Nature's Laboratory is a Great Way to Build Vocabulary!
Vocabulary plays an important role in reading. Beginning readers use knowledge of words from speech to recognize words that they encounter in print. When children “sound out” a word, their brain is working hard to connect the pronunciation of a sequence of sounds to a word in their vocabulary. If they find a match between the word on the page and a word they have learned through listening and speaking, and it makes sense to them, they will keep reading. If a match is not created, because the word they are reading is not found in their vocabulary, comprehension is interrupted. Decoding instruction by itself will not guarantee that students will gather enough meaning to learn from what they are reading. Since spring weather has finally arrived, it is a perfect time to enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of the great outdoors with your child while opening their eyes to a whole world of new vocabulary.
Notice and describe trees and other outdoor plants and their parts. Vocabulary might include trunks, branches, stems, leaves, and flowers. See how many different types of leaves you can gather. Describe and sort leaves by shape, size, and color.
Observe any birds, squirrels, insects, and worms. Keep track of the different animals and insects you find. If possible, take pictures or draw a sketch of any unusual unfamiliar ones. Ponds, slow moving rivers, and gardens are great spots for bug hunting.
Choose two or three different times of the day, for example early morning, noon, and dusk. Take a short walk and listen closely to the different sounds. Try to keep track of the different sounds you hear. Depending on the time of year, you may hear cicadas, crickets, Canada Geese, or songbirds. Discuss why we might hear different animals and insects depending on the time of day or season.
On a rainy day, set up a rain gauge using a clear plastic tumbler or wide-mouth bottle, have your child predict, or make a good guess, about how much rain will be collected. Mark that level and collect rain. Check the gauge after the rain ends. Is there more or less rainwater in it than your child predicted? How much more or less?
Stepping outside is a simple way to set foot in nature’s laboratory. Backyards and neighborhood walks can lead to interesting conversations that contain new vocabulary words.
Submitted by: Kindergarten Teacher Ms. Heidi Usgaard