice, think about, and manipulate sounds in spoken language. The National Institute for Literacy’s research shows that kids with phonemic awareness skills have an easier time learning to read and spell.
- Isolate individual sounds in the word. You can ask: “What is the first sound in day?” And so on.
- Break a word into separate sounds and count them. For example: “How many sounds do you hear in day?” (Two sounds.)
- Recognize the same sounds in different words. You might try: “Can you think of any other words that start with the same first sound as day?” Or: “Did any other words on that page have the ay sound in them?”
Abby’s favorite new word so far?
For more tips on teaching your kids important stuff, follow my Pinterest board Teach.
Also, check out these articles about teaching your kids to read:
- 9 Genius Ways To Help Kids Learn To Read (And Love It)
- 10 Steps to Teaching Your Child to Read
- ABCs of Teaching Reading
How do you get your kids excited about learning new words? Share your tips in a comment below.