1. Read extensively. Whether your child is enjoying the adventures of Ernest Hemingway or reading books about his or her favorite subject or hobby, viewing words in the context of a narrative builds an intuitive understanding of their meanings. Your son might simply shrug when seeing the words "gargantuan" and "gilded" on a vocabulary test, for example, but he'll probably understand the meaning right away if he's reading a passage that notes "With more than 2,200 passengers, including a dozen millionaires, on board for what was supposed to be the fastest-ever Atlantic crossing, the gargantuan Titanic was the most technologically advanced maritime vessel of the Gilded Age."
2. Learn how to "decode" words. Students can make a well-educated guess about a word's meaning by recognizing certain clues. One of the most effective strategies is to understand the meanings of common prefixes and suffixes. A few examples include:
Un - which generally means "not," as in unacceptable, unusual and unaware
Re - which usually means "again," as in return, remember and reiterate
In, and im - which usually refer to something being "in" or "not," as in ineligible, immutable and implausible
Inter, which commonly means "between," as in interloper, or intervention
Dis - which usually means "apart," as in disassociate, dissension and disagree
Sym and syn, which refer to being "together," as in symmetrical and synergy
Common suffixes - meaning letters at the end of words - will provide clues as well. When you see the letters "less" at the end of a word, the word will often mean something related to "without," as in hopeless, thoughtless and careless. "Ful" refers to being "full," as in hopeful, helpful and thoughtful.
3. Make flashcards of new words. Once your child learns the most common prefixes, suffixes and word roots, he or she can use www.dictionary.com or a regular dictionary along with reading assignments to learn words that incorporate them. Try setting a goal - such as learning five new words a day for five days a week. Once your child finds a new word, he or she should make a flash card, with the word on one side and the definition on the other. Your son or daughter should then keep the flashcards on hand and run through them often to strengthen familiarity with the words. Setting a goal to learn five new words a day for five days a week can boost your child's vocabulary by 200 words in just two months.